John Milbank on Blogging: Or, some remarks on why insular gasbags don’t like a public free to speak

In many ways AUFS lasting contribution to on-line theological discussions has been to refuse and end the hegemonic reign that Radical Orthodoxy had for many graduate students interested in Continental philosophy and theology. It goes without saying that this hegemony was, of course, mostly found amongst students of Christian theology, many of them post-evangelical and so suffering from a certain piety inescapable for such damaged individuals. I think what many of these students turned to RO because of a deep sense of the wrong state of things present in their own Christian life. Of course RO only presents, as all forms of apologetics, various theodicies and so this perpetuates the split, the wrong state of things, that these students try to heal by parroting the assumed masters, like John Milbank. But by presenting these often meaningless words to students, whose only knowledge of the figures and forms of life being critiqued by RO comes from those claiming to have mastered them, we’ve been able to move the debate simply by demanding one.

It is for this reason it was intensely gratifying to hear the anger in John’s attempts to dismiss blogging in a recent poorly produced podcast at the new, um, blog written and run by his disciples. While the new blog has something of the feel of a ponytailed high school civics teacher sitting on the desk trying to “rap with the kids”, it also represents an attempt to insert a dead letter back into the conversation: radical orthodoxy is that dead letter. This is something of a response, written not late at night into a journal, not written as something that I wouldn’t say to his face (indeed, much of my troubles in graduate school came from the fact that I would say these things to his face), and certainly without any sense that there should be some etiquette set by him (this will all make sense if you listen to the podcast in question).

John’s voice is hilarious as there is a Darth Vader effect to his stumbling confident timber, and you can hear that always near anger come out in his discussion of blogging. He compares it to drug taking and says younger graduate students do it to gain readerships without having to do the hard work. Setting aside the irony of the quasi-catholic theologian using such a Protestant argument, the intended figures are clearly those of us here. He did, after all, demand I stop blogging after I liveblogged a talk where he claimed we would be fine after oil ran out, because God’s creation is infinite and we’d simply find something else (and some people want to study eco-theology with him!). His stated reason, along with Conor Cunningham’s, for demanding I stop had to do with a lack of respect. I wasn’t showing the proper deference to the august learning of John.

This is a theme that runs throughout his short remarks. Remarks, ironically enough, that are said rather authoritatively (as everything in his voice is) but seemingly enough without much reflection (the same lack of reflection that so much of his “public theology” work shows, let’s not forget he enthusiastically supported a disastrous Tory government as well as the increase in tuition at English universities). What John, and despite my own nasty dealings with him he really stand here for a certain kind of reactionary theologian that you can find throughout our discipline, but what John hates above all is true debate, where he might be affronted with the same strong polemic he trades in, where he might be called to account for the presuppositions so much of his argument leaves scattered about like spittle spurting the angry mouth of an angry would-be-god. All of his remarks on etiquette and the lack of wisdom come down to this. What is it that we are told when we question authority? You don’t understand. You don’t know get how power politics is played. You need demands. You too will have to sell out. And of course some of this is true, but it’s veracity ought not distract from the ruse of power at work. For this is just how authority demands your silence and in so doing truly becomes an authority.

This theme is present throughout the podcast with Baker and Bader-Saye since they are discussing public theologians. They spend a lot of time hyping up ABC Religion & Ethics, run by Scott Stephens, who is held up as a gatekeeper for public theology allowing only quality through. It’s a rather rich claim, considering the lack of editing that goes on there, especially with Milbank’s rambling and incoherent musings on subjects he’s unqualified to speak, mostly the ramblings of a paranoid, old Englishman concerned about the biological threat to England and Europe posed by Islam. But it’s also rich considering Stephens own lack of a successful academic background, making his name precisely through the medium that Milbank and the disciples reject. Or, to take it another step further, the fact that they all hold up Phillip Blond as a paragon of theological thinking in the political realm, despite his rise to that level being impeded by never completing his PhD and making his name in a few opinion pieces. None of this should be taken to mean that I think any of these worldly markers of respectability are true markers, in fact I don’t, but it points to the fundamental incoherence of these demands for gatekeeping and rigor you get from insular gasbags trying to shut up any criticism of them. It is only in accepting that incoherence that one can become the true student of Radical Orthodoxy, only there it is given the name paradox.

