Genteel debate is more the style I had in mind way back when AW relaunched in this format, but I guess I didn't factor in the strength of the monochrome mindset that dominates among many disenchanted former devotees of Armstrongism. Yes, I'm talking about myself here too. Time, it seems, doesn't heal much. Express a contrary opinion and prepare to get both barrels. It's an online version of road rage. On the other hand, if some of the folk who erupt in graceless indignation here actually met their ideological opposites "in the flesh" I expect they'd be polite and politic in expressing their views, and even generous in their response. Don't we do just that with relatives and friends who have moved in a different direction? Go figure.
Do you believe in God? Uh, hang on a moment... define God. And what do you mean by believe... intellectual assent? So many of our "beliefs" are fashioned by our individual temperaments that I'm not too sure there's value in arguing the point over the finer points of theism vs. atheism, for example, let alone insulting those who don't see it with the precision and clarity we enjoy. As I've said here before, I'm not an atheist, but if you want to portray God as a Sky Father, well, I certainly don't believe that. Out race the literalists who protest that God is indeed a Big Man-shaped Bloke in the Sky (exhibit 1), while from the other side come equally strident voices protesting that the definitions are being changed on them in some kind of crafty sleight of hand to salvage the God Delusion.
We're living in a world where Christianity is being sucked out of Western society (except, it seems, in parts of the US.) The bulk of true believers are taking cover in reactionary or "feel good" churches, which is a ticket to nowhere ultimately. A minority are trying to future-proof their faith in a post-Enlightenment, post-modern world by re-envisioning God, the church and Jesus. One is a ghetto, the other is so elitist it makes precious little sense to anyone outside a certain liberal, educated demographic. Then there are those - including a lot of ex-WCG members - who have absolutely no interest in either option. Faced with the Gordian Knot, they simply whip out their vorpal blade and go snicker snack: problem solved!
- One, two! One, two! And through and through
- The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
- He left it dead, and with its head
- He went galumphing back.
Given that we are complex creatures who see the world variously, and that integrity necessarily takes on many shapes, it seems strange that folk who have been forced into such radical change and growth as we have through the shattering of the Armstrong idol, should end up screaming at each other and tossing insults like water bombs in a school playground.
What's the point, other than demonstrating that we're feeling a bit threatened? There are subtler options... maybe a pinch of humility, a cupful of well dried humor, and a splash of self deprecation?