I should have known better. Over the years, this blog has drifted away from its initial primary focus on theology, and I thought we had finally reached a point where it might be possible to discuss abortion without being mobbed by Christians. I was wrong, and the resulting discussion was a great example of the ways that typical Christian argumentative tactics clog and ultimately shut down any genuine conversation. (Disclaimer: not every individual who identifies as a Christian is guilty of all this, etc., etc., etc.)
The two key moves are, first, to presuppose some established orthodoxy and, second, to attempt to make people feel guilty for not adhering to it. So for instance, once the Christian onslaught began in the abortion thread, comments came out simply presupposing fetal personhood — which then provided natural guilt-inducing material, allowing them to speak of the duty of a “mother” to her “child,” of “vulnerable human beings,” etc. As if that wasn’t enough, I was accused of being disrespectful of the pro-life position and the people who held it (so that the pro-life men with their hurt feelings were the real victims here!), and then in a final bullshit move, I was smeared as adhering to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. (The fun continued in e-mail discussions that reached such a point that I felt compelled to set up a filter on Gmail to prevent messages from a particular person from ever reaching my inbox again.)
Abortion is obviously an extreme example, but long time readers can probably remember similar patterns with other violations of orthodoxy: for instance, not “respecting” the trend toward strong ecclesiologies in academic theology, failing to recognize that Karl Barth has so radically revamped Christian theology that all standard critiques of Christianity are essentially invalid and we have to start from scratch, etc., etc. Such argumentative tactics have marred our discussions for too long, but the abortion thread marks a breaking point for me, where it was clear that my tolerance for Christian apologetics was making the thread an unwelcoming environment for anyone with non-Christian (or differently Christian) views — not to mention creating a great deal of personal distress for me, as I began to have flashbacks of the kind of intellectual and emotional bullying that I was subject to throughout my upbringing and college career among conservative Christians.
Hence I rule that the AUFS Comment Policy necessarily implies a preferential option against Christian apologists. Comments by such people almost by definition fall afoul of the provisions against personal attacks on or psychologizing of AUFS bloggers, against telling us about things we already know, and above all, against boring comments. For the foreseeable future, enforcement will be harsh (I am leaving comments open in the hope of getting some good practice!), in order to break any perceived hegemony of Christians over the commenting community and make space for the wide range of views and philosophical commitments that are represented by AUFS’s silent majority.
Let us begin together a renewal of the comment threads — let a million lurkers delurk!