6

In the last week I've seen a number of questions taking an aggressive tone against different groups of people.

For example, the question How did the Catholic canon that Christians could not 'share a meal with a Jew' differ in spirit from the Pharisees traditions concerning Gentiles? includes this statement (emphasis in original):

Protestants can repent of these sins and say, 'yes those people sinned terribly,' but Catholics seems trapped because it is part of their tradition approved by its councils that could not be wrong but were infallible and equal to scripture. All of this seems to be indefensible and only plain rebuke of its hypocrisy would be Christlike.

Even as a Protestant I have a hard time reading that without feeling defensive. I can't really see how such a statement could be constructive for a question and answer site.

The question Is Christianity threatened in these times, because of it’s too much of tolerant or liberal views? (which has since been closed) includes the assertion:

Opponents of Christianity and their protagonist however are exploiting these qualities to shove their own hidden agendas.

Regardless of the merits of the question itself, it's again hard to see how this statement could be considered constructive.

The question Is the Islamic “Allah” Satan? asks:

Is it a safe conclusion to draw that the Quran was "inspired" by Satan (or a demonic being), and that the Muslim "Allah" (or god) is actually Satan?

The "etiquette" section of the C.SE FAQ states, "Treat others with the same respect you'd want them to treat you. We're all here to learn together." That should include our occasional visitors who are Muslim. I don't think any of us would want to go to Islam.SE and see a question asking if Jesus is actually Satan. Surely we who call ourselves Christians ought to be able to live up to the Golden Rule?

Is this all a coincidence, or is the tone of this site getting less civil and more aggressive?

  • 2
    I'm seeing a couple of other aggressively phrased questions recently too. – DJClayworth Sep 4 '12 at 20:21
  • As a reformed aggressive questioner, I, too, am finding the questions getting a bit out of hand. – Affable Geek Sep 4 '12 at 20:38
  • 3
    Not for me. The basic of point of internet is that you feel at ease do discuss controversial issues that you won't talk in person for sake of decency. If we start censorship here I don't know where I'd go to resolve my confusion in these matters. Besides everyone is bound to have different definitions of aggressive. What definition would you like to see applied and in what way? – Monika Michael Sep 6 '12 at 8:29
  • 2
    @MonikaMichael: I'm not trying to censor anything. I just think some questions could be asked more tactfully. <strike>Even if</strike> Especially if it's about a view that most of us agree is wrong, there should be a way to ask the question so it doesn't sound like an accusation. – Bruce Alderman Sep 6 '12 at 17:19
  • 1
    I wonder if the answers are also getting to aggressive. This really is starting to become a place where you cannot ask a question without being attacked. – user1054 Sep 7 '12 at 17:31
9

Your first example I don't find to be very problematic. Your quote is out of context from a detailed scholarly question dealing with referenced issues in documented church history. It can be answered likewise in a scholarly fashion by showing whether or not the pieces do fit, citing doctrines and practices overlooked by the OP.

Your second example is closed. I think that speaks for itself.

And yes the third one seems problematic to me but for different reasons than you cite. I don't think it fails on the Golden Rule at all. In fact I would apply that rule the opposite direction.

I don't think any of us would want to go to Islam.SE and see a question asking if Jesus is actually Satan.

Contrary to your assumption, I'd welcome that. In fact I might go ask it myself. The trouble is I already know the answer I'd get. They consider him a prophet and have references to back it up. My point is asking the question isn't the problem.

Nor is the answer. If Christianity or any referencable faction thereof holds this as a doctrine, I have no problem seeing that information on this site. I would expect no less from Islam.SE. If we are going to apply to Golden Rule here, I would rather have others be able to say what they think and present their reasoning than gloss over it in the spirit of "being nice". I don't find platitudes that skirt the truth to be at all nice.

The issue I have with that question is that it isn't asking about Christianity. It doesn't lay out a framework by which to answer that requires expert knowledge of Christian doctrine or practice. It calls for discussion -- theologising if you will. It's the stuff of round-table discussions and think tanks and even small group studies. It's just not an expert QnA thing. It's something experts might debate each-other on, but not in QnA format.

