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  1. August 9, 2009 11:09 am

    Well said, Joshua. You make an interesting and important connection between linguistic violence and idolatry. When we abuse language – something sacred – we act as though we were gods. Pitiful, violent gods, to be sure. I’m no scholar of history, but I’m pretty sure that acting like gods hasn’t ever worked out very well for us.

  2. August 9, 2009 1:34 pm

    I know I’m very bad here, and indeed, one of the things I constantly ask myself is this: what is it about internet discussions which leads to such language which we would not use otherwise? This is always an issue I face, and while I know not everyone has this problem, I know many do; I certainly find my temper worse online, and more likely to say things I regret because of it; is there something about the impersonal nature of the medium which results in our degradation of others? How are we to deal with this? I would like to hear what those who can hold their tongue might say to this — so I can learn from them – because it is something which concerns me and I know I have something to learn from my betters with this!

    Beyond that, everything said here is right. Just wish I didn’t fail as I do.

  3. August 9, 2009 6:02 pm

    Kyle – precisely

    Henry – I haven’t been in very many situations in which I have had to bite my digital tongue, as it were, and while I think I have managed to refrain from resorting to violent language, I don’t know how much aid I can offer. I am naturally non-confrontational. So, while I tend to be pretty good at avoiding violent language and confrontations generally, I do not consider my having done so to be virtuous, because sometimes it means that I have failed to stand up for the truth out of fear of confrontation. Perhaps we can learn much from each other.

  4. August 10, 2009 12:05 am

    Great reflection, Josh. I think this might be one of the most important topics for the Catholic blogosphere. JPtG wrote extensively on the topic of truth and dialogue in his 1980 World Day of Peace Message:

    59. The first lie, the basic falsehood, is to refuse to believe in man, with all his capacity for greatness but at the same time with his need to be redeemed from the evil and sin within him. – 1980

    61. the man of peace is able to detect the portion of truth existing in every human undertaking, and moreover to discern the capacity for truth to be found within every human being. – 1980

    70. Truth does not allow us to despair of our opponents. The man of peace inspired by truth does not equate his opponent with the error into which he sees him fall. – 1980

    71. the denunciation of injustice [requires] a specific tone . . . it does not set out to provoke stubbornness. – 1980

    72. One of the big lies that poison relations between individuals and groups consists in ignoring all aspects of an opponent’s action, even the good and just ones, for the sake of condemning him more completely. –

    I’ve given a lot of thought to this topic recently, with my departure from Vox Nova, with having started some discussions at pro-military radtrad Catholic blogs, with having become very frustrated at myself for trying to ‘win’ an argument instead of loving the person on the other side. Thanks for giving me some point to think about.

  5. Francis permalink
    August 10, 2009 8:41 pm

    I think much of the problem is a spillover of the demonization arising from the political partisanship which now characterizes public discourse. Some of us are encouraged to see our fellow citizens as the problem rather than simply as people with different opinions about whatever issue is at hand. In the context of such issues which have moral, and therefore religious, dimensions, the combatants seem to forget the very morality which is the foundation of their position, in favor of carrying political water for ideologues with their own not necessarily moral interests at stake.

  6. August 11, 2009 10:47 am

    I think this is one reason that I love science. No matter what the words are, the data has a language of its own. Data, numbers, statistics point to things that can be warped with words, but if you understand the numbers, the words don’t matter, your interpretation of the data does.
    Now, with religion, this is why I shy away from theology. so much is in the words, but what do the words mean in their convolutions?
    It is easier for me to look at Christ on the cross and hear, “love one another as I have loved you.” and go from there.

  7. August 11, 2009 9:20 pm


    Good stuff from JPII. I need to read more of what he has to say. Thanks!


    Excellent insight. I think there is a lot to what you have said, and it is because, by and large, we, on some level identify more fully with our political group than with our Church, that we are willing to inflict verbal harm on the latter in order to prop up the former. Of course, in many cases, the former can be replaced by everyone’s favorite idol, the self.


    I see what your getting at, but this is decidedly not a theology thing; this is a humanity thing. Many of the people in these blog debates are not theologians, just political and blogopsherically active Catholics. There have countless debate among theologians and non-theologians alike regarding how to put into practice the very quote you referenced. It is not theology that causes these debates, but pride. The pride which says my understanding is right. I could not have been wrong. I will not listen to the other guy. He is wrong. (And often times) Therefore is also a bad person. I must distort the truth to prove him wrong and to discredit him.

    P.S. Scientists have these debates too, but in the public they tend not to get as nasty.

  8. G-Veg permalink
    August 13, 2009 5:33 am

    “[T]he denunciation of injustice [requires] a specific tone . . . it does not set out to provoke stubbornness.”

    I hadn’t heard it stated this way before and it is worth reflecting on.

    There seems to be no limit to the offenses against Man and God that a Christian should oppose. The internet provides a convenient vehicle for carrying forward such opposition. However, much of what we write carries with it a tone that “provoke[s] stubbornness.” This is so much true that even reasonable and intentionally neutral proposals are often dismissed out of hand.

    Thank you for the thought-provoking comment of the day.

  9. August 14, 2009 2:12 pm

    the flaw of the bickering must be that these bloging theologians aren’t loving one another in a sacrificial way then, eh?

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