John Hobbins Leaves Complegalitarian

Please don’t take the title here as some sort of rejoicing from either side. John gives his reasons here in a very thoughtful post.

There are two reasons I want to respond with a full post. First, his reasons are worth reading and considering, even though ultimately I will continue to fall afoul of some of his guidelines and suggestions. Second, I think there’s a good point here about conversation in the blogosphere.

I was never involved with Complegalitarian, and I was only an occasional reader, even though I count some of the authors as friends. The reason is simple: I don’t have the slightest pretense of being neutral on this issue, nor is there even a whiff of the irenic in my expression. If you found some it was either an accident or perhaps I had a cold that day.

If you’re wondering how I can claim to be a moderate (remember also passionate!) in this case I would simply point out that I have never claimed to be centrist, but rather that I consider all variations. Occasionally, as in this case, I come out fairly far to an extreme. Note, however, that if your view of the egalitarian extreme is that women and men are somehow not different from one another, then that is not my view. I merely believe that each should be permitted and encouraged to do what he or she is gifted to do, whatever that is, whether it’s pastor, fighter pilot, homemaker, nurturer, or gardener. I do not believe that there will be parity between men and women in each of those groups–I simply won’t prejudice the possibilities.

But that is not my topic. My concern is the idea of the neutral forum. I think it is a potentially dangerous idea. News outlets, for example, are all prejudiced. This would be fine if we could identify the prejudice and account for it. It becomes dangerous when we try to pretend there is no prejudice.

My suggestion for the best way in which to conduct such a discussion would be via a multi-blog conversation. One could even set up a tag in Google Reader or some other such service that would aggregate all the blogs that wanted to be part of the conversation. Then everyone could express themselves as they saw fit on their own blogs, but be linked in as part of a conversation. In many ways the comment system on blogs tends to keep us in the past, treating our blogs as one of the old internet forums.

In the good old days–and I’ve been at this since 1985 when I operated the Wind Dragon Inn bulletin board in Bellevue, NE–you joined a particular board or forum and all conversation went on there. Since my first bulletin board cost me around $2,000 to set up, it was unlikely that most of my readers/commenters were going to set up their own in competition. So they all had to call my number and follow my rules.

Now anyone can create a blog for free, and the software permits all of the wonders of a forum to develop around it. Thus we can all comment as we desire, which is one of the reasons I generally post on my own blogs.

Comment moderation, as necessary as it is, is very hard to do in a balanced fashion. I tend to let just about anything by, but those who are sensitive to attacks might feel that this is not a safe place to discuss. They’re right. It isn’t. If you’re even slightly inclined to get offended, you’ll probably find that I allow a comment that offends you.

On the other hand, stricter comment policies often tie people down from expressing what they think is simply the truth. Complementarians that I know in real life really do believe I’ve taken leave of my senses and started ignoring scripture because I’m an egalitarian. These are people with whom I remain friends. I’ve always been amazed at what will anger people online, because I’ve generally heard worse in person. I think we tend not to attach a real live person with whom we already have a relationship to the comments, and thus only the hurtful part remains, unimpeded by any human considerations.

In summary, I don’t think it’s possible to create a single blog or single forum as a truly neutral solution. When we trim people’s expression in order to produce dialogue, we often lose the expression of the very issues under discussion. The blogosphere gives us an opportunity to break that logjam.

One final note–I really don’t like extended conversations in comments. I prefer exchanges of blog posts. I’ll do extended discussions when they’re interesting, but I always think that more than a couple of paragraphs at a time would be better served in separate posts.

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  1. From its beginning, I stayed away from this conversation. I think my position is close to yours. Sometimes I think I too have left the safety of the ‘obvious’ interpretation of certain scriptures and that my Lord will eventually show me the intent of the passages more clearly – then I say ‘what! and shore up my insecure maleness or something?’ The subject seems too difficult for me and my only thoughts are that equal balance I find in the opening of Genesis together with the personal joy of my bridal reading of the Song. The radical advocacy of Paul to equality is clear in 1 Corinthians 7 – surely the passage which the unregenerate self will abuse more than any other. The unregenerate concentrates on the will to power and cannot read the words ‘no power over’. There is no salvation in the obvious. There is no value in convincing others by rational argument. Not by imposition, nor by violence, it is not my way, says the Lord, but in my Spirit – and where is that best seen but ‘in the beauty of the lilies’ al-shoshanim?

    On blogs and comments I also agree with you – though I enjoy comments that people make on my blog, I wish there was more time for learning and correction. (But not disagreeable disagreement.)

    Henry, you and John are still both on my reduced aggregator – where before I had too many alligators all chomping for my attention. 🙂

  2. Henry, Bob, and Sue,

    Thanks to each of you for picking up on this and carrying the conversation forward in your own way.

    Volatile issues are very difficult to talk about with equal regard for all concerned. My model here is Will Campbell and what he talks about in his great book, Brother to a Dragonfly. He shows how a strong enough sense of God’s grace and our common humanity make it possible to treat those who self-identify as racists and those who self-identify as victims of racists with equal regard.

    The compegal issue is a different animal altogether, but I’ve exhausted the two-paragraph limit and will leave everyone hanging there.

  3. Henry, thanks for posting on this. I count Sue and John as friends and to see them clashing on this has been painful so I’ve avoided the blog. Compegal has been especially hard on the moderator(s) so I think your solution provides a graceful alternative.

    Thanks for sharing from your long experience on the Internet. And I think your moderate blogroll is an example of aggregating voices without controlling the conversation.

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