- See the recent "But can't I just say one thing?" question for information on what we should say in response to these questions. This question asks what we should do and whether we should try to "fix up" these questions.
In the meta post "Pastoral Advice Questions", some very strict guidelines are rightly laid down. There have been two occasions recently where I think we did not follow those rules well. I've already mentioned one in my answer (to the recently-asked question linked at the top of this post).
The other example involves a person struggling with parental authority. The question is "How much authority does a father have over his wife and children?". Here is the original revision:
Are fathers really in charge?
My father seems to think he owns me, my bothers, and my mother. Whenever somebody challenges him on this, he says he was appointed by the highest authority and that he can make us do whatever he wants. He is also completely obsessed with the Bible and Christianity. He lives with his head in that book and swears that we are "little more than slaves". I cannot find any evidence to support this. Is any of this true according to the Bible?
This is a pastoral advice question. It involves a specific personal problem, and if that did not tip us off, the person's name, "ConsernedAndConfused", should have. We do not deal with these kind of "questions based on problems people face". We don't "adjust it slightly". We Shut It Down.
Really? Can't we just fix it up?
Well, yes: it seems that this is a possibility. In fact, that's exactly what we did. We encouraged the author to modify the question, and after further revision, the question is now open with 3 upvotes, 0 downvotes, and 2 favorites. I actually can't think of an example where a pastoral advice question can't be turned into a passable question for this site, especially if we know the author's religious preference:
- My dad bosses me around too much! Does the Bible support him? -> What does the Bible say about whether children must obey their parents?
- I was speeding and ran over a cat, help! -> Is it sinful to carelessly kill an animal?
- My girlfriend left me and is now engaged to a Muslim but I think it's just for him to come to this country and they got divorced. -> Can marriage be used to secure citizenship?
- I'm a Catholic, and I have the flu. Was it a sin for me to miss Sunday Mass? -> According to Catholicism, is it a sin to...
Especially after learning the person's denomination, it becomes trivially easy, in most cases, to rephrase the question to fit our standards. But this is not what we agreed to do about these questions, or so it seems. I thought we agreed to shut these questions down. Have the rules on this changed? Is it really a better idea to modify the question?
I am not advocating that we should or should not encourage editing Pastoral Advice questions. I am pointing out a case where we did this, and asking if this was appropriate, and if it should be allowed in the future. I am also not suggesting that we give unwarranted attention to unsalvageable questions. The issue is that in the above example, the community thought that the question was salvageable, and went ahead with editing. I have not voted, and I see 0 downvotes and 3 upvotes, so it seems that the salvage was successful. But was it appropriate for us to do this in the first place?