Shoving the experts giving advice on Internet
Dear experts on the Catholicism board.
The joy of the Lord be in your heart.
First of all let me congratulate you on the splendid word and the wealth of knowledge you are dispensing to the questioners. (Some of you are learning the first knots of the ropes) It's one of the works of mercy to teach those that don't know. As you are probably aware this service could be regarded as accomplishing part of the jubilee's requirements in order to gain the indulgence.
For some time now I have not felt very comfortable with the answers we give. Many, many times there are questions regarding the Church's teaching on moral issues. Generally (!) our answers are very well given. They are orthodox and to the point. Besides happily the different answers complement each other's so that the question gets generally global and complete information.
But… (I will now stick out my neck)
the more questions I read on the Catholicism board the more I become convinced that many 'objective' questions that seem to require reasonable answers ensconce the search for a real, satisfying, life-giving faith. Many of those questions have a hidden agenda I think.
I believe it's too easy to give an answer like I did last week. Someone asked about divorce and annulment, etc. I cited the pertinent texts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church because the questioner asked for that information. My first draft of the answer contemplated some personal questions regarding the questioners’ faith and attitude concerning the Catholic Church's faith. But then I thought this will be felt as an intrusion and personal judgment and I'll get the brush-off. I have had this happen to me several times. My sensitivity!
At a later moment I was sorry I had sent a purely informational answer without even an allusion of the treasures the Church guards. Having second thoughts I went back to the answer and offered some additional opinions, this time squeezing a bit the faith of the questioner. Well, the whole question has disappeared from the board.
One reason because I get rebuffs consists in that my questions or suggestions are pointing at a real attitude of faith. The other part feels attacked.
In order to get the ball rolling I admittedly and frequently have been jostling a bit. I offer answers and / or implications that will bring from a non-Catholic an outraged holler and from a selective Catholic - selective are those who accept only those teachings of the Church's doctrine they like; choosy would be an other pertinent word – I would get at least some snubbing. But I think we have to show color and the questioner too.
You can't talk about faith in an objective manner. I think in the dimension of faith and morals there is no such thing as pure objectivity. I suggest that answering by giving only information is an oxymoron (= a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist).
Now let me jostle you experts a bit.
My dear experts, many of you are ensconced in the ivory tower of objectivity and there is no transparency of conviction. You don't come out confessing your faith. Exceptions confirm the rule. You hide behind orthodox texts and information. That's the problem of our modern theology. A wealth of information and no profession of faith. H. U. von Balthasar said that something awful happened in the history of theology. At a given moment the "kneeling theology" became a "sitting theology". Instead of being guided by a spirit of prayer theology sat down on a throne and became dogmatic and officiously informational. And sometimes it becomes pure speculation. You remember the question about how many angels can dance on a needlepoint. A saint used to confront everything with a wonderful and relentless question: Quid hoc ad aeternitatem – what has this to do with eternity?
Something similar happens when you take a Biblical text and gallivant around with pure semantics. I don't affirm that this is not useful and even indispensable. But all these things are praeambula fidei, questions that analyze preconditions.
Let us say somebody asks about light in ancient times. It's interesting what kind of light the ancient had at their disposition. I will answer the question about the different kind of lights they had in antiquity but then I should come to the point: 14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lamp stand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven "(Mt 5).
Or should I just answer the question about the light? It's like theorizing about antibiotics and not giving it out because they only wanted to know.
I think I have made my point. I have shoved enough, haven't I?
I willingly admit that several of you do profess their faith. But it's not the rule. Or am I wrong in my appreciation?
I'm waiting for your answers, dear experts.
Is ducking compatible with sticking out the neck?
God bless you
in Corde Jesu
ted7 gave this response on 11/12/2000:
You make a good point and its certainly applicable if people come here asking questions that are motivated by their spiritual search.
But sometimes people ask for mundane reasons.
For instance, I once asked some questions about myths about Jeremiah, because I needed the information for my PhD.
I got several replies - only Lida's were of any value (in fact she was able to point to a site that gave me the answer I needed). The others were not very good - but one sticks in my mind.
It involved some hapless clown (this was the Christianity board by the way, not the Catholicism board) telling me that what happened to Jeremiah is not important but what is important is my relationship with Jesus.
I don't think Jesus will mind me saying this answer didn't help my PhD. I just thought 'if this guy's kid asked for help with his math's homework, would he say, "just write 'Jesus', he's always the answer"?'.
I managed to keep my temper as I gave the goose one star, but you can see my point.
I know this is not what you are advocating, but what if someone does write in wanting to know about light in ancient times (for say mediaeval history - I had to learn stuff like that) and you leave them with the impression that if they come to the Catholic board they will just get preached at. Is that helping anyone?
'Be though as meek as doves...'
Thank you for your answer.
The juxtaposition of the answer regarding the light in antiquity and the light of Matthew was to immediate. Your are right. I wanted to make the point. But my method is more shoving, or pinching or provoking.
Can I assume that you don't believe that all informative questions are only that and have no "hidden agenda"?
Well, the best elucidation would be to ask those who have posted that type of question how they would have reacted to some stimulation concerning some further interaction. But I'm a "dialupper" and my superior raises his eyebrow at the phone bill. That's why I post very, very few open questions on the board because you have to answer, don't you?
But perhaps you could help? Is there some way to perceive if there is a "hidden agenda"? How to arouse reaction without rubbing him-her contrary wise.
That’s my specialty, I'm sorry to say. But out there are some Christians that in spite of the hurting rub are acquiring a different outlook about their faith and life. That's Gods power. It's in spite of all human blundering.
