Greg Griffith over at Stand Firm posted a piece that was inaccurate and which many regarded as highly inflammatory and hateful. He was interested in comments and he got them. Episcopal Café has a cache version of the page with a number of the comments kept so that the record of all this remains available. A wide variety of people called for him to remove the piece and apologize. Among those calls was my own note which can be read HERE.
Greg responded by removing the piece and apologizing to Bishop Barbara Harris and the readership for the misidentification of someone at a march in San Francisco with the Bishop. Since he has removed the piece I would hope it might also be remove elsewhere after a short while, save for a private file kept for the record.
There has been considerable comment on that apology as to whether or not it was good enough. I think enough has been said on the whole matter. Those to whom Greg issued the apology will have to decide for themselves whether or not to accept it as sufficient.
Along with others I asked that Greg apologize, remove the posting from Stand Firm and get some counseling. Thank you for doing the first two Greg. If the third request was arrogant on my part I apologize. If you think it was perhaps just a bit forceful but maybe useful, I hope you will follow through.
This whole thing got me to thinking about two things, one having to do with apology and the other having to do with the self-policing that we need to do if Anglican-Land on the internet is to be both appropriately post modern in its spidery web like reach, where meta narratives are not taken too seriously, and at the same time respectful of our human-ness.
About Apology: As with the actions and words that gave rise to offence, the actions and words that constitute apology are mostly not in our hands. When we ask or demand apology we get something back, and that something can be anything for abject refusal to apologize to full apology to all including to those whose hurt is unknown to all but the offended. We can steer the nature of apology by being precisely clear about what it is that has offended us, but even then the “no” or “yes” can be nuanced in many ways. However the fact is that what we see is what we get. The most we can hope for is that “no” is no, and “yes” is yes. The nuances are perhaps indeed from the dark side. Apology shares with confession that strange property that it is the business of the person uttering the words and making whatever restitution is made and always directly or indirectly to God. The rest of us are witness.
Still the core is that when we ask or demand apology we get what we get. The first point of contact between any of us and the offender is acknowledgment by response. The worse sort of offense is the one in which the offended is not even recognized as present. The first test of apology is passed when the offended is recognized and acknowledged. From there we deal, as always, with the foibles of being human, offender and offended alike, and apologies take their lumps along with all we do.
About self-policing: The internet is fairly boundless and almost all the screening (save that of states that would just as soon not have the internet used as a hot-spot for revolt) takes place by use of firewalls, adblockers, parental screening on specific computers, and on blogs and other interactive websites by the site managers who exercise considerable freedom in blocking or allowing input.
But in that small part of the net that constitutes Anglican-land, how do we hold one another accountable for the sorts of posts and comments appear? I look in on a wide variety of blogs at this point and the screening takes very different forms. Some blogs simply do not allow comments, some block those they think are not following the rules (explicit or implicit), some read each comment and allow only some through. But what about the postings themselves?
The Mad Priest has an interesting take on posting in his mostly post modern Christian blog. He skates near the edge of modern propriety and his postings are certainly not all woven together by a meta narrative, but rather by intersecting circles of concerns and delights. But at least he asks the question of where the edge is and if he has crossed over into darkness.
The Griffith posting pointed to several interesting things: there is communication among those in the blogsphere regarding one another’s actions and postings; they are heard; and there is response. The actions, the objections, and the responses may or may not be satisfactory. They are what they are. But they do give the sense that we are mostly bound by the desire not to be banned by one another, else how would we get references back to our own work? And more, how would we maintain the possibility that we are indeed Christians in this work? Here we are then, sometimes at one another’s throats, sometimes good friends, across great gulfs, but all out there on the web trying to say things we believe are important to say and looking for an audience that, in our peculiar case, includes mostly Christians of the Anglican persuasion. And we know that Christians of an Anglican persuasion have some sense that we ought not unnecessarily offend, and we know too in how few instances offense is necessary or useful. So how do we keep something of the composure of a people who want to live into holiness?
How do we work out a way to speak the Truth with Love (which is sometimes an offense) and say with Jesus (Matt 11:6), “blessed is the one who takes no offense in me.”?