Confront them with incoherency and they will scream at you; they will demand you accept the hierarchy that props them up; if you are particularly unhelpful they will even go so far as to tell people not to hire you, tell other students that you are a threat and a bad influence, and maybe even try to fail you, all while other decent people let them. But if you yell back, if you are unrelenting in your demands that they too must give an account, that they can’t hide behind their title and demands for etiquette while they preach violence, you will have at least resisted and not lose your soul – regardless of how damaged it may be after.

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46 Responses to “John Milbank on Blogging: Or, some remarks on why insular gasbags don’t like a public free to speak”

  1. dominicfox Says:

    Saeva indignatio!

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    It seems to me that their ideas are not very robust if the only possible response to criticism is to shout it down.

    I’m proud of what we’ve done in damaging RO’s reputation, which as you say was based on false premises. And I’m continually impressed when I reflect at how great a personal risk you took to do so. For me, it was a nice laugh when Milbank denounced me publicly — for you, he had a decent shot at really complicating your life, if not torpedoing your career.

  3. Thomas Says:

    The essence of blogs as a medium is that when you write bullshit people call you on it. This is why Scientology is the mortal enemy of the Internet and why John Milbank doesn’t like blogs.

  4. zjb Says:

    Reblogged this on jewish philosophy place and commented:
    I found this post at “An und fur sich” about a blowup with conservative Christian theologian John Milbank very much worth a look, as is “An und fur sich.”

  5. Anthony Baker Says:

    Hi Anthony and Adam–two of my fellow “post-evangelicals suffering from a certain piety inescapable for such damaged individuals!” Thanks for listening and spreading the word about the Studio. Just wanted to make one clarification: only one of us has a ponytail. Scott, in general, is much better groomed than I am—Tony

  6. plasmolysed Says:

    I’ve never had the pleasure of talking to Milbank. I was taken aback by Cunningham’s outright dismissal of religious pluralism as ‘vacuous’ when he supervised my dissertation, though. Somewhat less extreme than what’s intimated here.

  7. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Tony,

    No, I actually got rid of the piety. Despite what they taught you it can be done. You dont have to stay sick and become ever more right wing while slipping into incoherent refusals to debate without the proper imprimateur.

  8. RodTRDH Says:

    APS,

    Just got the courage to listen to the PodCast. The podcasters’ case for a need for “gatekeepers” for theologians who blog, with ABC Religion and Ethics as an example? Very much R-O and BROWN-NOSING!

  9. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    So I’m upholding the comment policy pretty strictly here, but imagine being told that you’re a fundamentalist because you write harshly about people who have, in your presence, suggested Muslim students should be arrested without charge and investigated (a very real problem at Nottingham). Imagine being called self-righteous because you refused to accept the abuse being heaped on you. Or being talked down to as if the person were an authority saying that your online persona mau not present the kind of person you want to be seen as even though you’ve been doing it for ten years. And if you imagine these things you’ll understand why I woke up laughing at these people.

  10. Ben Defoe Says:

    This piece is a good representation of AUFS’s approach to Milbank and RO in general. I would suggest though that if AUFS is serious about actually challenging the reading of modernity RO offers and the theological postures RO suggests as a proscriptive response then it really needs to do it seriously. What I mean is, liberal scoffing at John M or others anti-liberalism/conservatism/bigotry/sectarianism/patriarchy or whatever is not going to damage RO’s reputation as much as AUFS seems to think that it will. What it will do is, and this is no bad thing, maybe tarnish the idolatry that accompanies people’s impression of Milbank. But the ideas he argues for, and those we see in many of his conversation partners as diverse as Cunningham and Jamie Smith will not be undermined by the kind of posts aout RO that AUFS usually offers. The general impression is that AUFS is a group of post evangelical who have emerged from the bunkers and now see liberalism as radical. Enraged by the theological dominance of RO it rebels against John M and others like teenagers working our Daddy issues. It doesn’t though, actually engage the core elements of John M’s theological revolution (and it’s not John M’s, he’s one voice alongside MacIntyre, Hauerwas and many others leading to a re-positioning of theology) and say where they’re in error. It picks up on simplistic readings of John M’s popular press iterations and uses them for ad hominem attacks. I think that AUFS can do better and maybe actually engage the thought and make clear why the reinvigorated liberalism it is becoming comensurate with isn’t as intellectually pedestrian as it seems. There is a bit of a consensus forming (I suggest with nothing more than personal anecdotal evidence) there that AUFS is angry and often funny but just not bright enough to “get” work like Theology and Social Theory or After Writing. I’d enjoy seeing this consensus challenged and overthrown.

