I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we talk to each other, how we talk about each other. I recently read an article about the decision made at a parish in Wisconsin to only allow boys to be altar servers. My intent this blog is not to debate whether or not the decision made was a good one of for good reasons; what I want to talk about is what I read in the comments section. Because it make me sick to my stomach.
There were a few comments that expressed dismay or agreement with the decision in a respectful manner. But the vast majority of the comments were horrid. People were calling each other names, people were screaming at each other (yes, capslock included), people were insulting the intelligence of others, etc, etc. You get the idea.
One commenter in particular made my blood boil. He began his comment by saying that anyone who knows anything about theology knows…(insert his position here)…is true. He then concluded by telling people to disagree to leave. This was reiterated several times. I know that, for me, one of the quickest ways for me to get defensive is to feel like someone is insulting my intelligence. And so I drafted comment after comment where I put him in his place (after all, I’m the theologian!). I kept writing things that were angry and hurtful. It was so tempting to just jump in and join in the ad hominem attacks, to just start insulting people left and right for their (insert a bunch of mean things) opinions, because obviously, they have to be (insert insult here) to believe what they do.
Luckily, I started listening to that little voice in the back of my head (sounds an awful lot like my old spiritual director) that was suggesting that, perhaps, insulting people and trashing their opinions was not the best way to encourage discussion and dialogue. When I finally posted my comment, it was simply a call for respect amongst the commenters.
It’s hard for me to hold my temper sometimes, especially when I feel like I’m being insulted. But I’ve also learned, growing up in a family that is far more conservative than I am, that yelling and getting upset and calling names doesn’t help the situation. We need to find a way to keep talking to each other, to keep listening to each other, even when we don’t want to. I don’t have any answers, but I am going to do my best to keep my cool. Turns out, that advice to count to ten before speaking applies when commenting on articles on the internet.