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The Invisible Man

From One Wizard To Another

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I love this website a lot, but I decided at the turn of the year to post less often because I get rankled far too easily. There's a heck of a lot of bitchiness online. People seem incapable of making their points in a polite and friendly manner, and snarkiness abounds, even amongst Christians it seems. Does every dissenting voice have to be given short shrift, and every opposing opinion treated like an affront to our sensibilities? Whatever happened to civility?

I think there's something wrong with the internet: it changes people.

I'm snarky too, especially when I see people talking about popcorn movies like they are art, and I have come to hate my online persona. In the flesh, I'm a pussycat who smiles a lot, and weighs all arguments, and considers all sides, but in forums like this one I'm a scumbag with tunnel vision. I'm like the Wizard of Oz raging behind a screen. It is certainly true that snippy or provocative retorts get a better response, but even so, that's no excuse.

Sorry for rambling.

Edited by The Invisible Man

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Thanks for sharing Invisible. I want to appologize for reacting in a less than honourable way when you have gotten me rankled. I'm glad you're still around.

It is easy to get really passionate and defensive about things on the Internet and on message boards.

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I'm beging my first online class at Fuller and naturally there will be a great deal of message board interaction in the class. Rule One for the class is: "Remember that there is a person behind that screen name. Even though you may never physically see that person they are just as real as your spouse, your children, your pastor, or your cashier at the grocery store. Treat that person as you would treat any of the above. Would you dismiss a real live person out of hand? Then don't here."

Also mentioned was avoidance of satire and sarcasm. While effective if done well (which is usually reserved for those truly gifted writers), it is difficult to convey the correct vocal tone or facial gestures to give any real meaning other than misunderstanding and hurt feelings.

Thank you for sharing Invisible Man. It's important stuff to remember.

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Some useful reminders, indeed. A rule of thumb that has helped me (I hope, anyway) in my efforts to mellow out and keep it civil online is not to write anything online that I wouldn't be comfortable saying to a person face to face. Sometimes, too, backing off from an intense discussion overnight or for several hours has helped me gain a more balanced perspective. Better to keep a relationship intact than to demolish the so-called opposition, or in the words of Martyn Joseph, 'sometimes it's better just to love, than to always get it right.'

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In my counseling I teach communication to couples and families and I explain that 10% of communication is words, 40% is voice inflection, 40% is body language and 10% is context (where you choose to say it).

I looked up on line and this is what Lydia Ramsey says:

Studies show that your words account for only 7% of the messages you convey. The remaining 93% is non-verbal. 55% of communication is based on what people see and the other 38% is transmitted through tone of voice. So think about it. In the business setting, people can see what you are not saying. If your body language doesn't match your words, you are wasting your time.

I have had some terrible situations occur because ex-spouses tried to deal with their differences by email.

Words only is not a way to deal with differences.

That is what makes this online community so difficult and requires us to go out of our way to write with respectful words and thoughtful responses, giving one another, in words, what we would normally give with a warm smile, a respectful down-gaze, an acquiescing eye-brow, etc.

I'm not sure how exactly that is accomplished, but I suspect it is done with more than just smileys.

Denny

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Also mentioned was avoidance of satire and sarcasm.

And here I thought this was going to a Harry Potter thread or the merits of alchemy.

I strongly encourage the use of emoticons...

::velho::

This is totally off-topic, but do you think we'll ever get to the point where we will have rating restrictions on emoticons? I mean, I see bloodshed in this dragon eating a smiley face. How is that any different than the Mortal Kombat controversy? :matrixfight:

Edited by Michael Todd

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As much as I'd love to engage some silly reparte, I really do want to keep this discussion on topic...

Alrighty, I'll start a new thread, exposing the dark-underbelly of the emoticons used on this website.

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From a new user's personal experience:

I have periodically read this message board over the past couple of years, and I have definitely heard much about it from my husband who finds A&F a dear place to let himself vocalize and discuss certain topics in ways that our social connections simply can't provide.

About 3 weeks ago, I started a usership becuase I have an increadibly low-maintenance desk job that can periodically depress me with its lack of interaction and challenge. I enjoy engaging in your thoughts and reflections by reading your posts throughout the day. I have always appreciated what different forms of art and faith become when they are experienced and discussed in community; the sharing of our experiences as we mimic life and beauty through art is invaluable in helping us to see them more fully. My enjoyment of art and my experience of faith is richer for hearing how each of you have approached it.