  11. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Where are we thought to be too slow to “get” Radical Orthodoxy?

  12. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Or liberals? Pretty funny. But really, those are not difficult books.

  13. Ben Defoe Says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for a long time and if asked what AUFS authors actual critique of RO texts like After Writing were I wouldn’t have a clue. General distaste based upon “Nostalgia” etc, sure, but an actual substantive critique of the arguments? Maybe I just missed those posts as I don’t read daily. Also I needed to real After Writing very carefully to get the arguments, given that it’s not a “difficult book” it’s possible I’m just the slow one :)

  14. Adam Kotsko Says:

    So you’re saying that you personally suspect that we’re too stupid to understand? Or what? Where is this consensus?

    I have a published critique of Radical Orthodoxy that stemmed from a public presentation at the AAR (That They Might Have Ontology, which you can find on my CV page), and Anthony’s co-authored intro to the edited volume (available online if you look) also includes substantive critique. Obviously our blog writings are going to be more occasional and unsystematic.

  15. Adam Kotsko Says:

    And Jesus Christ — you openly admit that you didn’t even do due diligence in terms of looking for blog posts other than the ones you happened to read. Do we have to lay out our full position every single post? You come in here casting personal aspersions on our intelligence and ability to comprehend the profound amazingness of Radical Orthodoxy — and you can’t even be bothered to look into our published work?

  16. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    To be honest it doesn’t bother me that much. Ben probably hadn’t read the figures being discussed in the texts. So of course it seems hard.

  17. Ben Defoe Says:

    Many thanks, I’ll check them out. No, as i mentioned in my post, the “consensus” is simply ‘anecdotal’ – unfair and uninformed comments one hears at conferences. It doesnt reflect any kind of actual consensus. I shouldnt have used the term. There’s always going to be people ho groan hen your name is mentioned but I wouldnt take it seriously at. The substantive critique is vital of course given that Milbank is by far the Christian theologian most frequently mentioned here. Flagging the published substantive critique is important amid the signifant reservoir of posts on Milbank here.
    Personally I have great respect for bloggers, especially ones as forthright as here at AUFS. Would you agree that some might see posts about Milbank, or the response to Tony here, as angry or bitchy? Immature or posturing? Is it possible that some might be less dismissive of Milbank, or even Benedict xvi and see the bloggers here as slightlier angrier versions of Jon Stewart (who I love!) or Bill Maher? Stylistically that is, rather than intellectual peers of Milbank? What I’m saying is that I think the kind of voice offered here is VERY necessary, and I’m in awe of the bravery of the writers because some might see them in this light rather than as equally sophisticated voices in the conversation (instead of post evangelical hipsters). There are many full professors whose cv can’t compete with Adam’s. I think the selflessness of the writers here is really admirable and I hope that the writers here are never disrespected just because along with substantive posts there’s some that can be dismissed by some (not me) as angry or born of ex evangelical self hatred.

  18. Ben Defoe Says:

    I didn’t do due diligence and I apologize. I clicked the Milbank tag thing and didn’t find any substantive critique. It’s there in he published work I’m sure. Im just trying to express my admiration and gratitude when I know that many dont pay due diligence and form opinions on a series of blog posts. Any discussion of blogging must note the bravery of blloggers. Academic blogging is a very important medium occupied by brave people.

  19. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Well the one thing I will say is this: people should come speak with me if they have an issue they want to discuss. If these conference goers think we are thick, they should feel brave enough to start a debate.

  20. Brad Johnson Says:

    This is indicative, I find, of what is so odious about Radical Orthodoxy. Has our criticism often been mean-spirited, yes. But it has been an engaged mean-spiritedness. We understand you, but we neither agree nor appreciate the political thrust of that which we disagree. RO’s own mean-spirited reaction to this engagement is telling: we are ignorant, doofuses, thick, etc., w/out as far as I know the engagement. (This is as much true of Milbank, who I don’t expect to defend his positions here, as it is of his internet disciples.) In the end, I would say we have treated RO w/ as much critical courtesy as they have tended to offer others.

