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kenmorefield

Is This a Christian Website?

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In response to the Measured Response thread, Rich recently formed a Mea Culpa thread that has touched on, among other things, how the role and practice of a moderator should be understood. It has even progressed to some discussion of a particular Bible passage (Romans 14) and how various theological understandings and interpretations of scripture inform our expectations and responses to public conduct (both for moderators and others).

That is to say, it was clear to me based on several responses (not just in this thread but it is the most current example) that many (if not the majority) of the regular participants here view this as a Christian website and form expectations (however narrowly or broadly articulated) of conduct founded on that assumption.

Yet the title of the website is Arts&Faith not Arts&Christianity, and the Rules & Privacy user agreement (yeah, I'm one of those scrupulous/anal people who actually reads those things when I join up) crafts expectations in civil terms.

Yet the expectations that this is a Christian website and should be run as such are pretty deeply embedded. For example, in the "Changing of the Guard" thread, Alan articulated the qualifications for a moderator:

A candidate for moderator must:

* Be personally committed to following Jesus Christ in word and deed, sharing an orthodox, catholic, and evangelical (all lowercase) understanding of the Christian faith.

* Support the authority and adequacy of scripture, in agreement with the ancient creeds of the Church.

* Be personally accountable to other Christians in a local church.

* Agree to approach his or her responsibilities prayerfully, as a servant to registered board users and guests.

* Support the vision of this board and a high view of art in the life of a Christian.

Please note that each of these qualifications is explicitly Christian. (One might make the argument that the second doesn't explicitly identify the Bible as scripture, but the inclusion of "Church" rather than "temple," "mosque" "synagogue" or whatever makes it clear that the overall context of these qualifications underscores the fact that the "vision of this board" is a Christian one.)

One of the most public products of the Board, the Top 100 list, though, is a bit more inclusionary, and includes works that explore spirituality that is not most generally understood as being the exlusive domain of the orthodox Christian.

Now, maybe, I'm not saying anything new or profound here. Maybe it's pretty much understood by everyone except me that, yeah, this is a Christian board, has always meant to be a Christian board, and the only reason the language of the title and user agreements doesn't reflect that is because we don't want people to jump to conclusions about what that means.

Or, maybe some people have an understanding that this is a place to discuss Arts&Faith and, as such, will attract a lot of Christians (clearly a vocal majority). That's fine, too, But I guess what I'm getting at is the moderator qualifications make it clear (to me, anyway) that Christianity is, in fact, the "official" religion of the Arts&Faith board. And if that's the case, the community standards, not just for moderators, but for participants, is markedly different, whether they are articulated in the site rules or not.

Rich (or Alan, or Josh, or Opus) may have little right (logically anyway, obviously, as the manager Alan is the representative of the owner and has the 'right' to do pretty much as he pleases and is under no obligation to articulate a set of governing principles, coherent or otherwise) to apply (or even suggest) Romans 14 as a guiding principle, to warn or chastise behavior (in the role of moderator as opposed to friend) that is mean, selfish, self-promoting, hostile, destructive to community, or any of a host of things that might be looked at askance in a Christian community but which aren't explicitly articulated under a user agreement. There is a HUGE amount of wiggle room between behavior that is:

knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually inappropriate, threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, or otherwise in violation of any law, including copyright law

and behavior that is (even allowing for human imprefection) credibly attempting to be Christian or able to convey a serious attempt to live by Christian community standards.

So here's a question. Are we all bound by Christian standards as participants of this website or only the moderators (since those supplemental, Christian qualifications in the Changing of the Guard thread are applled only to them)?

I'm not trying to be cute or divisive (word of the month) here, nor to nitpick the "About us" statement. Rich has invited an examination of his conduct, which has prompted an examination of the thread which that caused a lot of rifts, and led me, in a round about way to question how clearly standards of conduct are articulated and followed in general and, especially, how universally they are understood.

Peace.

Ken

Edited by kenmorefield

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Are we all bound by Christian standards as participants of this website or only the moderators (since those supplemental, Christian qualifications in the Changing of the Guard thread are applled only to them)?

As a "newbie" I speak non-authoritatively here.

I'd suggest the followng.

1. This one seems clear enough: Any poster who claims to be a believer is, by default, bound by Christian standards. Whether posting here or speaking to someone face to face with whom he/she disagrees, Christians don't ever get a "pass" when it comes to actually practicing our faith. The flagship verse for all human interaction, cyber or otherwise: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

We get forgiveness when we blow it, of course, providing we ,a., repent to God, and ,b., make restitution as best we can to our neighbor we've wronged. But that's a different topic.

