Newspaper comments: Forget anonymity! The problem is management

Editor’s note: Here’s an article from Salon co-founder Scott Rosenberg (whom I knew in San Francisco when I was Editor at CNET News) that nails what I’ve been stating about newspaper comment sections for years, including our local one, TheUnion.com. It’s a management problem! (Most newsroom issues, such as poor editing or reactive — not proactive — news gathering, are).

When it comes to monitoring the comments on this site, for example, we don’t just “walk out of the room,” as regular commenters know. And thanks for all you to to help the cause, such as welcoming new guests or helping to crack down on abuses. After all, we are humans interacting with each other, just in a virtual place:

“This New York Times piece reflects a growing chorus of resentment among newspaper website managers against the ‘barroom brawl’ atmosphere so many of them have ended up with in the comments sections on their sites.

“They blame anonymity. If only they could make people ‘sign their real names,’ surely the atmosphere would improve!

“This wish is a pipe dream. They are misdiagnosing their problem, which has little to do with anonymity and everything to do with a failure to understand how online communities work.

“The great mistake so many newspapers and media outlets made was to turn on the comments software and then walk out of the room. They seemed to believe that the discussions would magically take care of themselves.

“If you opened a public cafe or a bar in the downtown of a city, failed to staff it, and left it untended for months on end, would you be surprised if it ended up as a rat-infested hellhole?

“Comment spaces need supervision. These moderators need to be actual people with a presence in the conversation, not faceless wielders of the ‘delete’ button. They welcome newcomers, enforce the local rules, and break up the occasional brawl — enlisting help from the more civic-minded regulars as needed.

“So turning things around isn’t easy. In fact, it’s often smarter to just shut down a comments space that’s gone bad, wait a while, and then reopen it when you’ve got a moderation plan ready and have hand-picked some early contributors to set the tone you want.”

The rest of the article is here.

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About jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.
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96 Responses to Newspaper comments: Forget anonymity! The problem is management

  1. Bottom Line: Tis Nurture vs Nature.

    However, having to provide a real, validated name, IMHO, does impact how fast some hit the ENTER key. Most certainly does in biz email. If one knows they get “shown the digital door” for repeat offenders IS certainly management.

    Of course, the BOZOS that consider commenting a form of writing that justifies a Pen Name, may be a key to future “management intervention.”

    • Gail Allinson says:

      I read, and sometimes post to a number of special interest forums. There, real names are rarely used yet I see nothing that rises to the level of rudeness and crudeness that some Union posters regularly exhibit.

      Of course rudeness is not limited to the Union, nor did sock puppets originate there. Reading the comment sections of many large newspapers is just as much a cesspool as any I’ve seen. Frankly the rudest comments/forums I ever read are where politics (and sometimes religion) are involved. Many of those same forums I mention above have a strict no politics polity anywhere except perhaps a dedicated corner that I usually stay out of. So more than anything I think it is politics where things get ugly.

      There is no doubt that Jeff Ps participation, real name policy and community attitude it fosters, help things here. Still even here, the most heated and rudest threads seem to have been regarding politics. I notice though that at the Union, politics is often injected by a few posters and their sock puppets even where the article is not particularly political. Moderation and moderator participation certainly do have an effect on that.

      Just as a note I do not comment over at the Union and have no plans to do so no matter what the new system is.

  2. John Vodonick says:

    I have said this over and over. If what is posted does not merit having a real name and real email attached to it then its not worth posting and certainly not worth hosting. Anonymous posting facilitates libel and half truths. If a poster is forced to own the material that is published, (and be legally responsible for it), the quality of comments would increase. Bravo to you Jeff for the quality of your comments “management”. The lack of quality in the Union’s management of its comments section is just one more reason why I never read it, will never buy it and encourage my business friends never to buy advertising space in it.

  3. stevenfrisch says:

    Thanks for the article Jeff, I would certainly have missed it and been poorer for the loss.

    Mr. Rosenberg almost hits the nail on the head. Anonymity is not the real problem lack of transparency and accountability is the problem. Transparency comes from the moderator and rules et up, but accountability can not just come from the moderator (although you do a good job) it must come from the users. When everyone on a site is committed to maintaining social standards things rarely get out of hand. This site works because it marries the rules, with persistent enforcement and user generated accountability. It takes all three.