  21. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I’ve heard so many rumors of people talking about us behind our back, harshly critiquing us in private Facebook threads, etc. It’s ridiculous. I’ll say this for Milbank — at least he publicly denounced me instead of just gossiping like a coward.

  22. Ben Defoe Says:

    I think it’s also odious to assume that a vague impression of blog posts is sufficient basis to form an opinion of Adam, Brad APS and others. As such people who come on and conflate conversational comments by Adam and others with their substantive critiques are the ones with the problem. That said it does happen and Adam’s latest post is very helpful. You do great work here guys and there’s a LOT of asholes out there.

  23. Alex Says:

    This is quite funny. Ben your response is rather a classic of its genre.

    You know that Anthony’s MA dissertation on ecology specifically considered work by restoration ecologists who were interacting the concept of liturgy presented Catherine Pickstock’s After Writing? Some of us (me) have even been his students at one time and produced undergraduate and post-graduate theses under his supervision as well as substantial pieces of course work. Both myself and Anthony had classes with him, as should be clear from the above and have had plenty of contact time with their thought outside their works, having been able to bump into the main people in the corridor for three years. At a time, I think it is fair to say that he and I had some time for their ideas, though one that has over the course of the last five years changed to the positions reflected here and in published writings.

    The more important point is that your post rather illustrates the structural problem with responses to RO. For people who are fans there are two positions: either you accept their position, or that you have misunderstood, not read them correctly, that you are too stupid to understand or that you are basically a hipster or something. This is reflected in the central authors also. Perhaps its is a general structure of all academic debates that become ultimately to be fought on matters of interpretation. But regardless, this strategy that admits no charity to the interlocutor with RO, but endless to RO itself is a poor stance to take.

  24. Ben Defoe Says:

    It’s tricky, I have had the kind of relationships with supervisees and grad students you’re speaking about and I’m not sure I’d back them to speak about my thought or published work in any sophisticated way. I’ve also had professors and supervisors about whose work I wouldn’t consider myself very erudite in speaking. Is it possible that some of our critique of RO is right on the money and some other posts represent unsophisticated rants (which are fine too!) that don’t show us in the best light to the theological community?
    My points are simply that (a) I’m glad that I was reminded to consult published work, I shouldn’t have needed to have been and I apologise. I think that post that Adam put up is very wise (2) Bloggers take risks and the academic community benefits from them. We owe the people at AUFS a debt of gratitude for what they do and (3) It’s sad to say, but I suspect that VERY fine scholars on here have already paid prices for vague uncritical impressions formed by casual visitors.
    I’m far less brave then you guys (I have tenure and am still posting this under a false name!) and it’s possible that pissing off assholes doesn’t matter to you, irrespective of what hiring committees or granting bodies they may sit on. But any discussion of academic blogging that doesn’t mention the bravery of bloggers and their devotion to thought and dialog is a piss poor discussion.

  25. dbarber Says:

    Yeah, in response to Ben, for my part I’d echo Adam and note that I’ve written an article directly on Milbank & co. (and in other pieces there are many implicit critiques), and a chapter of my dissertation as well.

  26. Alex Says:

    Above by “his students” I obviously meant Milbank. And as to if the work was close to the supervisor: my undergraduate thesis considered Milbank’s work contra-Rene Girard, siding with Milbank and my MA thesis considered John Ruskin, through the influence of Milbank, as analogous to movements in anti-neoliberal economics. Plus everything in between – there wasn’t an essay in my final undergrad year that didn’t reference Theology and Social Theory. How much more do I have to do to get the right to speak?

    Ben this is all well and good. But you came in here all guns blazing calling people out as being thick and now you are backing down. To be honest around these parts I don’t think anyone is concerned been shown “in the best light to the theological community”.