I am, however, more timid by nature when sharing (and critisizing) such things as reflections on faith and art. As I hear others state their experiences even at such a low level as "this movie made me laugh", I feel I am being given a glimpse into who the person is because they have told me how they are vulerable to being affected. (If I know that movie, I understand a part of what makes you laugh; I hear your need to laugh; I can sketch a part of who you are). This is a little dramatic to many people (I know), but I cannot un-attatch the reality of people from their experience of life through art...there I am.

Because of this, I have been uncomfortable as I have read a few of the discussion topics that have progressed more heatedly and negatively confrontationally. Even (and particularly) when it is a topic which is important to me, I could not share myself in that environment. Perhaps at some psychoanalysis-level, I can blame childhood experiences of debates with my older sister and father in which I felt young, inept, and unheard...or something...but I realize that this is not everyone's experience. I have wondered if it's a personality thing: maybe this board isn't a place for someone like me. That is a distinct possibility.

I am most definitely NOT saying that criticism of art is wrong or even over-emphasized here. As they said last Saturday on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!, "Let's call a farty chair a farty chair!" We should discuss, recognize, and be able call a crapy film a crapy film...or whatever. The purpose of this post is that I am appreciating that other people recognize the darker side of the anonynimity of the internet and how that affects others as we all are trying to share something as deeply rooted in us as our faith and what has affected us.

Thanks.

Edited by ruthie

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From a new user's personal experience:

Because of this, I have been uncomfortable as I have read a few of the discussion topics that have progressed more heatedly and negatively confrontationally. Even (and particularly) when it is a topic which is important to me, I could not share myself in that environment.

Ruthie,

I think your view is more prevalent than others - judging by how many read the board rather than participate. I strongly urge you to participate. Your gentle articulate spirit as expressed in this post is a wonderful addition!

Denny

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Hey Ruthie,

I'll echo Denny and Andrew. Ironically, I'm somewhat of a hothead and smartass in person. I find that reading what is said on the page here cools me off and makes it easier to think (in addition to the fact that I'm not a 10 finger typist by any stretch). Being a bit slow gives me time to be careful what I say here.

Be bold! Remember that Proverb, "A soft zinger turneth away wrath."

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what is remarkable is about this statement, is that the topic poster has not replied to anything any of you have said... From Alan's "I know it all" attitude to nardis unacceptance of a form of humour - sarcasm. Does this not enforce the point that the topic poster is trying to make?

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what is remarkable is about this statement, is that the topic poster has not replied to anything any of you have said... From Alan's "I know it all" attitude to nardis unacceptance of a form of humour - sarcasm. Does this not enforce the point that the topic poster is trying to make?

Do you mean me? If so, there was nothing significant in my silence; I just had nothing further to add is all.

Edited by The Invisible Man

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First, Invisible just recently shared what often happens around here. Sometimes you start something and realize that what you wrote is about all you have to say on the subject. Other times, I at least, have said something, or started a topic and followups have gone way beyond what I had conceived the issue to be, rendering me speechless and lurkish. Silence does not always mean diffidence in this arena.

what is remarkable is about this statement, is that the topic poster has not replied to anything any of you have said... From Alan's "I know it all" attitude to nardis unacceptance of a form of humour - sarcasm. Does this not enforce the point that the topic poster is trying to make?

'Alan's "I know it all" attitude'? Wait a minute. The guy is the administrator and sort of all around proprietor. That makes it a little different than someone throwing his intellectual weight around. I took his original post to be a sort of setting perameters. As to nardis, well, what she shared was something she has had a problem with in her life and therefore is extremely (overly? I don't know) careful about in her own participation. At least that is what she implies in this thread. I find that commendable. What I think your take on this, as shown above, demonstrates is what some have brought up, namely that a medium that depends on the written word has some challenging limitations. In my experience, the more you read someone in various discussions, the better handle you get on his/her way of expression which is a better window on what might be meant in a cryptic comment. You'll get the hang of it.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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I'm not dismissing your post, Ken, because I think what you wrote is valid, but I do want to add something.

I have seen a few people really work on trying to make their posts sound more civil and less nasty than before, and I just want to commend them for doing so. It takes humility to try and correct something that many people see as wrong, even if the person does not see it so (though they may).

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kenmorefield wrote:

: I know there is one forum on the Internet that I won't even read anymore because it is monopolized

: by a single poster who insults everyone then concludes with "lol."