2. A poster who does not consider her/him self a believer is bound by the board's own policies, which she/he agreed to by registering.

Blessings,

jon

Edited by jon_trott

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Alan:

Yes this is a "Christian" website--if there is such a thing. (And don't forget the tagline: "The best place on the Web for a discussion of Christian faith, the arts, and much more".) The site is Christian in charter and run by Christians. It's reasonable to infer that most of the active participants are Christians and there are multiple, explicitly Christian images in the header graphic (and no images of other religions). All the ads at the bottom of the page link to explictly Christian websites or organizations. And there's the verse of the day, search-the-Bible, etc.

I'll buy that, and I offer the following not as argument or rebuttal but as marketing info, end-user experience:

--I haven't forgotten the tagline; I don't recall ever seeing it. Now, granted, my eyesight is pretty cruddy (I had a detached retina years ago, which also makes online editing hard for me because I find the text in the message boxes here to be--for me--uncomfortably small), but I looked for the tagline you mentioned and still don't see it. Am I missing something? (I'm using Mozilla rather than IE if that makes any difference).

--I've been a member, off and on for about three years and have posted in the top 30 most frequent posters, yet I confess to being totally ignorant of the charter, so it is possible.

--the header graphic contains one image that is, to me, clearly identifiable as Christian, but it is an image that I've seen in many, many works by people who would not necessarily self-identify as Christians (Serrano's Piss Christ jumps to my mind, where I think the image is meant to symbolize a host [no pun intended] of things which may or may not be consistent to how it would be used by Christians). I'm no Doug or Goneganesh, but I've seen a lot of films and the kid from Decalogue and the chick from Amelie are the only images in the banner I could identify. There are a host of avatars that people use, personal and communal, that aren't necessarily explicitly Christian (I think Overstreet was King Kong for awhile.)

--I rarely judge a site by the google ads or links. Yes, they link to Christian sites of interest, but they also link to places I can buy Disc Golf materials, can watch or download a preview for a film which purports (I think ironically or comically) that Jesus never existed, etc. The sites at Hollywood Jesus, for example, contain links to Bible verses and studies, yet utz has been pretty emphatic in insisting that it is not meant to be exclusively (or even primarily) targeted to Christians. So judging a site by its advertising always strikes me as an iffy proposition.

All of which is to say, I'm certainly willing to accept the fact that I'm particularly dense in this matter--Having not grown up in evangelica, I may be blind to things that are obvious to some--but those examples strike me as, at best, hints that we have Christians rather than a clear announcement that we are Christian.

I'll give this subject more thought before adding more, so better to respond. Very good subject.

Thank you. I'll continue to think on it as well.

Peace.

Ken

Edited by kenmorefield

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Yet the title of the website is Arts&Faith not Arts&Christianity
[very technical theological nit-pick]

I would distinguish faith properly so-called from mere belief. Faith properly so called is a fruit of regeneration or rebirth, and is thus specifically connected with Christianity.

Not all religious belief qualifies as faith. Faith, along with hope and charity, is a theological virtue infused by the Holy Spirit via baptism. Only divine truth, and ultimately God himself, can be the object of true faith. For example, a Muslim may believe that God is not a Trinity, but he cannot have faith in that proposition, as a Trinitarian can have faith in the Trinity. It does not follow, of couse, that any affirmation of Trinitarianism involves true faith, nor that a Muslim cannot have true faith in God himself, as distinct from his religious errors.

I'm not saying that non-Christians cannot be regenerate (via what is sometimes called implicit baptism of desire) or that they cannot have true faith. Nevertheless, faith is inseparable from divine truth, and thus inseparable from Christianity.

[/very technical theological nit-pick]

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Yet the title of the website is Arts&Faith not Arts&Christianity
[very technical theological nit-pick]

I would distinguish faith properly so-called from mere belief. Faith properly so called is a fruit of regeneration or rebirth, and is thus specifically connected with Christianity.

Not all religious belief qualifies as faith [...]

[/very technical theological nit-pick]

Steven:

I don't think this is a nit-pick at all, and I thank you for raising the point. I think it is squarely on point, or at least one point, of my musings. I do agree with part of what I imagine went into your labelling it as a nit-pick which is that outside of a specific, informed, context, a broad audience might not read it that way. (And as a title, "Arts" is capitalized too, so the distinction between "faith" and "Faith" is blurred.)

