Thursday, September 23, 2004

An example of what I'm talking about

I just ran across this at Sojourners' website (specifically, here), and I thought I would quote it -- if for no other reason than to remind me of the bile and vitriol which is out there.
(David Batstone writes) On a more personal note, I recently received a note from a SojoMail reader full of profanity and insults. My attacker closed his note wondering how I could call myself a Christian, taking the position I do of waging peace in the Middle East at the expense of partisan support for "freedom fighters" in Iraq and uncritical support for the state of Israel. I usually do not take the time to respond to such letters (believe it or not, I get a few hate letters...:-), but this time I did write back a short note asking how he, in turn, could call himself a Christian and use such profane, violent words toward another human being. His e-mail back to me was revealing, albeit shocking: "I can write to you as I like, for you are not a human being. You have forfeited that right; you are nothing but pond scum."

How very sad. Is this really what we have come to? I understand passionately held convictions; I have them. I understand wanting to be firm and differentiate yourself from others; I try to. I can even understand being frustrated if (for example) Mr. Batstone was dismissive or condescending; that burns me, too. (Of course, I don't know if Mr. Batstone was, this is just hypothetical.) But this person's response just seems so far over the line, so deformed by anger, so blinded by ideology (not convictions but ideology), that I worry for his soul -- and for each of us. Please pray for us all.

One of my frustrations about this sort of thing is this: there are actually good arguments to be made, and this kind of interaction distracts from it. I suspect that I would side with Mr. Batstone in the case he was making (vis-a-vis peacemaking in the Middle East), but surely there are sound points to be made for the other side, too? Personal attacks send up defenses, occlude understanding, and discourage us from listening to those who are different than us: and we all end up the poorer for it.

(I originally was pointed in the direction of this Sojourners' posting by AKMA, here.)

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