Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Decorum, please

I received an anonymous, very ugly, and possibly libelous comment -- about one of my friends, by name -- a couple of days ago, in response to a recent blog post of mine. I deleted it from the comments section, but am presenting it here (in redacted form to remove the full name and one other personal identifier from the screed). I figure we can all use this as a so-called 'teaching moment'.

Here's the anonymous comment:

I was trying to figure out what a priest would find enjoyable about reading [her] book [name withheld] since it is written about a mother's experience but now that I see that she is your friend.... However, this is a woman who openly wrote that she has had countless abortions, and writes of her hatred of others (Republicans). She also has a "filthy-mouth" way of expressing herself, at least in the written form. I would think that a priest would choose more "appropriate" friends.

Where even to begin?

Readers of this blog are more than welcome to post trash-talking, nasty, condescending, and even vicious comments ABOUT ME in response to what I've written here, but you are not welcome to trash my friends by name. Such comments about my friends will be deleted. One has only to peruse the blog to find examples of such comments directed my way which I've left posted.

I have gone to great lengths to hide the full names of anyone I mention via this medium, as a means of observing OPSEC (operational security). You'll notice that my full name is nowhere to be found, though it's easily discovered by anyone who cares to look. (After someone tattled to military mugwumps about one of my blog posts, *they* had no trouble whatsoever finding me within a matter of moments, it seems, to 'ream me a new one', despite the fact that I'd not yet registered the blog with the Army.)

So, this is not an anonymous blog. I stand by what I've written, and can be held accountable for my opinions (which, by virtue of being mine, are ipso facto correct!).

{insert wry smiley face here}

Negative comments, left anonymously, imply that the person leaving the comment does not have the courage of his or her convictions. As I have mentioned previously, before I stopped drinking more than 29 years ago, if we'd have had blogs at the time, I'd have left comments anonymously, too -- so I can identify with the allure of that kind of behavior.

I'm grateful I do not live with that kind of fear anymore.

Concerning specifics of the comment reproduced above: I checked with my friend, and she has nowhere written "that she has had countless abortions." At least get your facts straight if you're going to make such accusations, Anonymous Sir/Ma'am! Libel is a serious legal issue.

Furthermore, while I'm a long-time registered Republican (having voted for Gerald Ford in my first Presidential election), I'm able to see past my friend's rather impassioned rhetorical flights of fancy, agree with much of what she's written, and take no umbrage at the rest.

Moreover, I'm in the ARMY, in case you'd not realized that from the title of this blog, Sir/Ma'am, and I've been treated to much more 'flowery' language in this context than anything my friend has published!

As to "appropriate" friends, Sir/Ma'am: My friend has been clean and sober now for many, many years, and has been through many a wringer in that time, and stayed sober through it all. Her experience, strength, and hope have inspired, consoled, cajoled, annoyed, delighted, dazzled, and daunted me for many years now. I figure I can hardly do better, in the friends department.

It seems to me that Jesus could have been friends with the "beautiful people" of his day, who were practically perfect in every way (and made sure that everyone else knew it). Now, *they* were "appropriate"!

Instead, he hung out with the dregs of society -- he even *ate* with sinners, and got slammed for doing so by the (self-) righteous. One of the contemporary criticisms of Jesus himself was that "the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’"(NRSV: Mt. 11:19; see also Lk 7:34)

Jesus knew first-hand what it was like to have 'lower companions' (he was even accused of being one!) and he embraced them all with love.

Matthew, the tax collector was, by definition, a slimeball par excellence, yet Jesus called him, and he followed the Lord.

Zacchaeus was likewise an extortionist who preyed upon very poor people who were already living close to the bone financially, yet Jesus dined at his house, to the horror of the -- dare we say it -- "appropriate" people of his day.

Peter was a fisher (not a profession noted for its intellectual prowess and academic polish), who -- when the crunch came -- denied Jesus three times.

Judas betrayed him, which led directly to Jesus' death.

Contrary to the social and legal conventions of his day, Jesus pardoned a woman caught in adultery.

The list could go on and on.

And let's not even look to the Hebrew Scriptures to one such as King David, the polygamist who raped a woman, tried to get her righteous husband to sleep with her in order to make him think the baby (Solomon) was his, and then murdered him when that ruse didn't work, in order to hide his crime of rape.... "Appropriate," indeed.

(Let's hear it for the Biblical defense of traditional marriage!)

Amazing that God could use King David to be the author of the Psalms, eh, rapist and murderer that he was? I rather like the Psalms, and am glad they convey so much truth and beauty.

If God can work through someone so powerfully goofy as David, or Matthew, or Peter, or YOU, anonymous Sir/Ma'am, then being able to send my friend to be a gift in my life and in the lives of others is a no-brainer for my Higher Power.

That being said, there might even be hope that God could use someone as "inappropriate" as me to be an occasion of grace in someone else's life.

My friend's shared experience, strength, and hope have been blessings in my life certainly beyond my ability to comprehend or articulate. I thank God that our paths crossed in 1990, and have been crossing every so often since then. Who could be more "appropriate"?

There's only one, two-part question I have for you, Anonymous Sir/Ma'am: Which of your parents was the alcoholic, and when are you going to join my friends who go to Al-Anon to find some healing for those wounds? Please keep coming back. Let us love you until you can love yourself.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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HighJump said...


As usual, I loved your reply to the "anonymous" comment. I, too, have crossed paths with the author, and have always been grateful for having spent the time.

Lynda and I picked up a copy of a book of hers as a "car book"; i.e., Lynda reads while I drive. Since then, we look forward to getting hold of her latest. We've seen her at Tom's Jesuit Service Corps fund raisers as often as we could.

We love to meet such lower companions, and hope we keep running into them. Thankfully, we usually do! That's one of the reasons that we keep going to meetings; they keep us "grounded".


Anonymous said...


One of my favorite lines I like to use is that Jesus didn't spend a lot of time in church for he was out in the street with the hookers and thieves.

Reminds me a lot of AA. Our brokenness brings us in but what keeps us there is we have a way out upon which we all agree. The way out is what keeps us together. Redemption.

Keep the faith my friend. I love your blog.

Bill Cleveland

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