    An even more interesting question is how can the on-line community help set broader community standards as on-line communications grows, often at the expense of but not solely cutting into print media?

    I know that many Nevada County and regional leaders (business, political, and social sector) read these sites, but do not comment.

    I am convinced that blogs like Ruminations and NC Media Watch and Breathe (sic) have roundly discredited themselves and diminished their capacity to influence decisions due to their lack of standards. Even if the authors on those sites are making valid points, which they often are, the preponderance of negative, personal, and irrational comment actually harms the ability to carry the point.

    More than one of our regional legislators has told me that the Nevada Right blogs hurt their case rather than helping it.

    It is critical that we maintain high standards, and insist that our community reclaims high standards, by not allowing racism and bigotry to be acceptable, opposing misogyny, requiring intellectual honesty, focusing on the issue, the idea, the rational critique rather than the personality, ideology and conspiracy theory.

    We are the rational ones–we must remain the rational ones–we do not prevail when we adopt the low standards of the mob.

    I am thinking about this more as I am watching Mike Thornton and Paul Emery engaged in what I tried to do several years ago, actually engage with the Russ’s and George’s of the world and count on a rational argument to prevail. I gave up long ago.

    Mike is battling George’s theory that the crusades never ended and we are in a permanent life and death struggle of Islam versus Christianity; which means we get to adopt the morals. tactics and hatred of the radical in the struggle for freedom.

    Mike is battling Russ and the anonymous John Galt, over (gasp) the forgery of a long form birth certificate that Obama released.

    These people, and the tone they allow from people like Todd, just make themselves and their position look insane.

    It is our job, if we want a civil society, to point out and oppose the insanity in our community.

    • Anna Haynes says:

      IMO what Mike and Paul need to do, if they want their efforts to not be wasted as others’ have, is to try offering to collaborate with Russ et al. on an Argument Tree (see: wrangl.com ) – which should cut through the murk and preserve the logical argument.

      My prediction, hopefully inaccurate: none of those on the right will be willing to do so.

      And maybe it wouldn’t work; but to my knowledge, nobody locally has tried.

    • Monica Lucas says:

      Great post, Steven. It should be that we all see we can thrive in a positive, collaborative environment – and wither in a negative, critical one. I seriously think that people are being paid to portray certain beliefs as insane, no matter what logical and truthful information is offered to the contrary.

    • Sharon Rose says:

      Wonderful Steve. I have experienced the right blogs, been discussed, disrespected, and actually appreciated. Go figure that one!

      I have also been witness to the Union’s attack machine, have been outed, accused of not having the credentials that I have, had a poster try to call my husband at his office at the DA’s office in San Francisco, this same poster copied information off of my FB page and posted it on the Union. I have had personal emails offered up to the Union by the Left — Yes, the left! People who post here. After speaking to the Union they backed off publishing it. Nice – eh?

      The ugly out there is real. I have become very careful where I post, and what I want to accomplish by posting. I no longer do it for fun.

  4. Tim Callahan says:

    I no longer comment in the Union. I have all but given up on that site. My hometown paper, the Berkshire Eagle, is a little better, but not much.
    I get the sense , not just from the comments but the letters to the editor, that the Union fosters the ugly tone. When I did visit that site, I noticed that once the mud began to fly, the comments increase quickly. It is usually the same few posters, but the comment count increases dramatically .
    I am sure the Union uses that to their advantage.
    I can also understand the reluctance to use your real name on the Union site. Given some of the personalities, it may not be safe, for yourself, your family, or your property.

  5. stevenfrisch says:

    Wow Anna that is a fantastic description of blog hosting strategies to maintain civility. I am keeping it for future use.

    Many Thanks !

  6. jeffpelline says:

    The Union is reporting that Chico State Professor Tony Waters was named a professor of the year. For more details, it is pointing us to Saturday’s print edition.
    I’m confused, since this happened back in January, according to the student newspaper, The Orion.

    http://theorion.com/features/article_73b9aaa4-2851-11e0-9c47-0017a4a78c22.html

    Many of us always appreciate Tony’s contribution to this blog.

