Guest Editorial: Watch Your Language

A series of developments in my church have made me wonder whether the church, which I have known my whole life, is not being kidnapped in broad daylight for purposes one has a hard time fathoming. Among the features of this development is a tone and a style of expressing views and disagreements that I believe need to be addressed.

Months before the General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, an avalanche of speculations, rumors and personal agenda items flooded conversations, publications, and social media. A friend asked me, “Ray, why aren’t you saying anything? You’ve been around and could possibly tone down the rhetoric.”

“I do not see this as a noble task,” I responded. “There is more to life than adding to the noise and chatter about the obvious church politics culminating in San Antonio. Besides, being a target for the lunatics that have suddenly come out of the church’s stale woodwork does not come close to my view of religious entertainment.”

Frankly, I care more about “pure and simple religion” than about positioning myself among the purveyors of personal agendas for the church, who often react with hateful and vicious talk laced with a sprinkle of outright lies. Call me old-fashioned, but I care about the language we use, especially when describing matters that are associated with spiritual aesthetics. Call it spiritual formation that has a value for my life, a way of life I inherited from my upbringing and personal contact with Scripture and its Author.

Observing the Adventist blog conversations in particular, one could not miss the negative strategies at play, especially when the topic of women in ministry surfaced as the church’s primary 2015 concern (again). The interlocutors, who in the recent past had exercised notable influence in church mission, suddenly claimed expertise in areas they had not been known for. The cyber talk moved off center, and motives to “rule the church and rule the world” replaced unity with uniformity. All in the name of true religion.

In her commentary on “What It’s Really Like to Be a Woman Pastor,” Alicia Johnston, a church planter from the Carolina Conference, wrote: “There are independent organizations and individuals that used to be dedicated to evangelism who have made it their mission to discredit the ministry of female pastors. It saddens me deeply.” Myself, I wondered about the effect of that evolution on the church.

When comments on the blogs were laced with name calling, which included expressions of hatred toward those with contrary opinions, I could not help but see the image of a church that has perhaps lost its balance. Some noble and notable church leaders, through a few strokes of the keyboard, became “Jesuits,” “servants of Satan,” and “antichrists,” to list a few. When I read the Pauline admonition to “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV), a thought crossed my mind and a smirk appeared on my face: Judging by the group the apostle is addressing, one can assume that this advice is for the young people. Some of the interlocutors are already “seasoned,” so perhaps this does not apply to them anymore!

Have some of our fellow church members (often hiding their names behind pseudonyms) forgotten another classic comment by Peter (2 Peter 3: 5-7) about brotherly kindness?

What about this text? “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

After posting an article on the Rocky Mountain Conference’s Facebook page about the vote dealing with women’s ordination, the flood of reactions—thousands of comments—was taken over by hateful language. We had thought that our community was quite tame until this happened! It would appear that we have a contingent of “Hateventists” among us.

What do we do with them? They should be loved, but would many of us want to walk hand in hand with them?

A communication colleague of mine suggested posting the following statement: “Reminder on Christian Dialogue: The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes in respectful, Christ-like dialogue between Christians, and indeed, all people. There is no place for disrespectful statements, unfounded accusations, and hatred to exist on our social media pages. Thank you for understanding and demonstrating respect to all.” Responses indicated approval; we could definitely hear people applauding.

Most reading these words are not hate-talkers, but if you should recognize yourself as a Hateventist, perhaps you might consider a simple request: Please, watch your language!

Rajmund Dabrowski is communication director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. A version of this article first appeared in Vol. 2. No. 2, Fall 2015 of Mountain View News, and is reprinted here by permission.

