Thursday, April 10, 2008

Etiquette for The Yodeling Rabbit

As many have come to expect, a treatise about etiquette on the Yodeling Rabbit could not be just a "to do" list. The following is a philosophical as well as practical consideration on blogging and comments.

To borrow from a professor whom I admire greatly (and I am sure he borrowed it as well), "ideas [and words] have consequences." I don't expect that all readers on this blog will be Christians, nor do I think that everyone will agree with me across the board. But the writing contributors and commenting readers have a responsibility to write in such a way as to get their point across in a gentle and respectful way. Let us recall Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." While there may be occasion for harsh words and "telling it like it is," we must do so with the other person's best interest in mind. This blog, then, is not merely about discussion, but about building each other up. To clarify: this building-up process does not mean agreement, or saying "nice" things. It means to aim comments and arguments at the winning of souls and minds to the cause of Christ.

There is one supreme reason for respecting your fellow, whether he be friend or foe; he is made in the image of God. God, who is to be respected above all, has fashioned man in his own image and has created laws to govern how his creations act toward each other. Even if we may disagree vehemently, we must hold to respecting one another (if not each other's opinion).

Further, here is a snippet from John Newton's Works, Letter XIX -
On Controversy.

"As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever. But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! 'He knows not what he does.' But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his. Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose. 'If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.' If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable."

We who are Christians have a certain responsibility to our brothers in the faith and to those outside the faith to present the Gospel rightly and lovingly so as to both win souls to Christ and to not damage his reputation.

In this spirit, here are my practical rules:

  • Conduct yourself as if Christ were writing with you.

  • Try to be as clear as possible so as to avoid confusion and minimize controversy.

  • Receive rebuke with humility, whether or not you deserve it. Forgive a slight, whether they deserve it or not.

  • I will allow people to question others' commitments and consistencies on this blog. This must not be used as an attack, however. If a person's worldview and philosophical convictions lead them to a place outside of orthodoxy, let them know that gently. Win your fellow!

  • One argument will not win the war. One statement may not win a person to Christ. Let Christ be responsible for the soul of your fellow. Rather, lovingly present your case or argument and let it be done. If they choose not to respond or show a lack of repentence, do not stubbornly continue on the same point. Clarification: this does not refer to a debate when discussing minutia of a point, or tailoring an ongoing argument.

  • Because words are important and each word will someday be accounted for, take responsibility for them. Sign your comments (at least at the beginning of a debate), so that everyone knows who you are. Own up to mistakes. Apologize if you have been harsh.

  • Do your homework to minimize mistakes. Make sure your Scripture references are accurate. Make sure you have vetted internet articles you quote or link to.

  • I will not prevent anonymous messages (at this point), but I expect my commenters to sign their comments. This minimizes the likelihood of inflammatory or abusive comments.

  • Be careful with generalizations. They can be generally true, generally false, and generally mean. Rather, get to know the topic, your fellow, and the reason for what he said.

  • Try to clarify what was meant, rather than assuming the worst. It could be that your adversary meant something different than what you think he meant.

  • While no group will receive "protected" status on this blog (meaning lifestyle, sexuality, religion, philosophy, etc., is all fair topical material), all people WILL be given the same opportunity to be heard and WILL be respected, unless they prove themselves unworthy of that honor via their own abusiveness.

  • If you feel someone has acted abusively, rather than reacting (in any fashion), notify me in a post, or contact me at If you feel that I have been abusive in any manner, please notify me likewise and I will try to make amends.
  • Do not advertise on my blog. It is o.k. to suggest another blog or add a link to your own if it pertains to the topic or the discussion. Do not add content related to unrelated sites.
  • Any comment or suggestion that is overtly sexual (pornographic) will not be allowed and will be deleted.

  • This is my blog. I retain the right to enact comment monitoring, privacy settings, and identification requirements. I also retain the right to delete comments that violate my terms of use or e-blogger's terms of use. Don't make me do that.

Thank you all for reading this and adhering to it. It is my pleasure to share my life and thoughts with my readers and I look forward to communicating with you. With the above considerations in mind, enjoy my blog!


Steven Douglas said...

Hey all my regular readers,

This post is not directed at anyone specifically. I just wanted to put a few ground rules down as the site is beginning to grow. I have seen how blogs can quickly be taken over by individuals who are not the blog's editor. I don't perceive this as happening here, but I am trying to make sure it doesn't. I am linking to this post under the vitae link, "The Rabbit's Rules for Yodeling." I hope these rules do not disuade anyone from writing in. We have had some great debates and I would love to have them continue. All the people I have debated on THIS blog have been very gracious and helpful. Thank you all for making the Rabbit a great blog. Blessings.


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