Even so, the question of how an individual or community goes about identifying himself/itself as "Christian" (much less what they understand that to mean) is a tricky business.

I'm reminded for some reason of a church I attended for several years in which we would recite the Apostle's creed but the word "catholic" had been changed on the overhead to "universal." It always bugged me, and when I finally asked the pastor about it, he said that it was a concession to people's ignorance of the finer nuances of language...too many visitors might not be able to distinguish between "catholic" and "Catholic" and rather than fighting the battle over and over of constantly explaining it to people (often when they were upset by it), he made the change.

I'm not using that example to say whether his solution was a good or a bad thing, but I do think it points to a cultural condition in which symbols (including words) are increasingly co-opted, making a shared understanding of the meaning of even relatively simple discourses difficult and rare. But now I'm getting perilously close to sounding like Derrida, and since this is a Christian website, I better stop before my membership is revoked. ;)

Peace.

Ken

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I don't think this is a nit-pick at all, and I thank you for raising the point. I think it is squarely on point, or at least one point, of my musings. I do agree with part of what I imagine went into your labelling it as a nit-pick which is that outside of a specific, informed, context, a broad audience might not read it that way.
Your analytical abilities serve you in good stead.

Even so, the question of how an individual or community goes about identifying himself/itself as "Christian" (much less what they understand that to mean) is a tricky business.
True enough, particularly in the case of communities. Even so, as so often with tricky businesses, I think meaningful identifications remain possible and useful.

I'm reminded for some reason of a church I attended for several years in which we would recite the Apostle's creed but the word "catholic" had been changed on the overhead to "universal." It always bugged me, and when I finally asked the pastor about it, he said that it was a concession to people's ignorance of the finer nuances of language...too many visitors might not be able to distinguish between "catholic" and "Catholic" and rather than fighting the battle over and over of constantly explaining it to people (often when they were upset by it), he made the change.
That is a tough one. One would think, of course, that he would have to explain over and over no matter which way he went -- as indeed he had to explain it to you. It seems a bit melancholy to me that the revisionist rendering should elicit fewer queries and objections than the traditional one, but I'm glad in a way that you at least were bugged by it.

I'm not using that example to say whether his solution was a good or a bad thing, but I do think it points to a cultural condition in which symbols (including words) are increasingly co-opted, making a shared understanding of the meaning of even relatively simple discourses difficult and rare. But now I'm getting perilously close to sounding like Derrida, and since this is a Christian website, I better stop before my membership is revoked. ;)
And this, of course, is where the ambiguity starts to come in, since A&F is a Christian community that is not restricted to Christians.

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That is a tough one. One would think, of course, that he would have to explain over and over no matter which way he went -- as indeed he had to explain it to you. It seems a bit melancholy to me that the revisionist rendering should elicit fewer queries and objections than the traditional one, but I'm glad in a way that you at least were bugged by it.

I suppose, but that's assuming an informed congregation that knows the creed to begin with.

Not sure if this will make you more glad (or if I'm just pandering now), but I persisted every week in saying "catholic" even though the overhead said and most everyone else read "universal."

Perhaps it was the case that within the previous few years I had had a casual friend leave a Protestant church and join a Catholic one, at which point I saw a side of some of some of my Protestant friends that shook me a little in its anti-Catholic fervor, making whatever ignorance my subsequent pastor was trying to address not ignorance I was inclined to make a personal concession to. Or perhaps it was just my own orneriness. :new_argue:

Peace.

Ken

Edited by kenmorefield

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1. This one seems clear enough: Any poster who claims to be a believer is, by default, bound by Christian standards. Whether posting here or speaking to someone face to face with whom he/she disagrees, Christians don't ever get a "pass" when it comes to actually practicing our faith. The flagship verse for all human interaction, cyber or otherwise: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

We get forgiveness when we blow it, of course, providing we ,a., repent to God, and ,b., make restitution as best we can to our neighbor we've wronged. But that's a different topic.

2. A poster who does not consider her/him self a believer is bound by the board's own policies, which she/he agreed to by registering.

Excellent distinction. I also like tha part about Christian standards as the default behavior, despite the fact that much contention can be had over just what christian standards are.

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"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in everything, charity."

I agree with essentially all that you said above. I was referring to the fact that some do not hold to the statement that I quoted. and further, some mistakenly elevate the picayune to the essential.

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: The other "Christian" image is the first one, and is very hard to see. It's a painting of a candle and

: its reflection in a mirror. The rest of the painting features Mary Magdalene, from Penitent

: Magdalene by Georges de la Tour. The original image can be seen here.