  • 3
    In the first example, I know my quote is not the main thrust of the question. I just think the question could (and should) not include the provocative statement "All of this seems to be indefensible and only plain rebuke of its hypocrisy would be Christlike." Do you disagree? – Bruce Alderman Sep 4 '12 at 17:55
  • 5
    @BruceAlderman: Yes I do. The question isn't a rebuke of hypocrisy, it is setting the stage for a specific practical problem faced by the OP that is answerable in a scholarly fashion by experts with a different knowledge set than the OP's. He goes on to openly acknowledge that his reason for asking is seeking an answer to something that he doesn't currently have one for. It is possible it could be worded less provocatively, but I would argue trying to make it less aggressive would only serve to take all the weight out of the issue and it would fail to convey just what kind of answer is needed. – Caleb Sep 4 '12 at 19:06
  • 1
    Re: the Islam question, I'm not trying to censor any group that might hold that as a doctrine. I just don't think it ought to be asked as a leading question. Rather than "Is it a safe conclusion to draw..." it could be asked in a more neutral tone, "Does any Christian group believe that the Islamic 'Allah' is actually Satan?" (That actually would fix its off-topic problem too.) – Bruce Alderman Sep 4 '12 at 20:17
  • 3
    @BruceAlderman - your suggested rephrasing would be a welcome change to how I initially asked the question: and I do apologize for the unintentional 'leading' in the phrasing I used – warren Sep 5 '12 at 18:56
  • 1
    @Caleb "If we are going to apply to Golden Rule here, I would rather have others be able to say what they think." Nailed it. – Monika Michael Sep 6 '12 at 8:18
4

Since I am the ‘mike’ being talked about in my recent possibly unexpected swings at Catholic teaching, I may as well respond.

Interesting that a very aggressive person who has called me personally ‘a liar’ in his own post (later retracted)would now act as the seeming objective, uninterested ‘third part’ qualified to measuring levels of aggression by ‘others’. Does this not seem equally as ‘passive-aggressive’?

But to be fair, the question is legitimate, regardless of past history between us, so I would answer it this way. Let’s compare two identical questions in terms of communicating the same packet of theology:

Example ‘bad’ question that will get a lot of down-votes:

‘Are Catholic relics just a pack of lies’ and then list why it seems that way with the information the person has at hand.

Example re-phrasing that argues the same thing but get up-votes:

‘What did Martin Luther think of Catholic relics’ and then answer ones own question with a quote that Luther thought they were a pack of lies. (I may actually raise this question in this method – simply to avoid the negative emotional responses that the first would illicit –through recent experience)

The truth is, however, I prefer the question to be raised in the bad way. I prefer that people ask what they really ask inside themselves and not put on an air of objectivity. In fact I detest that I am forced to do this for all those who I feel need to loose the sensitivity and grow a thicker skin. Yet I will probably oblige more in the future.

Is ‘objectivity’ less aggressive, or often much more aggressive?

We sometimes think that to be academic we must remove all feeling from our observation and pretend a neutral stance on very emotional subjects. This is one of the great hypocrisies of our generation. For example, a news anchorman might read the teleprompter about a war between two nations, one he personally hates and another his own, and he will use an objective voice and relaxed manner as his network provides him all the biased and slanted ‘facts’ for him to slander and spread propaganda. Is this not the most aggressive form of behaviour possible? Is not the impassioned observation of an enemy more deadly and violent than one that reflects true feeling? So let’s not pretend that mature fatherly objectivism pretended by the political grandfather types are automatically ‘not aggressive’ while any honest person who simply says what they mean is ‘aggressive’. This is just a deceptive way of understanding the nature of aggression.

Why is directly attacking Catholic or Protestant teaching considered aggressive? I have patiently answered a slew of anti-Christian, blasphemous, Calvinistic hating, etc. type questions for a couple months now and never once questioned or even thought about the legitimacy of these questions, nor has most everyone lese. However, I know when I decided to shoot a very small round off over the fence on the Catholic-Protestant divide; I would illicit strong negative response. Why is this? Why did I know I was doing something ‘bad’ while only mildly representing my own long established mainstream church tradition? I think the answer is that on top of our hypocritical modern airs of objectivity, we are also in the middle of various ecumenical movements that present unity above truth and peace above Christ. We applause ourselves when we can get along with other denominations and think we are far superior in this regard to those shameful church founders that made mincemeat our of each other in protecting doctrine. To add to the sentiments of modern day ecumenical movements, lonely people hang out in social media environments in which this is in partly one.  In other words, there is no real strong logical reason why attacking another Christian faith is wrong in of itself, but many oppose it because it clashes with their personal desires on an emotional level, not a logical one. The result is true representations of church positions at a very high structural level are repressed leading to in inaccurate overall picture of history and truth in order to preserve social media. I prefer to skip the social media and preserve the history.

