Dialectics and Civility

Seeking An Inclusive Progressive Christian Community

I have been following The Christian Left for a few years, occasionally reading their blog, but mostly on following them Facebook. When I found them, I was grateful to see some representation of the progressive Christian movement. Over the years, I have found their posts to be informative and enlightening.

I was disappointed in early August to see included in their Facebook feed a post depicting a terrible redneck stereotype that was intended to make fun of people who are opposed to LGBT civil rights. The post was mean-spirited and antithetical to progressive Christianity. There were many people, including me, who posted comments saying as much. While the comments were critical and expressed disappointment, no one said anything that was inflammatory or hurtful to anyone. We were basically saying, “hey, this isn’t cool.”

I understand that people are angry at the willful ignorance and bigotry of those committed to activism against LGBT civil rights. I am angry, too, but I am not looking for justification for bullying others just as we are being bullied. Anger is justifiable. Expressing that anger by seeking to demean others is not justifiable. The post struck me as a juvenile taunt, not the intelligent response to hate and intolerance that I have come to know in the progressive spiritual communities where I have worshiped.

The response to my comment is not what I might have expected. Those who were challenging the offensive post were met with defiance and stubbornness: “We’re not taking it down. It’s a joke and it’s mild compared to most of the hate we see directed from the right. Concern trolls will be banned. That’s right, banned.”

And the reaction didn’t stop there. The moderator deleted all critical comments, and then, as promised, blocked us from commenting further. Additionally, the moderator followed up by posting another juvenile and mean-spirited taunt aimed at those of us they were now deeming “concern trolls,” including the comment: “Oh, and once in awhile we’re a little sophomoric and juvenile around here at TCL. We like it that way. It breaks up the monotony. Apparently some folks don’t like it. That’s fine. Bye now. See ya later.”

I appreciate a moderator’s right to curate the comments on a blog or a Facebook page in order to maintain civil discourse. However, the post was being challenged in a critical and constructive way, not in any way being abusive or inflammatory, as trolls are wont to do. A healthy disagreement and community dialog presents an opportunity for growth. The Christian Left shut this opportunity down in a painful way, effectively excluding people who it purports to include. It is regrettable that this was done by an organization that claims to welcome those who have previously been rejected by the Church.

All of this happened within about ten minutes. At first, I was shocked, and a little hurt and angry. And then I realized that I needed to just laugh it off and step away. I struggle enough to find my place in the world as a progressive Christian. I don’t need to subject myself to this kind of negativity. I sent a follow-up email to the group expressing my disappointment (to which I do not expect to receive a response), unliked the Facebook page, and left it at that.

Happily, there are numerous organizations and resources for progressive Christianity, and there are many communities who live out the declaration on The Christian Left’s web page: “We welcome ALL to their place at God’s table, just as they are. All means ALL. No exceptions.”

Below are some that I have compiled:

Please feel free to suggest other resources that I may have missed!

Beat Cancer! #beatcancer

In honor of my brother, David, who is fighting cancer, an my mother, Anne who passed away from cancer nearly ten years ago, I am joining the social media campaign to fight cancer today. For every blog post, Facebook update, and Twitter post with the hashtag #beatcancer, $.01 is donated to cancer charities. I’m helping to raise funds to #beatcancer, by blogging, tweeting and posting Facebook status updates. Click here to join me!

Observing Blog Day

In observance of Blog Day, I am going to write about five blogs that I think are worth reading.  Based on the rules of Blog Day, I’m cheating a little. Some of the blogs that I am going to review today are not new to me, but they are probably not as widely-read as they should be. Though they may not get much more circulation as a result of my effort here (I don’t have many readers, either) I’m doing my part as a good Internet citizen.

Ample Sanity is Anne Mathewson’s blog. I discovered Anne through Ma.gnolia a while back (my favorite bookmark sharing site), and since I’ve been following her there, I try never to miss what links she posts. She has eclectic tastes, and finds the most amazing sites! I decided a while back to check out her blog, and I find that Anne is a delightful writer and a creative spirit. She’s silly, thoughtful, profound, smart, and terribly interesting.