  27. Ben Defoe Says:

    I didn’t mean to come in “all guns blazing”. If you read my posts I never called anyone thick or slow apart from myself! I’ve “backed down” (in tone for sure) through dialog and learning from it. My point was that in terms of RO the name calling v substantive critique balance was out of whack. I might be alone in having this impression and so could be wholly out to lunch. I was suggesting that there needs to be more of the latter. I was suggesting this as someone very much opposed to the kind of hegemony that MIlbankian/MacIntyrean perspectives have in theology today. I was told that there’s lots of the latter in published work. I was “straightened out”. I saw the error of my ways. I lamented the fact that too many people like me just see the unsophisticated attacks on Milbank and this may explain some people underestimating the high quality critique of RO many on here offer. It was this that I was flagging, the impressions that some have, that led to people thinking I was accusing AUFS of being thick. I don’t think I did accuse anyone of being thick but if I did I certainly didn’t mean to. While it may be out of order to flag what some people, whom I’m glad don’t matter to you, might think, I’m glad that Adam posted what he did, clarifying things (that shouldn’t need clarifying) for the casual visitor. If I “came in here all guns blazing calling people out as being thick” I very much apologise again.

  28. Alex Says:

    This is what you said. “The general impression is that AUFS is a group of post evangelical who have emerged from the bunkers and now see liberalism as radical”. Seems pretty all guns to me – especially the use of liberalism as a slur, “like teenagers working our Daddy issues”. That “AUFS is angry and often funny but just not bright enough to “get” work like Theology and Social Theory or After Writing”. Personally I found this really offensive, more so given all outlined above. We’ve read the books and found them to be lacking, but apparently the only response possible is affirmation, coz anything else makes you thick. Oh well.

    Your problem appears to be that people read this kind of stuff and assume this is “all AUFS has got”. The above post responded to an attack in an interview on blogging obliquely referencing this blog. It did so in kind, fighting fire with fire, drawing on the pretty close and damaging experiences of the author, calling out of the ways APS has experienced these things.

  29. Ben Defoe Says:

    I thought I was speaking about an impression I’ve noted people having, or a “consensus forming” in those quotes you offer? It could well be that the people I’m noting are unique and that no more than 2 or 3 people would think ill of AUFS. And you’ve said that people at AUFS don’t care about being seen in a good light anyway, so suggesting ways of avoiding these perceptions, even if they exist in more than 2 or 3, wasn’t relevant.
    Anyway my apology still stands. And as you say I’ve “backed down” and I assure you I have my tail firmly between my legs. I won’t comment in this thread again, I really do admire the work of people here and their bravery and have said all I wanted to about it.

  30. Jeremy Says:

    As an infrequent contributor to AUFS (who studies psychology professionally not theology), I wanted to raise a couple of questions about Ben’s comments.

    First, Ben made the comment that AUFS folks mention Milbank more than any other theologian. Since 2011, I found only 3 posts that addressed Milbank (not counting the two from this week and one of those posts mentioned him in passing and in the other post Adam spoke of Milbank in a positive manner). I don’t think we overly-focus on Milbank/RO, and I suspect part of the reason for the recent disinterest in RO stems from the fact that othe theology blogs that might have been sympathetic to RO (F&T, Halden’s blog, churchandpomo) are all but inactive these days. I like to think we address other theological tradition way more (e.g. radical and liberationist theologies), which I take to be more representative of this AUFS’s general position. Second, I question whether RO is really ‘dominant’ in the theology world, as Ben suggests. In the US, I consider process theology and its various derivatives as also exerting a major influence (see Homebrewed Christianity which interviews prominent theologians that have a mainline bent). Third, I would like to think that Milbank is referenced on this blog in a dismissive tone because the questions raised by RO are not important for modern theology and the modern world. There are many more important conceptual and theological questions that need to be addressed, and I suspect that most of the contributors here are not simply working out their ‘daddy issues’ but trying to offer creative theological questions to various questions of the 21st century (economics, ecology, politics, etc.).

  31. Adam Kotsko Says:

    It’s true that process theology is closer to the mainstream in America at least — not sure how things stand in the UK.

    It’s also true that we’ve relatively blogged about RO in the last couple years. After my trick of entitling an empty post “John Milbank” and watching the traffic roll in, I realized there was something cheap about the whole thing. Now I conclude that there are some people who think we only ever talk about RO because they don’t give a fuck what else we have to say. Maybe it’s part of a kind of inoculatory strategy whereby they come here to see our posts about RO and convince themselves that we, obviously the most prominent anti-RO critics in the entire universe, just aren’t serious, so RO must still be awesome.