Yes, it can be annoying when people laugh at their own private little jokes like that. But that is a very different thing from trying to communicate with someone through facial expressions as well as through words.

nardis wrote:

: Seriously - I wonder how sniping and sarcasm serve the purpose of "speaking the truth in love"?

: Is this something that builds up the body, or tears it down?

Could be a false either/or. Sometimes you have to tear things down so that you can build things up. Certainly there is ample biblical precedent for sarcasm, whether we're talking about Elijah or Jesus or Paul or whoever.

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nardis wrote:

: Unignorning PTC (for the moment) - how many examples of sarcasm are there in the Bible? Not a lot.

How many references are there to the Virgin Mary? Not a lot.

FWIW, Google turns up this essay on humour in the Hebrew Bible (known to Christians as the Old Testament). Excerpts:

God is sometimes sarcastic, especially when upset or exasperated with the Jewish people, who continually test Him. When the Jewish people, who were engaging in idol worship, cried to God about the neighboring peoples (such as the Philistines) who were oppressing them (Judges 10:14), God told them: "Go and cry to the gods which you have chosen; let them rescue you in the time of your torment." This sounds very mortal-like, much like the woman saying to her husband who has strayed and then wants to return: "Now you come to me. Why don't you go back to..." Also, parents have said similar words to children who return when they need help and realize that their "best" friends are not there for them in times of trouble. By using sarcasm in this way, the text makes God seem more understandable and less aloof. Apparently, even omniscience and omnipotence do not prevent one from being hurt by straying children.

Elijah's remarks to the prophets of Baal are steeped in sarcasm. [Knox (1969) cites this as well, but considers this an example of irony.] Referring to their false deity, Elijah told them (I Kings 18:27): "Call with a loud voice, for he is a god. Perhaps he is talking, or he is pursuing enemies, or he is relieving himself, or perhaps he is sleeping and will awaken." . . .

Sarcasm is used in Psalms to ridicule idolaters. The Psalmist (115:4-8) says: "Their idols are silver and gold, the handiwork of man. They have a mouth, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see. They have ears, but they cannot hear; they have a nose, but they cannot smell. Their hands cannot feel; their feet cannot walk; they cannot speak with their throat. Those who make them should become like them, all who put their trust in them." . . .

Job became quite sarcastic after his life became miserable and the Book of Job is replete with sarcastic remarks. Job's explanation regarding the righteous person that suffers was (Job 12:4): "The completely righteous man is a laughingstock." Job demanded to confront God and know the reason for all his suffering. Job's wish was granted, and God said to him (Job 38:4): "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" Or, in other words, when you create your own world, then you can tell me how to run mine.

Turn to the New Testament, and you find great examples like Paul saying in Galatians that he wishes the pro-circumcision party would go all the way and cut their genitals off entirely.

Do people abuse sarcasm sometimes? Sure, of course, and the Bible has examples of that, too. But sometimes it is valid and even necessary. (And I'm not just saying that because I used to be a huge Steve Taylor fan!)

As you say, food for thought.

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nardis re-wrote:

: None of us can claim to be sinless, and I wonder how often we use our anger and sarcasm for truly

: righteous purposes? My answer to the latter is (concering myself) not often enough.

Not often enough? Fine, so use sarcasm for righteous purposes more often then!

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I think God is content to resist/make low the proud and give grace/lift up the humble. Scripture is replete with this theme, so I'm surprised we don't hear it referenced more. One way to resist the proud is by the use of sarcasm, wit and humor (the examples of which have been given above concerning Jesus, Paul, etc.), but we never see that tactic used against the humble. Obviously.

Maybe that should be a guiding principle with this forum.

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The scriptures also admonish us to be perfect as God is perfect.

Part of dealing with such commands is to recognize and balance their impossibility for us to achieve in our fallen nature without simply dismissing the commandment as therefor irrelevant to our lives.

Humor and sarcasm have rarely been used in my life to build me up. But you know what? I think they have been used more to build me up than have corrections or reproofs to not be sarcastic or humorous.

Why? Because the former have come more often from people who, despite their imperfections, like me, have chosen to spend time with me, with whom I have a history, and with whom I can sometimes get past the overly hurtful word to find the core of love. The latter have more often come from people who hold me (if not everyone) at a distance, condemn me rather than love me. The former are (yes, often broken) horizontal communications, the latter are more often vertical in nature.