Genuine questions often have prejudices built into them, which is why they SHOULD be asked

For this particular question, I can not think of any other way of phrasing because it was my sincere question. Re-wording it would not longer be my question. I also have learned from the answers and no longer have the question as sharp as it was originally formed with respect to the narrow subject that I introduced it with (anti-Semitism). In this way Catholicism benefited as it brought out strong Catholic apologetics that I could not find on Catholic sites I first visited before asking it here.

However even this might be deceptive on the larger scale.  I have noticed that when I learning opposing views I often start with unfounded prejudice, then as I listen I realize I was making a cartoon characterisation that nobody actually believes but have only been told this. At this point I may behave as the moderate and clam down those slanderers who originally formed my bias. However this is not the wise objective end of the story for often after I really get to know what the ‘other’ person thinks and compare it to my own, I arrive back where I started and realize ‘Oh they actually do believe what they claim they do not, its only much more subtle and deceptive! The truth is as a person progresses from ignorance, to partial and more moderate liberal understanding and then final in-depth expert understanding, at each stage their questions should be legitimate.  As a person moves along the stages of theological faults lines that divide the tectonic plates of Christianity, hurling rocks at those who sincerely want to revisit them, does not support academia but just whitewashes history. Also, along the path of fire, where strong questions are asked and answered, we burn away our own prejudices on both sides, even if they are replaced by more stinging and final clear differences in the end. This will eventually best represent the founders of our faiths and lead to a stackexchnage that allows the exchanges of history without becoming a false non academic forum for ecumenicalism and social media at the cost of intellectual integrity.

  • 1
    It may seem ironic that I'm raising this question. One of my weaknesses is that I become aggressive in response to aggression. This is not a behavior I want to encourage in myself, and if the site is moving toward a greater acceptance of aggressiveness I probably need to spend less time here, for my own good. I just hope it doesn't come to that. – Bruce Alderman Sep 5 '12 at 3:57
  • @BruceAlderman - I can understand where you are coming from! I live in 'Hong Kong' where all forms of aggression are highly opposed. There are limits where choices of words are particularly 'inflammatory' which tempt others into sin intentionally. For example, I have been tempted to say once to someone else who was emotionally arguing a point: 'You don't read books do you?' but although most likely true, it would not have been kind. Anyway, knowing your weakness I will watch my words around you, but I hope you would stick around. I am sure we can both forbear one-another. – Mike Sep 5 '12 at 4:55
  • 2
    "Why is directly attacking Catholic or Protestant teaching considered aggressive?" I'm surprised that you even have to ask this. Why is attacking anyone considered aggressive? Your response seems to be "other people did it first", which I'm not sure is a good response. You do say that good things came out of your aggression, but I wonder if the same answers would have come about if you had asked in a less aggressive way. – DJClayworth Sep 5 '12 at 14:13
  • 1
    @DJClayworth - Your comment is a good example of the pot calling the kettle black. Only you are more aggressive than I. You are being aggressive with me. I am being aggressive with an idea. Attacking 'teaching' is not attacking a person. – Mike Sep 5 '12 at 14:42
  • 1
    @Mike I like your term "hypocritical modern airs of objectivity". Or perhaps we could make it into a word. Hymobjectivity. :) – Monika Michael Sep 6 '12 at 8:51
  • @MonikaMichael - Very funny, your humour is good medicine for the hyper serious. – Mike Sep 6 '12 at 9:20
  • 1
    @Mike I hope that you keep asking such questions and answering your own questions. Some might think they're aggressive but I appreciate that you're taking the effort to share knowledge in QnA format. – Monika Michael Sep 6 '12 at 10:00
  • 1
    @Mike Can I suggest that you actually ask a question on this meta site as to which of the two forms of question the community finds acceptable/preferable? – DJClayworth Sep 6 '12 at 21:03
  • @DJClayworth: According to this question's votes the community prefers, by about a 3 to 1 ratio, a more civil tone. – Bruce Alderman Sep 7 '12 at 3:40
3

Yeah, mike had two questions, one of which you mentioned. The other one here I think they're a tad strongly worded and definitely asked from a standpoint that "what the Catholic Church did was wrong". But, then again, if it was asked from the opposite standpoint, it wouldn't be being asked by a Protestant and if it was asked from a neutral standpoint, well.. it probably wouldn't even be asked.

In my opinion most of those questions are almost better suited for skeptics.se. But since it's Christian History, it's probably fair game here.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .