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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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William

The Eight Kinds of Commenters in the Christian Blogosphere

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by Dale M. Coulter

 

Over the course of blogging I have discovered that words can be taken in all kinds of ways, many of which I did not intend. While this is the case with all writing, it takes on a particular vigor in the virtual world. Reader-response is alive and well in the blogosphere. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that a blog post is too short to explain much and its overall purpose is usually informational and provocative. Part of it, however, is due to the reader’s own disposition and the expectations that he or she brings to the site.

 

It helps that, much like journals or magazines, sites cater to specific audiences who then expect a certain unity of outlook. This allows the blogger to use “insider” speak and go deeper through vocabulary even with a short post.

 

During my time as a blogger I have received too many good comments to count. Most of the online readers who have interacted with my blog posts through Twitter, Facebook, and the comments section are thoughtful and respectful. They remind me of how much I have to learn. The virtual world provides a community of minds that, at their best, both challenge and affirm one another in ways that engender greater creativity and stimulate more faithful articulations of the Christian message.

 

I have also discovered a pattern among some comments that could be described in a word or phrase. While some of these patterns can be found across the online community, others are unique to religious and/or theological sites.

 

Below I give a summary, not unlike other lists, of those I have observed and been guilty of both as a blogger and a commenter. Just in case, I should also point out the use of slight exaggeration for effect.

 

Heresy Hunters: Despite the fact that you’ve written a long post here, this one particular line bugs me. In truth, I think it is a gross theological error of epic proportions and therefore it invalidates everything you’ve said. I must respond to keep your readers from falling into this theological trap.

 

Quotation Hounds: I love this line. It is the money quotation of the post. I plan to use it on Sunday.

 

Disciples: I so appreciate your theological perspective. In fact, your words always seem inspired and therefore I cannot disagree with what you write. Ever. I will share everything I read as a matter of course because I want to spread the word.

 

Ecclesial Evangelists: Everything you’ve said just affirms my own faith tradition even though you don’t belong to it. All of those problems or issues you raise have been dealt with in my faith tradition and that’s why we’re right. If only everyone, including you, would become one of us the Christian world would be fine.

 

Theo-politicos: I come to this blog to find ammo for my moral and political views and your efforts to offer an “alternative” perspective are not helpful. I don’t care if we do share the same faith tradition, please stick to the party line of this site. If you cannot, go away, go far, far away.

 

Discoverers of Deeper, Hidden Meaning: I’ve read your post quite carefully and, while I know you have not said this explicitly anywhere, I am sure that the deeper meaning is an affront to the theological or ecclesial tradition I represent. You are not simply trying to describe what’s going on in the Christian world, you’re really trying to invalidate that part of the world to which I belong and I need to clarify that for your readers.

 

Précis People: I’ve read the first paragraph and despite the fact that most opening paragraphs are introductions that set the tone, I think yours is a précis of everything you say in the post and therefore I can ignore or skim the rest.

 

Literalists: I cannot affirm what you say because the way you’ve said it could be misinterpreted as not in agreement with our faith tradition. I’m not really sure that it is. I wish you would simply repeat, verbatim, the official lines of what we teach somewhere so I could know with certainty that we are in agreement.

 

I am sure this short list has not exhausted the possibilities so feel free to add your own observations.

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There also are the trolls who'll want to bait into arguing with them. Most trolls I've come to learn aren't even Christian. They do know the bible and will use that knowledge to reel you in but once they have you where they want you, they'll let loose [their ammo] their goal — to discredit you and prove that you are wrong.

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There also are the trolls who'll want to bait into arguing with them. Most trolls I've come to learn aren't even Christian. They do know the bible and will use that knowledge to reel you in but once they have you where they want you, they'll let loose [their ammo] their goal — to discredit you and prove that you are wrong.

 

Absolutely. And even the devil knows the Bible, perhaps better than a lot of us. This is why he uses it against us so often with these little minions of his. Yet we sometimes still fall into the trap by commenting. (Sigh) I know I'm guilty of it and we probably all are to some extent. Oh, and William... let us not forget the One Phrase Wonders who post with: I agree, or I disagree, and never explain why. People who post like that drive me crazy. It's like why did you bother to tell me you agree if you don't have time to post a reason?

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