To my shame, I am primarily familiar with this painting (or, apparently, some variation thereof) because Dan Brown spotted it in Disney's The Little Mermaid.

: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in everything, charity."

The toughest and least charitable fights, of course, always come in defining what is an essential and what is not. That is one thing I observed extremely up-close as a news reporter while covering the local Anglican schism (where an organization on one side of the debate named itself "Anglican Essentials" with this exact quote in mind). And it has certainly been the case in some of the dust-ups on this board.

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"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in everything, charity."

I agree with essentially all that you said above. I was referring to the fact that some do not hold to the statement that I quoted. and further, some mistakenly elevate the picayune to the essential.

That's the trick, eh? Figuring out what those essentials are. But of course that last phrase -- "in everything charity" -- points to the same place Jesus did with his "new commandment":

John 13:34 "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."

How does that work here? Well, that's what we have to sort out.... hehehehehe.....

Blessings,

jon

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Alan:

...much contention can be had over just what christian standards are.

Yes, but.

Christian standards certainly inform board policy, and form the baseline for all behavior on this site. [Emphasis added] We have to rely, in faith, on the power of the Holy Spirit as He guides us and convicts us. PMs are essential to this process, as is escalating disagreements to include other Christians when we can't settle things directly.

Sometimes we'll have to agree to disagree.

"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in everything, charity."

This thread has been thought-provoking for me, and I find this statement revealing and signficant.

I'll try to say how without sounding as though I'm criticizing it.

I think when most people hear "Christian" organization, they tend to metaphorically apply a church model to problem solving, expectations, etc.

I'm not so naive as to think that everyone who is a member of a church is a Christian, but membership requirements are usually a bit more strict. (Anyone who agress to the rules and gives a dollar can be a "member" of A&F even if he/she disagrees with Christian doctrine. Whether one would want to be is open to question, but an athiest or even a Satanist who wanted to give a dollar and spend his or her time talking about homoerotic readings of The Passion of the Christ or have an intro thread on how to cast a Wiccan spell would appear to me to be well within his rights to do so, such behavior not necessarily being "knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually inappropriate, threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, or otherwise in violation of any law, including copyright law" even if it an argument were to be made that they were objectively "unchristian."

Also, while pragmatically in a church there may be higher standards of conduct for leaders, the expectation that everyone who is a member ought to be a Christian makes it easier to think of those standards as higher thresholds of the same standard that applies to everyone rather than a greater standard.

On the other hand, if I'm thinking metaphorically of a "Christian" institution that is open to non-Christians (like, say, a Christian university that does not require a doctrinal agreement for enrollment) it may be the case that it is perfectly proper and appropriate for leaders or representatives to be held to a standard that participants are not.

No great advancements or arguments here....just thinking out loud about this topic and throwing some ideas out on the table for consideration.

Peace.

Ken

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Finally, there may be people who feel that an injustice or wrong is so egregious that the person saying, "we must agree to disagree" is not giving a good enough response. I'm thinking of MLK in "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" or Thoreau on civil disobedience. The oppressed (or their advocates) may well look with suspicion upon calls to agree to disagree, seeing them as an acceptance of the status quo.

Your points about the perception and/or reality of control in moderating and controlling threads are well taken. One of the reasons for my not liking to close threads is that great Sun Tzu quote to the effect of giving your enemy a way of escape in a confrontation (so as not to force him to fight) to save face. Closing a thread is leaving all of the blood all over the place and allowing that to be the last word.

But it is this quote above that catches my interest. OTOH, advocates for the oppressed do not always have the only solutions to the oppression and can so get wrapped up in an ideological cocoon that there can be failure to see other means to a similar solution. And these arguments for other means can then be seen as fighting words, even though that is not the intention of those other advocates. I hope that this is not so neutered as to have lost its meaning.

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: The other "Christian" image is the first one, and is very hard to see. It's a painting of a candle and

: its reflection in a mirror. The rest of the painting features Mary Magdalene, from Penitent

: Magdalene by Georges de la Tour. The original image can be seen here.

To my shame, I am primarily familiar with this painting (or, apparently, some variation thereof) because Dan Brown spotted it in Disney's The Little Mermaid.

There's probably some better thread for this, somewhere, but this thread was the first that came to mind -- I have checked out The Little Mermaid's DVD bonus features, and tracked down the truth regarding the film's use of this painting!

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