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7109
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Rajmund
the problem is that Each and Every One of SDAs have been brought up different. have been indoctrinated [brain washed as some would say] differently by those they have listened to as being "the experts on Biblical exposition. This is whether it is a parent, a friend, a pastor, a TV pastor, a person in Administration, from Conference to General Conference.
Each person has to decide what Truth is, and if they believe the “Truth” as spoken or written by all these individuals, or if the “Truth” as THEY SEE IT is THE TRUTH, regardless of what an “Expert” says.
Then there is the long term pressure that the SDA church is to be “Pure”. Not follow Babylonian ways or Traditions, past and present.
This is why certain people, even high level people, can go on record and say certain other persons in the SDA church is a Jesuite, is into “spiritualism” and bringing it into the church, and making God’s Holy Last Church Impure. They can even say that certain genders are “less than” other genders, are “Impure” from Mother Eve, as so cannot be used by God in various lines of Christian work.
SDAs have been programmed to think this way. Have been programmed to call “sin by its right name”, and so it is OK to call Sin in whatever way one is comfortable. And a lot of people have been comfortable.
Others who feel “more enlightened” may respond in kind, in what ever way THEY are comfortable. And they are comfortable.
Unfortunately, a lot of this is due to the SDA mentality that has permeated the church body. Both sides responding to FEAR that God’s Will WILL NOT be done in the church. That Humans, the SDA membership, will keep Jesus continually from coming to Earth.
If one recalls, Ellen said that Christ should have come in her day. Now it is 100 years since her death.
Everyone wants the Church to be Pure, no Babylonian influences, wants the Gospel to be preached in the manner that is allowed Biblically. There is an URGENCY on both sides. And neither side wants the other to be the one keeping Christ from coming. Because His Coming is based upon what the church DOES or Does Not do. That is a HUGE responsibility. This Doctrine has been taught, this Doctrine has been believed by a huge group. And there is ANGER when one group wants to do something that will keep Christ from coming.
Anyway, this is the way I see it. It may not be THE TRUTH. But this is MY TRUTH in the situation.
Thank you Spectrum for letting us argue out Where THE TRUTH Lies.
Even if everyone does get a little over animated in the discussions.

I believe that it is OK for Women to be Ordained and have full functions as a pastor and eligible for any position from Local Pastor, to any position in Conference Union, Division, General Conference, even President of the World Church.
Most all [99.9%] of the congregation I worship with believe this is a wrong attitude.
I believe that ALL should be Welcomed to the SDA church. That ALL should be allowed to participate in church.
ALL of the congregation I worship with believe this is a wrong attitude.
But discussion should be allowed and not hindered.

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From my memory, the standard of dialogue on this site [Spectrum] was considerably worse five to ten years ago. Some of us spent most of our time here trying to inculcate better manners, opposing the tirades and vitriolic rants, and educating writers how to speak without ad hominem. The Editor was frequently cautioning people, even banning them, and slowly the tone rose.

Offenders were used to freely ranging over many sites where they internalized similar language and much worse. Some of our current contributors were among the worst offenders, but they were firmly opposed for their gross exaggerations, personal attacks, name calling and hysterical rhetoric by others who patiently refused to be treated this way. The pushback on Spectrum was consistent and called for better articulation and standards of civility. In addition, models of graciousness such as the ever-present Elaine Nelson and the late Herb Douglass showed us all how to advocate unpopular ideas and yet remain humane in our language.

The standard of dialogue has slowly lifted and, without naming, I thank the previous offenders for their newer graciousness. They seem to have learned by being gently opposed and reasoned with by moderate writers who refused the scummy language and tactics they encountered. Perhaps they have matured as human beings also, and learned that the Golden Rule applies to all people, on all topics, in all situations.

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I remember Christ said “for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Lk. 12: 12). Where did the Spirit go?

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Since he didn’t provide any specific examples, other than the RMC Facebook page, I’m curious as to which blogs and forums witnessed this phenomenon . While we have had vigorous arguments pro and con here at Spectrum, I haven’t seen any name calling (how does he define that?) here (unless the misused term, “misogynist,” or the oft repeated “discriminators of women,” be included in that category). And those terms are rather mild, compared to what he’s hinting at. As for labeling people “Jesuits,” that’s been around for a long time, and should only provoke a yawn. I’m not sure even a Jesuit could bring himself to endorse WO, since the RCC is adamantly opposed to women in clerical positions.

And in my own discussions with anti-WO members, I’ve not heard any hatred or name calling directed toward proponents of WO.

Speaking of name-calling . . . .

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I think this is an appropriate article, except when the author referred to some individuals as “lunatics coming out of the woodwork.”

Just a bit ironic.

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We are seeing a internet-wide phenomena partially caused by people trying to get THEIR voice heard above the clamor. Rather like the people lining up at the “Point of Order” microphone because they knew they would not be heard if they acted civilly at the “correct” microphone.