Nurture Girl is Jean Russel’s blog. I had the pleasure of making Jean’s acquaintance at a recent Net Tuesday event here in Chicago. Jean is a non-profit consultant, and she blogs here about uses of information technology and social media to foment social change. Her blog is critical and thought provoking, actively taking part in the discussion of how the grass roots social networking movement can most effectively organize and mobilize people.

Eszter’s Blog is Eszter Hargiattai’s blog. I stumbled upon this recently via Twitter. Eszter is a girl after my own heart, studying “social and policy implications of information technologies with a particular interest in how IT may contribute to or alleviate social inequalities.” Here she blogs about her interesting scholarship, how to select a ripe and delicious cantaloupe, and useful and fun Internet tools, like Yearbook Yourself.

Metacentricities is Michelle Murrain’s personal blog. Michelle is someone else that I discovered through Ma.gnolia because of links we have in common. Michelle and I have a few other things in common: we work in the nonprofit world, we’re queer; we’re alums of PSR; we’re former Bay Area residents (and I gather from her blog that she’s moving back there!); and we’re Progressive Christians struggling with the institution of our faith. Michelle is a nonprofit consultant with expertise in technology, and she also blogs at Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology. I enjoy reading the cross section of faith, politics, good works, and how these play out in Michelle’s day-to-day musings.

La Marguerite “is an environmental blog, focused on behavioral solutions to climate change and other sustainability issues.” This is another blog I discovered through Twitter. I like this blog because it links the larger issue of environmental policy to the choices that individuals make about how to live every day. It makes me think about my carbon footprint, and is one of the many blogs that inspire me to make responsible and sustainable choices.

Honorable Mentions

I feel I must at least make reference to the Neighbors Project which I think is such a cool use of social media to build community and actually foment social change. I haven’t partaken yet in any of their activities, but I’m aware of the work that is going on in Chicago as a result of this effort. Right in my neighborhood, as a matter of fact. As I make my new home here, the Neighbors Project blog reminds me of the impact that I have here, and informs the choices that I make so that I can be a better neighbor. I look forward to meeting my neighbors who are involved with this project.

And I want to give a shout-out to my brother-in-law, Archer, who is blogging about the RNC while events unfold in his backyard: The RNC is Coming to Town

And there are many others. I feel challenged and inspired by so many creative and wonderful thinkers and writers out there.

Overthinking “Peace” Tweet

One of my Twitter contacts posted the following tweet tonight:

Wondering how many of you my twitter friends, believe in world peace? if you do, copy this tweet in your next tweet.

This got me thinking: Do I believe in world peace?

What does is this question really asking? My first instinct is to say “Duh! Of course I do! I majored in Peace Studies in college.” The language of this tweet is really confusing. Is it telling you to copy the tweet if you wonder how many of your Twitter followers believe in peace? What is the point of this little exercise? Who started this and what do they hope to accomplish?

World peace doesn’t really exist right now. Or more precisely, perhaps, there are many significant wars going on right now that cause peaceniks to feel relatively hopeless.

I suppose I do believe in peace in that it exists in some places in the world right now. More importantly, however, peace is one of my core values, and as a citizen of the world I believe my every action has an impact, and that peace is contagious and inspired. Much like this little tweet.

I decided to edit the tweet a bit:

I believe that world peace is possible. If you do, too, copy this tweet in your next tweet. Pass it on.

But I can’t bring myself to actually send it! I feel a little silly, like I’m making a big deal out of nothing. But at the same time I think it’s kind of important to send the right message to my 26 Twitter followers. And what is it trying to convey? But even though I’ve never even met my Twitter contact in person, I don’t want him to think that I don’t believe in peace. Because I do! What am I trying to convey? So I wrote this blog, which is way too long for a tweet.

Truly, I’m overthinking this. But perhaps that was the original intent. Or maybe its just me.