    • kate hancock says:

      I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this previously, but I am an alum of CSUC…I had the great, good fortune to attend in 1996 but missed an introduction to Professor Waters. Congratulations and good wishes! I like to characterize my stint there as an odyssey. Included in my journey there were the most amazing instructors collected at any one time, in any given place. There was Dr.’s Robert O’Brien, Lyn Elliott (great playwrite), Gail Holbrook, Lennis Dunlap, and the one, and only one: Donna Breed. Some have left this earth and some are still there teaching, but I hope they know that they saved my very life and showed me a world that I never dreamed existed. Great teachers can do that Professor Waters, and it looks like you are indeed one of those…Kate

      • Tony Waters says:

        Hi Kate:
        I started at Chico in 1996 at the same time you gradauted. It sounds like you were over on the artsy side of the creek! I know Lyn Elliott slightly; he was English Dept. Chair.
        Since you like to rant too, here is something I wrote for hidden glory of Chico State students (Warning: Berkeley students like Jeff are not allowed to read it)

        http://www.ethnography.com/2007/11/the-sociology-of-status-hierarchy-and-why-i-think-chico-state-is-a-better-college-than-uc-berkeley/

        Tony

      • jeffpelline says:

        Tony,
        Yes, yes, thanks for posting that link again. LOL. Now that I’m a full-fledged foothill resident, however, I just am happy to discuss the virtues of a college education.

      • Your college education is largely what YOU make of it. Some profs, like Washburn in Anthro at Berkeley for many years, filled Wheeler Aud and had them lying in the aisles, 1,000 plus,lecturing using 2 1/4 x 3 3/4 lantern slides.

        I dropped out in 1965, after getting very depressed about the war and the world in general, and trying to live up to everyone elses’ desires. When I came back a year later, on my own terms, taking a few off the wall courses for fun, I did much better. I also soon learned that the books some profs had sucked, and the lectures that others gave sucked, but at Berkeley there were so many sections of the same courses, you could mix and match.

        First stop, bookstore, and a forced read of the first 30 pages of each text for each section of a given course. Those books that did not bore, I checked out the lectures. If prof bored, then checked other profs. Also shifted majors several times within the social sciences, until I realized the Anthro dept profs had the best senses of humor and general outlook on life.

        There I stayed, and shifted at the last quarter to Social Sciences Field Major, when I realized I could graduate earlier and avoid physical anthro, which was boring.

        Berkeley does have a bigger smorgasboard, Chico is closer to the mountains.

    • Tony Waters says:

      The award was announced last December by President Zingg and about 30 of my colleagues showed up unexpectedly in my 8 a.m. class. However the award ceremony was last month during “Founder’s Week”, which is when there was another burst of publicity, which I think The Union picked up on.

      • jeffpelline says:

        Congratulations again (and again) Tony! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you through this blog.

  7. Monica Lucas says:

    My friend, who lives on Race Street, was drugged and raped last weekend in her home. The GV police have refused to take her evidence and have told her not to pursue a case against the alleged perpetrator. They told her she was bipolar and therefore unbelievable. The person who owns the phone number she was given by the alleged perpetrator has the same last name as the Grass Valley Chief of Police. I searched on the net and there are ties between this person, who resides in Santa Cruz, with persons of the same name in Alta Sierra (and the chief) where my friend’s elderly dog was just found after disappearing from home…I need somebody local to help me follow this. I believe my friend, and her witness, who I have known for many years. They are being disregarded and have no protection. If I were there I would be able to follow up; but I’m not. I am very worried about them. Can anybody help us? burlingamecatlady@yahoo.com

  8. The suggestion to have moderators make sense to me. I also like the Chron’s ability to look at most popular posts and most active posts, the The Union’s old ability to look at all past comments by a given commenter. I’d love the ability to see just replies to my own comments, as it is all about me.

    If you really want to watch a zoo, try the Craigslist pages.

    I could try starting up Sierradebates.com again, but I think we have enough going with this and the companion blogs listed here.

    Between Pelline’s and FB and sacbee and sfgate, I’m more than happy.

  9. JOHN STOOS says:

    I too think Steve has nailed why this blog has the success that it does. I don’t think any of us are afraid to speak our minds and do our best to keep each other in line: I watch Peter, Bruce slaps me at times and Kate goes after all of us!

    However, I don’t think this is possible without a gracious moderator who also knows how to be tough at times.