The effect is that many of the voices that should be heard simply give up.

That is what many want - they want the opposition to go away, and will use any method to achieve that goal.

They do not value diversity, they do not value opinions that differ from their own. They REALLY do not want someone to provide evidence and logic showing that their currently held beliefs are wrong.

I am sure none of us will recognize ourselves in the description you provide. Indeed the description and the name itself is an example of “name calling”.

“We all hear what we want to hear, and disregard the rest” - Simon and Garfunkle

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I have not been aware of anyone here calling leaders “Jesuits,” but on other sites if anyone asks for evidence of another’s statements, or challenges them to validate their biblical or EGW beliefs, they are labeled “Jesuits.”

As Steve wrote, Adventists have been taught the Roman Catholic church is the antichrist and one who will issue the mark of the beast, so to label anyone that does not believe this scenario, that individual automatically becomes a “Jesuit” or part of Korah, Dathan and Abiram in the camp.

Several years ago a pastor of a large church addressed at Sabbath services, the “apostasy”, so-called because some members had attended private meetings with Des Ford. He compared three prominent members there as Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Everyone knew immediately to those members he referred to. He was an interim pastor who had never even met those individuals or talked with them! It follows without saying that not only did all members of those three families, but many more who knew them, withdrew their membership.

It is not only bloggers that should watch their language, but leaders have far more influence than members,

All impressions are not limited to verbal: The Adventist Review featuring an SdA organist, was suddenly “pulled” from its pages by leadership; most likely capitulating to the papal fear mongering by some members.

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every revealing essay. The use of lunatics goes at least as far back as the conversations that resulted in the book Answers to Questions on Doctrine. Each cycle is about a generation apart. The present rumble began with dire consequences. One of the poorest prepared presidents is attempting to hone a congregation with far more insight than he will ever have. So there is going to be noise even in the expression of the essay above. Tom Z

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This name calling business seems to be catching on. Lunatics and Hateventist are such wonderful new additions to the vocabulary of the pure in heart. We must be careful how we point the finger. There are always four of them pointing back at us.
Yes, “please watch your language”.

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Sticking to the topic of the article, “Observing the Adventist blog conversations in particular,” I wonder what comes next.

The problems Rajmund describes no longer live at Spectrum.

Since shifting the “Spectrum 25” to the Lounge, a high degree of decorum has resulted across Spectrum’s public columns. Furthermore, limiting comments to any given article to just one per commenter has done wonders for the quality of the comments. In so many ways it feels much more calm and if not always erudite, aspirationally so.

Other sites apparently are suffering the slings and arrows of overly robust church conversationalists. To Spectrum’s credit, there seems no real need for the implied spanking here at Spectrum of sort Rajmund is delivering by way of this article.

At this point the question seems to be whether there is room for actual conversation among the readers on the various topics of the articles Spectrum publishes. I would be interested in your sense, Rajmund, of whether you see practical solutions to keeping rambunctious types from hijacking the audience beyond the very effective one-comment rule.

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Guest Editorial: Watch Your Language 5 October 2015 by Rajmund Dabrowski said: “We had thought that our community was quite tame until this happened! It would appear that we have a contingent of “Hateventists” among us.”
Brother Dabrowski, I share your concern. Some of the dialogue in blogs is very rude.
I find that when I’ve asked persons about this I get answers that I can’t seems to understand fully but reveal the pent up frustration that many in the church have and can’t find a proper venue to express their anger and disappointment. Not only does our Adventist culture hide behind screens. We hide behind social media.

Far too often I have seen rude, mean and snarky comments from people we least expect it from. I thought little Adventist Sally was sweet and innocent, but wait the comment she posted about that topic was neither sweet or innocent, I had no idea little Sally had it in her!

Sometimes I am literally shocked when I see how people dialogue on social media. Our feelings and emotions get especially heated when there something controversial is going in our culture. There is nothing wrong with conviction, passion or having a strong opinion about a certain topic, but the way in which we present those opinions is important. It seems as though this should be obvious, but just in case: social media is not the place to rant, vent, or make rude and snarky comments about a particular issue. In fact, all of our communication and dialogue, whether it is on the public digital sphere, or face to face, should be rooted in love.