That said, I do think that contempt and scorn is so pervasive in our daily encounters that we don't see how much they poison the soil...and then we often wonder why there is so little fruit growing in our communities. But that's a vicious cycle, because the absence of community and its fruits makes us cling that much more to those friends and kinships we have.

I do think building one another up is important, and I think we do a piss poor job of it. But I also think holding one another accountable is important. As iron sharpens iron.... Like the Emma/Knightley exhcange I referenced earlier...sometimes a cutting remark can be the kindest way open to us to prevent even more hurtful stances. Yet part of what made that remark so effective was it's relative rarity--there are a lot of good things (wine, chocolate, sex, films, painkillers) which can lose a lot of their goodness if overdone or if they just become habitual responses to people or situations rather than used appropriately.

Peace.

Ken

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FWIW, my understand is that the word translated "perfect" might also be understood as "mature", which may help inform our understanding.

Alan:

Interesting. Verses in which the same Greek word is translated as "mature," according to my NIV Exhaustive Concordance:

1 Co 2:6

Eph. 4:13

Php. 3:15

Col. 4:12

Hebrews 5:14

Ja 1:4

You learn something new every day.

Or at least I do.

Peace.

Ken

Edited by kenmorefield

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nardis wrote:

: AFAIK, contempt, ridicule, and wounding remarks are all things we need to avoid, as believers.

You don't "K" that. (I.e., you don't "know" that.) Rather, you believe that. And while I think human beings in general need to be extremely careful in expressing contempt and ridicule, I do NOT believe that such things are out of bounds. Certainly not if I ask "WWJD?"!

: Put another way, I don't see any instances of Jesus himself saying things that were meant to

: hurt others in a selfish, unrighteous way. Nor do I see him expressing unrighteous anger.

But you do see him hurting others, and you do see him expressing anger.

: Using "humor" to belittle others is unwise - and lacking in grace.

Then Christ was unwise and lacking in grace. Do you really want to go that far?

Alan Thomas wrote:

: FWIW, my understand is that the word translated "perfect" might also be understood as "mature",

: which may help inform our understanding.

Keeping in mind that Jesus most likely spoke Aramaic, and what we have in Matthew is a Greek translation of his words... Which is not to deny the meaning of the Greek word at issue here. But if the Greek word can lean this way or that, and the underlying Aramaic word leans more this way than that way ...

FWIW, as I recall, the OT says "Be holy as God is holy," and Matthew quotes Jesus as saying "Be perfect as God is perfect," and Luke quotes Jesus as saying "Be compassionate as God is compassionate" -- and that last quote is, arguably, the only one which gives us any hint as to what "holiness" and "perfection" consist of.

But it bears noting that even God and Jesus, "compassionate" as they were and are, were fully capable of using humour in its many forms, including those that rub us the wrong way sometimes.

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Peter, et al

Just as an aside, you know, some day I wish someone would explain the whole WWJD concept to me, cuz I've never understood its application uses.

I'm not Jesus, so asking what he would do strikes me, at times, as holding the ball with four seconds, down one, with Jeff Hornacek guarding me, and asking, "Now what would Michael Jordan do?" The answer may or may not have any relation to the more important question..."What would Jesus have me do?"

Peace.

Ken

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nardis, when a person responds to your argument and you reply by merely repeating your argument word for word -- ignoring the response in question and upping your volume as though the other person was deaf or something -- then some might construe that as not-gracious, even rude. It certainly doesn't reflect any attempt on your part to be "quick to listen", to quote one of the passages you lobbed here.

It seems more than one of our exchanges has come to a point like this: You exclaim and exclaim that people need to listen to each other, and in the process you don't listen to the people that you are talking to (or at least you don't listen to me; I won't presume to speak for anyone else here). If you truly want your mode of communication to be more gracious, then consider this your food for thought.

kenmorefield wrote:

: The answer may or may not have any relation to the more important question..."What would

: Jesus have me do?"

Very true. The example I always use is "Well I can't see Jesus getting married, but I can see Jesus desiring marriage for OTHER people." But that's another thread ...

That said, it still strikes me as an exceedingly strange argument to say that just because Jesus was sinless and I am not, I should therefore not allow myself to imitate his behaviour. Certainly Paul, who was extremely aware of his own sinfulness (and extremely capable of sarcasm and other forms of mockery), allowed himself the luxury of imitating Christ -- and of telling people to imitate his imitation!

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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