Friday, November 28, 2008

Taming the keyboard

Some of you may have noticed that I recently changed the text in the About Me section. I don't actually remember exactly what it said before. The new wording, though, has a pretty clear message:

Comments here do not represent the official views of my parish, my diocese, my bishop or the Anglican Church of Canada. Neither do they purport to represent the official views of God. They are merely the views of this particular opinionated prairie priest - who hopes that his views on issues are generally consonant with God's views, but claims no certainty on that score.

I think my point is pretty clear. This is a personal blog, not an official blog. Therefore, statements made here by me should not be attributed to anyone else. I'm responsible for what I write here.

One of the links in my blogroll is to the Mad Priest's blog, officially called Of course, I could be wrong. It frequently capers about in the world of the absurd. It is often quite . . . um . . . earthy. It routinely becomes a little caustic. From time to time it can even be a bit . . . too earthy.

The Mad Priest, like me, is a priest. I'll let others judge our relative madness.

Yesterday, he was summoned to a meeting with his bishop.

I've been summoned to a meeting with the bishop. Twice. Neither of these meetings was with my current bishop. Neither meeting was at all comfortable. The second ended, from my perspective, particularly badly. Seventeen plus years later, a call from the bishop can still make me a bit jumpy. Probably a guilty conscience.

Mad Priest's meeting was to discuss . . . his blog. He reports on the outcome of the meeting here.

I was amused by this observation:

A perfectly reasonable request was made. I have to avoid swearing so much. Evidently, it is officially "behaviour unbecoming of a person in holy orders," equivalent to adultery and a lot worse than trying to break up the Anglican Communion. As this is an issue I see no need to become a martyr over I shall try my best.

He then asks his readers to provide appropriate alternatives for a list of words (obscured slightly, but not much, with the use of asterices). Of the seven words on the list, two would be considered of no particular note in Canada, and two others would be mildly incomprehensible.

But it did get me thinking about the issue of self-censorship.

All of us do some amount of self-censorship - much of it based on where we are and what we are doing.

Like my front page says, I am an opinionated prairie priest. I have opinions about politics - both secular and ecclesiastical. I have opinions about organizational and institutional leadership. I have opinions about the poor quality of officiating at Canadian Football League games. I have opinions about the ridiculous amount of violence that is tolerated in hockey (ice hockey for any non-Canadian readers).

There are places I will express those opinions, loudly, unambiguously - and occasionally colourfully. There are other places where I won't.

I refuse to use the Sunday sermon to tell people that they should vote for the New Democratic Party. Don't get me wrong, I do think they should vote for the New Democratic Party. I just think the sermon is not the place for me to say that. I did preach about voting and values on the Sunday before our recent federal election. I just didn't tell them where to mark their "x." (Like they'd have listened anyway.)

There are things I won't say when I am presenting myself as a public spokesperson for my secular employer.

There are things I won't say when I'm presenting myself as an officer (not a chaplain, BTW) in the Naval Reserve.

There are things I won't say when I am presenting myself as speaking on behalf of the Church.

But this little blog, to some degree, is a grey area. While I do make it clear that my comments do not purport to represent the parish, the diocese, the bishop, the national Church or God, there are still some things I don't think I'm prepared to say here.

I don't claim to be eirenic by any means. I really am opinionated and not at all inclined to hold back when I'm responding to utter crap. Those who are seeking to divide our Church and our Communion are seeking schism - that makes them schismatics by the most straightforward definition. And those who knowingly say things which are not true are appropriately called liars.

But much of the present Anglican discord has been fueled - on all sides - by intemperate, ill-considered and frequently inaccurate statements distributed on the internet. Where is the line between fighting fire with fire on the one hand, and randomly flinging gasoline at blazing infernoes on the other?

If Jesus's brother James had lived in our age, he might well have written this:

The keyboard is a simple device, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the keyboard is a fire. The keyboard is attached to our computer as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole computer, sets on fire the entire blogosphere, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the keyboard - a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same keyboard come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.


MadPriest said...

A very interesting article. Thanks.

At one point in our conversation the bishop said that he wanted me to proof read my posts and only put them up if I would be happy to print it in my parish newsletter. I said no.

He then said, "but you wouldn't swear in the pulpit."

I said, "Of course not" and I pointed out that I never swore in my parish work (and I never blaspheme - not even on my blog).

I tried to persuade him that all life is contextual and that a well-mannered person respects the social mores of each situation he finds himself in. But he wouldn't swallow it. To him, and, supposedly, the lawyers he kept mentioning, a swear word was offensive wherever it was said.

So I asked him what words I couldn't use. The usual suspects came up. Then he said that I couldn't use the word "bugger" (a very mild swear word in England which Monty Python employed regularly as far back as 1972).

Then came my moment of triumph. I said to him, "So I can't say bugger, but your so-called orthodox bishops can call my friend sodomites in open synod?"

I think I won that particular exchange.

I think the most annoying thing is that people like my bishop assume that I am not fully aware of what I am doing and why I am doing it. They can be so patronising.

cryptogram said...

And, let it be noted, there were objections 10 or so years ago to the nomination of said bishop on the grounds that he is "too liberal".

Paul said...

It's a tricky business. I like your exploration here. I am sorry the Mad One must deal with such silliness. I am frequently intemperate, though few could guess the self-censoring that goes on and how much I do not put on my site.

We muddle through. We try not to be hurtful, though sometimes we are. We crusade, often passionately. And, as always, OCWCBW.

Good recasting of James.

Alan said...

Good Post.

I find it interesting that I read this post in the same morning that I read about the PM "leaving it up to others" to decide if the recording and leaking of the Liberal/NDP teleconference was ethical or not. With leadership like that "at the top" I am refreshed to hear someone speak of the kind of self-censorship that every citizen should practice. It would solve a lot of problems in this world if we were to think before we write or speak.

For what it's worth, this humble Lutheran can understand the difference between your opinion and that of the church. I think that a leadership that thinks that very few people can identify this difference should "give it's collective head a shake".

Looking forward to more posts.

Doorman-Priest said...

"Neither do they purport to represent the official views of God"

I so love that line as so many bloggers are convinced that they are God's secretaries.