Here are a few things to think about when having internet dialogue:
There is a face behind the screen
This is the number one rule! Whoever we are commenting to or whatever issue we are commenting about- those people have real faces, real names and real souls. Our comments should never objectify people or degrad them.
Truth rooted in love
So you disagree with someone on social media? If you chose to respond make sure who choose words that respect the dignity of the person or people you are talking to. Sarcasm, accusations, and rude comments do not have a place in dialogue. There is a way way to respectfully disagree with someone, which can only be done if we exercise love and respect to the other person.
If you wouldn’t say it face to face, don’t type it
Seriously! It is easy to hide behind a screen. But social media isn’t a scapegoat. If the conversation isn’t one you would have in real life, don’t do it on social media. Too often, we hide behind the screen as a means to vent. This rule helps avoid the scapegoat mentality as well as encourages us to have honest face to face dialogue (which in my opinion is the real platform for dialogue.)
Think before you type
When something controversial is going on in culture we of course will have strong feelings and opinions. The easiest thing to do is to run to social media to express those. I would challenge us to think and pray before we post on social media. Questions such as these are helpful to ask before we post: Are my comments charitable? Do I know enough about this subject yet? Does my post point to the truth of the situation? Is my tone in the comment positive or accusatory? Do I want to make such a strong declaration publicly about the matter at hand?

Jesus’ disciples didn’t have to grapple with the question of how to dialogue on social media. Our culture is in a constant flux, and one of the roles of the Adventist Church is to learn how to dialogue in the various platforms that culture creates. As Adventists we just can’t seem to find enough places to vent! We don’t deal very well with diversity! For our Adventist culture, a Spectrum or Adventist Today website is largely a “safe” social media we can use to vent… I believe great dialogue can happen on these sites, and that people can even be pointed to truth through these online conversations. But hearts won’t be led to truth if we don’t follow some guidelines.

Real people read our comments, we must always keep a mentality of truth rooted in love in internet dialogue- there are faces behind the screen and owe them just as much respect, as we would give them if we were speaking person to person.

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I think the problem is that we think of Christians as being “nice” people, mainly to give the world the impression that “our church has nice people” - just like we like our kids to be nice and not embarrass us, their parents, because their behavior reflects on us. So quite often it’s more about us, the parents, than our kids.

When it comes to an organization like the church, everyone is expected to treat each other with kindness and good behavior even when there are disagreements. That’s called just, “being civilized”. There is a difference, however, between being inappropriately “nice,” and being genuine. There is nothing more insipid than overly “nice” people, who smile while they stab you in the back.

The church itself tries so hard to be nice, even when they have to fire people, they do it nicely by saying that a particular position has been cancelled; or they pull embarrassing articles nicely by saying it’s about “internal office problems”- whatever. There comes a point when bad behavior by the church, needs to be called out for what it is - without a smile and without a pat on the back - straight and up front. Inappropriate and abusive language is, of course, not to be tolerated.

When it comes to Spectrum, specifically, the website published many, may articles dealing with the most contentious issues leading up to the GC in San Antonio. They had to have known that those articles, about those issues, are going to produce, if not inflame, some strong feelings. To then, shut down the back and forth conversations about those issues was unexpected (I think) and drastic, to put it “nicely”.

I guess the operative word here is “honesty”. The idea that church members must always be guarded about what they say on a website that is called “community through conversation” smacks of control - the very thing that became such an issue about the GC sessions. I suppose it’s abut what we mean by the word “conversation”.

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of course we also have to consider that with the written medium, there are variables beyond the writer…for instance, some readers are so pathetic and fragile, they feel personally excoriated if even the most remote tangent of their opinion is crossed…they are not able to play well with others, but will always feel abused if anything they disagree with is expressed…i completely believe that most of what i see on blog sites that is interpreted as rudeness is really the situation of people who can dish it out, but who can’t take anything in return…

there is also the fact that tone, inflection, facial and bodily expressions are missing in the written medium, which means the reader and his or her state of mind, maturity and sophistication level supplies nuance and meaning which may not exist, at all, in the mind of the writer…accurate, perceptive reading isn’t common…

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The Pope is a Jesuit - that is a fact., neutral. Accusing Brother xxx of the yyy conference as a Jesuit is smply insult and swear. Sigmund Freuds Psychoanalysis is Jewish (see Scharffenbergs study, see my study - for our SDA publishing house decades ago) .To denounce it as “typically Jewish, you know !” is Antisemitism. Period…

Now an example out of posts here once : A cluster of dirty words, swears, bad language. If one instantly and furiously has them at hands, he must be used to spreding them frequently. And if the author signs with " zzz, daughter of - - - -
what levevel must be found in their families berakfast table talk ?

