In an ironically brief but tellingly hilarious exchange over at the chookwatchers‘ Hillsong-slamming site, a certain ‘Ed’ lends his expertise in unchristian sledging to a discourse which begins with a quote by Brian Houston, from blogger ‘Newtaste’, on why ad hominem is not a valid argument.
The quote is from Brian’s latest book, and tackles the growing trend of social media negative commentary about churches, leaders, ministry and doctrine.
Criticism and constructive advice is not to be frowned upon, and is necessary in some ways, but when people are merely commenting in a rude and unedifying way, social media can actually become a drab and uninviting introduction to Christianity, especially when sites specialise in ungracious and spurious commentary about other Christians.
“With social media so pervasive now, I continue to be amazed at the number of angry people who identify themselves as Christians but who have nothing positive, hopeful, affirming, gracious, or compassionate to say about anyone or anything. There are some particularly harsh and judgmental critics who seem determined to pick on people through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and comment forums, criticizing every form of faith and ready to publicly deride others with differing viewpoints.
My friend Phil Cooke calls people like this “armchair theologians”—those who hide behind their computer screens and look for “issues” to point out to fellow believers, all under the guise of biblical accountability. They see themselves as a kind of theological compass, ready to point out anything that seems amiss, off course, or simply not in line with their own understanding of the Bible. This isn’t living openly and expansively at all, and more important, it bears no resemblance to the grace-filled way Jesus lived his life on earth. Ironically, Jesus saved his harshest words for the religious.
As a leader, I value the need for accountability and constructive feedback from colleagues and peers, from friends with relational and ministerial credibility who would take the time to reach out in care and correction. These conversations can make us better as leaders if we maintain a teachable spirit. It is probably wise to pay very little attention to the anonymous and mean-spirited attacks of those who may never have subjected themselves to accountability and correction. However, we must follow God’s leading and not the whims of public opinion.”
Brian Houston • Live Love Lead.
This is fair comment. There are many so-called discernment sites populated by anonymous contributors which are simply cantankerous and contentious moan-fests populated by disgruntled Christians and their suppliers of angst.
In response to Newtaste’s quote, another of the chookwatcher regulars, ‘thinker’, in the ‘reply’ comment, adds a telling definition of ad hominem.
Quote: ”An Abusive Ad Hominem occurs when an attack on the character or other irrelevant personal qualities of the opposition—such as appearance—is offered as evidence against their position. Such attacks are often effective distractions (“red herrings”), because the opponents feel it necessary to defend themselves, thus being distracted from the topic of the debate.”
This is hugely ironic, because the very next comment, from ‘Ed’ (aka ‘Zorro’, ‘TF’, and a host of other pseudonyms too numerous to list), encapsulates his continuous and totally unmoderated ad hominem style.
‘I continue to be amazed at the number of mendacious mediocrities who identify themselves as “pastors” and “leaders” but who have nothing profound, insightful, intelligent, or even just plain sensible to say about anyone or anything. My friend God calls these people goats – those who are destined to spend their eternity in the lake of fire, where their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched, and where there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.’
So there you have it. Brian Houston is quoted as having an issue with those who simply insult people without any valid argument or Biblical reference of consequence, a definition of ad hominem is offered, and the chookwatcher regular ‘Ed’ comes in with his typically wordy lambasting style with no argument – just ad hominem with which he so often changes the subject and brings attention to himself as the most consistent and heavy-handed of the derisive sledgers on discernment sites.
This is a mild version of ‘Ed’s’ work, by the way. I have often been tempted to list some of the vain comments put up by this character, but they would not be in any way useful or edifying to anyone – just examples of the way this person thinks, and striking evidence that he is, perhaps unwittingly, struggling with scriptural principles of conduct.
He claims that God is his friend and implies that He endorses his style. If you were to go through the chookwatcher site and reference the numerous comments contributed by ‘Ed/Zorro/TF’ you would see a pattern of unedifying commentary which does little to bless anyone, to point them in the direction of Christ, or, tellingly, to affirm ‘Ed’s’ own Christianity.
Why tolerate such a weak argument?
I have never understood why the chookwatchers have so much tolerance of the style this pseudonym, in his many guises, has consistently presented on page after page every time a person comments in a positive light about Hillsong or C3 or any of the ministries the chookwatchers oppose, as if his contributions in any way lend weight to the arguments presented by the chookwatchers through ad hominem slap-downs.
As the definition points out, attacking a person’s intelligence, looks, beliefs or personality is not a valid argument in a discussion and only detracts from the debate as a diversion. It is a very weak form of argument. Anyone can insult another person, but it is not an argument. It is a detour.
But the chookwatchers are not averse to creating diversions. They will often change the subject themselves when the argument isn’t going their way, by adding comments like “What is the gospel?” or, “Do you need more money?”to a thread, which immediately derails any discussion.
Well, of course, that is the intention. These are phrases used to draw a line under an argument, especially when it is already lost.
It seems that immediately after this article surfaced ‘Ed’ vanished from the commentary team at the chookwatcher sites. LOL! He is still around, though, changing names on a frequent hit-and-run cycle as FL/SR/LOL and any number of pseudonyms. Anything but the real deal! Mr Anonymous! It’s now a matter of ‘spot’ the pseudonym, which is not hard, since we already know him by his fruit, and a tree can’t change what it produces. But he’ll always be Mr Ed!