  32. Jeremy Says:

    You’re definitely right that this blog has been one of the only anti-RO blogs on the theoblogosphere, although Halden was critical in the past. My only thought was that I don’t think what we write is over-determined (counter-identified) by the various things they are publishing. I also take the rise of the post-Barthians and postmodern theologies (Caputo influenced/emergent church folks) on the theoblogosphere to be implicitly anti-RO and Hauerwas.

  33. Craig R. Clarkson Says:

    one: When I read Ben’s posts it was clear to me that he was conveying an impression he is picking up from others. I did not think that Ben was endorsing all such views.
    two: I think Ben was sincerely concerned that such views were being formed and, I think, was respectfully bringing it up for reflection. I think that without endorsing all such views, Ben brought it up because there are stylistic elements in this post that bolster some of those views.
    three: I think the AUFS bloggers over-reacted and out of defensiveness for a perceived slight lashed out at Ben and missed his first point. Chastened, Ben backed off his point.
    four: I am a stranger here. I am neither pro-RO or anti-RO. I am a noob to this particular conflict. I haven’t read any of the published stuff yet; I have my own project and my investigation into this topic is on the shelf. It seems to me that AUFS and others might actually care about the impression they make on someone like me. My primary impression while reading this post was one word: “bitter.” I picture two entrenched armies lobbing projectiles across a wasteland. And, yes, this stuff is the only thing some folks are going to see before forming an impression – and it is not just poor half-wits and lazy scholars who will do so, for I consider myself neither dumb nor a lazy scholar (and I don’t think others do either).
    five: I am saddened by the invective and name-calling I see here and over there. The manner of discourse is something I have seen in many theological circles and it is the number one reason why I chose not to study theology. The thought of interacting with people in this way as a part of my vocation (i.e. my calling and pro-fession) makes me literally sick to my stomach. I’ve heard again and again the point that it is the logic, the idea, the thought that is correct or incorrect, right or wrong, regardless of the personal (or interpersonal) shortcomings of the espouser (or stylistic shortcomings or rhetorical distastefulness). Granted. But to persuade the undecided (or even those on the other side) one must often consider perceptions such as Ben brought forth. And to throw barbs at one side for their manner of discourse while employing those same modes is… well… disappointing.

  34. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Thank you for your concern, Craig.

  35. Adam Kotsko Says:

    To respond more substantively: I can understand why someone would view Anthony’s post as bitter. Yet sometimes bad things happen to people that make them justifiably bitter.

    I can also understand why someone would say we overreacted to Ben’s initial comments. In fact, I agree with you. However, I think it’s justified to become angry when one learns that people are gossipping behind one’s back based on incomplete information.

    Sometimes it seems to me that people are demanding an inhuman level of stoicism from us. We have to behave perfectly at all times, or else we won’t win over those precious undecideds! Well, if someone is so wishy-washy and so unconcerned with actual arguments and evidence that they’re going to make up their mind based on whether someone is hot-headed or whatever, then they probably weren’t worth our time to begin with. If you’re that lukewarm, well — you know the rest.

  36. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Another funny thing: a lot of people who find Milbank and Conor Cunningham et al. appealing specifically like the fact that they’re bombastic! Weird!

  37. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Craig,

    Are you going to write a similar thing to the theology studio crowd? Or is there level of barbs acceptable? If so, why? I’m concerned that you aren’t acting in a completely evenhanded way here.

    And, yes, totally, I get how someone can see me as bitter. I’d gladly explain why in an email.

  38. Craig R. Clarkson Says:

    APS: In fact, yes I have commented on what they call “the comment-storm” that happened recently. You should be able to see it by following the above link “to where the cowards play.” No their barbs are not any more acceptable to me. APS, it sounds like if I’m not for you I must be agin ya, eh? Perhaps it’s because I know some of those people personally; and genuinely like them. I assure you, Pete Candler and I disagreed a lot when I was in his seminar and I’m not over here as some mole.

    Adam: I am concerned with actual arguments and I am also concerned with charity, community, unity in diversity, and a whole raft of other things that are important to me. If I were wishy-washy I would not have posted a comment; I think I probably would have just dismissed the whole thing and gone about my business. It was not my intent to promote perfect behavior at all times. In fact, I tried very hard to be measured and talk about what I thought and perceived. I didn’t want to spout a bunch of condemnations and judgments. I failed in my last line and I regret writing it in that way. I should have continued to employ the “I” language of the rest of the comment.