Didnt I read once upon a time about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn - for dirty words it was the use to get your mouth rinsed with cord soap or soft soap ? Maybe some should rinse the next stoty upwards from teir mouth this way :

Finally bretheren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, wahtsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be a virtue, , and if those be any praise, , think in those things - - - (Phil 4 : 8.)

and they will shape your speech ! andyour attitudes !

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“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in baskets of silver.” Proverbs 25:11
We need to choose our words, posts, submissions and reactions well as Christ representatives on earth. I never knew we were more polarized as Adventists until Women Ordination entered into our theological dictionary. We forgot all our principles on Christian behavior, if we bite those who differ from us then we are more than pagans. This issue is not going to die, it takes something more to remain faithful to God even in disagreement. Is this the way we disagree with secular world in the many issues we see? We are more gentle on pulpits trying to convince the world that Sabbath is not Sunday, we explain, we do not attack. But Adventist who is having a contrary opinion is a different person. May God renew our hearts. God bless you.

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[quote=“svrcg, post:20, topic:9650”]
Accusing Brother xxx of the yyy conference as a Jesuit is smply insult and swear
[/quote

I had my turn as a “Jesuit” after Bill Johnsson published my story about our family’s experience having a gay son some 20 years ago. A well-known “Jesuit smasher” wrote a long article in his offshoot magazine accusing me of being a Jesuit masquerading as an Adventist pastor’s wife!

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We do not blame Christians for all their past misdeeds: killing many in the Crusades is only one example. But the past Inquisition of 500 years ago is still uppermost in many Adventists’ minds from their reading of the GC, not the Bible.

Today, the Jesuits have the distinction of being some of the finest universities both here and overseas. As a graduate of the University of San Francisco, an old and highly-regarded Jesuit school, they are in the forefront of humane work here and around the world; that is one of their great values: humanity in education and living it in action. Because of their size, they accomplish much of what are Adventist goals, but are able to effect far more people widely.

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Watch your language?

Ray introduces an interesting perspective based on his experience as Communication guru, with welcome views on improving our conversation.

The current arrangements have contributed to more considered comment, though one comment per topic does curtail the actual conversation. Maybe allowing the right of one reply to a significant comment might improve things, or one contribution per 48 hrs on a particular topic might make the overall topography cohesive.

For my sensibilities, I have not been much offended by peoples choice of language, though having rapped with teenagers in school teaching for years, I might be immune. There is much more in tone and emotional style than the choice of lexicon. Learning to write with a smile on the face is a good place to start.

I do find inflexible anonymous campaigners, parading as orthodox stormtroopers a little difficult to stomach. How do they become so sure of themselves? Such are victims of their own conspiratorial fear. Surely we are here to learn and listen to one another, more still to acknowledge the pain of those who are hurt or frustrated.

It seems to me, that addressing our comments to real named persons increases civility. Meeting some of these people, and the many lurkers who read our offerings is actually rewarding. I met some of them this weekend where conversations take on a second life.

We need a more substantive curriculum, beyond the handful of hot potatoes that evoke the same defences from the same suspects. Misfortune in the church is not necessarily the presumed point of departure. The big issues of the day, require a gospel response, contributing toward our capacity for witness and communal improvement. Reflections on Refugees, Rifles, and the Ruses of our own consumerism have more traction than prejudice on papal pomposity.

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Both sides of the aisle are guilty of such outbursts, although the author seems to be most acquainted with the more conservative side.

Gay rights advocates identify those who oppose homosexuality as haters and their opinion as hate, unChristian or unloving etc. Such epithets have been used here routinely.

Name calling is a way to marginalize an opinion or individual, and is done in politics all the time. Note Mr. Obama’s identification of those who do not agree with him on gun control as against “common sense”. There are no “common senses” solutions even on the liberal side (see the piece on Vox). Such designations show contempt and unwillingness to use compromise to help discover a way to at least partial solve problems.