Additionally how could we obtain some parresia - valor to kindly but firmly offer rectification to experts and questioners alike?
Besides I made some outrageous statements like that there are no anodyne questions and regarding oxymorons, etc. that might need a rebuttal perhaps.
So thank you again and ...
"be ye therefore wise as serpents..." There are some wolves out there.
But there are fans too. You had four stars before I saw your post.
ted7 gave this response on 11/13/2000:
Yes now that Loggie's gone I miss him more than Prince Sparkles... even though I fought to defend the latter.
But consider it from the point of view of people writing in. Those of us who know better found Logmeon challenging and interesting. People writing in to find out this or that about the Catholic faith would only be confused.
Of course there is a quantum leap from the silly answers I got, to your comments about 'hiding a light under a bushel' etc which would be a logical progression for that particular question.
But if we follow the evangelical (SMALL e) idea that Jesus meets people at their point of contact, we have to consider what that is, and not try to force people in this or that direction. This may be easy if we want to make this or that point but does it help?
Again you are quite right that some questions will have an underlying reason, but sometimes the best witness we might give would be to stand up for our faith, and explain or answer the question, without trying to shove the person in any given direction. It is God's grace after all that does the work, whatever we say.
I am not trying to be critical, I don't think you are doing anything wrong and as you say the trick is to work out the underling agenda (If any). I am just debating the point.
Thank you for your post.
Isn't there a way to find out if logmeon is on an Askme board under disguise? I found his method fascinating to accumulate (biased) information and inundate the questioner with data in order to convince him. What I wanted to find out was what role plays in his cosmovision the grace of God. I saw only one real problem regarding his presence on the Catholicism board. During some weeks he occupied the first spot on the experts' list. People ask private and direct questions of the first placed ones. That was a problem. But after being displaced any open question he answered found immediate rebuttal. And it's my experience that Christians are not that easy to dupe. But you may be right. He could have confused someone.
You are right about the progression mentioned. But this is precisely the reason for my question. Many expert answers I have read are pure information even when the questioner showed some sign of spiritual unrest. So I shove the experts a bit. At least there will enough outrage because of the jostling to think (hopefully) about my shoving and answer the question in their own mind. Well, some just don't understand the purpose of my question. So be it! I think if you talk to someone who as part of his diet eats rice every day and you urge him to eat rice, he just thinks you are making a fuss about nothing. In his situation he is so right.
Another problem is frequently that any questions regarding your faith can be construed as judgment and/or as some type of aggression. That puts me on the spot. I have to choose between a formulation that might be challenging enough as to arouse reaction and one that indicates that there is no judgment. So my preoccupation is always how to phrase the question. In the balance the challenge wins almost always. I love a good debate! So people cry out. They feel hurt. But thank the Lord there are some angelic women on the board that compensate amply the possible hurt with extra spiritual liniment and balm of their answers. Also they have the advantage of a special supporting force. They have a private army in heaven. So when answering a question I try to do it in their company. They have a healing hand. When there exists the possibility of hurting someone I answer privately, but that is possible only when he-she is an expert. Perhaps we should suggest AskMe.com to offer the possibility of privacy even if he-she is only a user.
But all the same, coming back to 'hiding a light under a bushel' you have put it just right. The problem is when and how.
You are right that we should not try to force people in this or that direction. You can't go after them with a sledgehammer. But I suggest that you consider the invectives of the prophets or of Jesus. They certainly did shove, didn't they? When is this type of shoving indicated? Good question, isn't it?
Regarding the fact that Jesus meets people at their point of contact I can offer instances when He takes purely informative questions and turns them completely around. Consider the question of inheritance (Lk 12:13), of sharing the workload (Lk 10:40) or His reaction to the simple announcement that His mother and His cousins had arrived (Mt 10:46). He certainly was jostling quite a bit, wasn't He? I wish I could have seen the face of Martha who was so right! Sometimes I'm murmuring about my confreres the same way.
Again, the question is one of discernment: when to stand up for our faith, when to offer diatribe, when to jostle a bit. But I think every time in every answer to informational questions there should be an indication, a suggestion, a sign, a hint, and a clue that there is much more. Now if there were a way to make the innuendo intriguing that would be just the grain of salt (Col 4:6) as to incite the questioner to ask for more.
The other experts too offered some excellent thoughts:
Always pray for discernment before answering
It's our job to sow. The growth is not our concern
We should be guided by the Spirit
So we should perhaps consider the question of invective. Is the jostling of invective something like trying to force someone in a direction? In what circumstances is invective indicated?
Perhaps we should look also at the case when there is no underlying agenda. Should we even then put forward, suggest or imply that getting information is not enough? Or shouldn't we?
"… preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season…"
rperezla gave this response on 11/12/2000:
I think you are right and I think you are wrong. I think we knowledgeable people of Catholicism should answer the questions prayerfully, not like reference books. However, sometimes information is what the questioner seeks. We should all be guided by the Spirit (all wisdom and knowledge are gifts of the Spirit) and I have come to realize that the Spirit does not always choose me to bear his wisdom. Look at my answer and response from last night about the word matrimony.
Anyway, I agree we should not answer questions like databases but I think we should be relying on the Spirit to prompt us in our professions of faith. And also we need to accept that sometimes we are led to plant a seed that will not be gratefully accepted and that we may never see sprout. But if we are following the urgings of the Spirit, we can be sure the seed will sprout and grow.
God Bless and keep you.
Your post is the kind of answers I wanted to provoke.
How to perceive that there is a "hidden agenda" and how to encourage kindly and in a delicate way to open up?
God bless you.
You have fans out there. You had four stars before I saw your answer.