    I read “bitter” in the post and I do not intend to say you shouldn’t feel the way you feel. Indeed, that sick feeling I get in my stomach (and I did mean *literally*, wasn’t using it as an intensifier) is more pastoral than academic. It’s the same pain I feel when I see someone who has turned their back on the church because they have been hurt there. I don’t know of anyone I’ve encountered as “bitter” who doesn’t give a pretty good accounting for it – whether actual or perceived slights. I think that I actually read emotionally deeper than others would, to something behind.

    Finally, I propose that the undecideds (and your opponents) *are* precious (I took your use of that adjective as sarcastic), and that someone who is affected by (though they may not wholly make up their mind based upon) hot-headedness is indeed *worth your time* and indeed is worth much more. As with my comment, I received your first two paragraphs quite well, but then felt a little misunderstood and under attack at the end as the 2nd person ending recolored the use of the 3rd person earlier in the comment.

    Oh, okay, one more thing. I, too, am befuddled by how apealing bombastic rhetoric can be. I think something like that also happens with the rock-solid certainties that come out of some new-Calvinism. Fear of doubt? Lack of humility? Probably several factors…

  39. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Craig,

    No, your comment over there was pretty “Oh guys, come on!” Whereas your comment here was a long, classic example of concern trolling. I understand that you feel sincere, I respect that, but consider this. If you know them personally, don’t you think actually confronting their behavior will be more worth your time than concern trolling some people you don’t know personally? People, as you admit, whose public work you haven’t read and so whose lives you literally know nothing about? Just consider it.

    And, all the comments there are gone now, but I want to emphasize, I witnessed the worst kind of support of colonialism, racism, authoritarianism, and the like at Nottingham. I feel responsible to stand up to that and tell potential students who always want to read these guys “charitably” about those facts. I’d gladly debate John or Conor in public on the nature of theology, personal formation involved, and I think you’d all see who then who would end up yelling or accusing the other of insane things. Something tells me, though, they won’t take me up on this and what worries me even more is that, in the interest of this transcendental Niceness present even in your concern trolling, they would write off the clearly racist things as “reasonable debate”. It’s truly sad.

  40. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    And… really dude… you ain’t my pastor. Go be pastoral to those who asked for it, ok? I understand you’re trying to be nice, but more than once some pastoral care has been forced one me and I find it deeply creepy and problematic.

  41. christopher Says:

    So much for charity when they delete the whole thread. That’ll really serve the ‘reasonable debate’! If it causes me too much anguish, I’ll get rid of the evidence of a disagreement!

  42. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I feel like we need to skip past settling things over beer and just get together to sing “Lean on Me” around a campfire.

  43. Craig R. Clarkson Says:

    1) I know Werntz. I know Candler. I will confront them on my terms, not yours. Don’t know the others.
    2) My more involved post here related to what Ben was saying. Didn’t know I would get factionalized by it. Just as I did not personally confront them, I did not intend and did not think of my comment as a confrontation of you. I was not trying to stage some kind of intervention. I apologize.
    3) Not looking to be your pastor. Seems I employed that term too loosely and it pressed a button. Maybe there’s a better way to say it. Heard of trolling as posting intentionally incendiary remarks, but never heard of concern trolling. Really quite embarrassed to be seen as trolling and “deeply creepy”.
    4) Not feeling the “I respect that” you wrote.
    5) Please don’t call me “Dude” until we do know each other personally, which I do have hopes might happen someday under better circumstances; at least don’t “Dude” me when your intent is neither friendly nor casual.
    6) Regret the whole thing.

  44. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Craig,
    I can respect your intention and still find your action wanting. And, really, never said you had to confront them on my terms. Do what you will, of course! But, you haven’t been factionalized, just used to seeing people treat them with kids gloves while demanding any sense of anger be excised from my life. But, like I said, I’ve seen and heard things that just aren’t right. And, dude, fair enough, but maybe you could have saved yourself the pain by not getting involved with these sorts of “above the fray” assumptions. There is a war, as the man wrote.


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