    I would even join with many of you in saying that I do not participate on many discussions on the right because they are not very fruitful, but must also say that I find the same is true with many on the left as well.

    I am sure there are some other Jeff’s out there, but I have not found them as yet.

    John

    • Brad Glasse says:

      John, I agree with much of what you say, but we all get really tired of hearing how “it’s OK because he’s a good American” that we hear so often from our local Righty Tighty folks.

      Doing things that will denigrate this place because you don’t want to replace the dirty diesel engine on your 1968 Intenational Motor home is a good example. Giving water to “farm” that will change the eco-system of our delta forver is another example.

      Being a bit wacky on the spending front (let’s build us the most expensive water storage facility (cost me acre / foot) ever built is another great idea, while you cry about NPR getting funding that would be equal to .0000006 seconds of the war in Iraq.

      The one thing that they don’t realize is that by the end of my lifetime they will either have to die off, or change as they will get voted out of office purely upon the demographic shift.

      We need “big picture” people who can see thru their purple (red/blue) colored glasses and see more than what each party is stuck upon and see what’s the best for the people and their environment.

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Brad,

        And of course those on the left don’t see any problem with 3,000 children being sacrificed each and every day at the altar of convenience.

        Of course having left God behind I guess it is just a matter of the survival of the fittest and perhaps the delta is destined to join those children who will never live to enjoy any of the natural wonders.

        John

      • stevenfrisch says:

        Funny, on May 21st I have tickets to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway.

        http://bookofmormonbroadway.com/

        If The Rapture comes then I am in big trouble!

      • As usual, Christian argumnets anit abortion misses point that the “convenience” results in children born later to much more stable and loving and able to care homes.

        My mom had an abortion in the early 1930’s, when she and dad struggled to get through college. They both made it, and started their family ten years later, and we did not grow up in the projects. Force a baby, lower the quality of life for everyone, and increase the tax payers burdens.

        “Every child a wanted child.”

      • Michael Anderson says:

        Steve, be sure you have on a clean pair of underwear. Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky. Oh, and perhaps a parachute in case Mr. Deity changes his mind about you halfway up. LOL

      • stevenfrisch says:

        I’ll wear my secular magic underpants in case the underwear gnomes take over mid-Rapture!

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Douglas,

        If you got the chance to look at your brother or sister who was lost, would you really say to them, hey, better you not live so I can do better?

        Does sound just a bit selfish, don’t you think?

        If your logic were sound, then what would prevent a couple who had three young children and then realized they could only afford to raise two properly from eliminating the youngest one?

        John

      • John,

        Usual rules on murder one take place after birth.

        How about we consider that my parents never would have been able to raise three kids and adopt a 4th? In your terminology, my younger sister would have been murdered, just so only the first two would make it, in poverty, and there would have been no surplus for my adopted sister.

        In fact, I might not be here to have this argument with you, if the addition of my older brother caused enough stresses on the relationship between mom and dad, that the split up before I was conceived.

        One more family destroyed by rigid adherence to one possible interpretation of a religious book, not good.

      • stevenfrisch says:

        If life begins at conception then why did the Republicans in the House vote to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood when no federal funding is used for abortions and the best way to avoid abortion would be abstinence (family planning) or birth control?

        Wouldn’t make more sense to allow federal funding for abstinence programs (which we do) and birth control?

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        STeve,

        I would argue it is best to keep the federal government OUT of our families!

        John

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Douglas,

        That is my point: Arguing over the fate of someone who actually exists is a different thing than playing ‘what if?’

        John

      • stevenfrisch says:

        Great John then keep your laws out of women’s wombs!

      • stevenfrisch says:

        I just realized that my comments regarding magic underpants may be construed as being prejudicial to Mormons.

        I in no way mean to disparage Mormonism, understanding that the symbolism on the garments, known as ‘the compass’ and ‘the square’, are really Masonic artifacts, and that Joseph Smith was inducted into the Masons just a few short weeks before he came up with the sacred garments.
        The Compass represents the North Star and the Square represents the justice that Heavenly father will give us in heaven by giving us a ‘square deal’.

        No disrespect to the square and the compass intended.

      • Last time I looked, John, I am real.

        Using your rules, you would not care if I didn’t exist at all, as long as the first pregnancy was carried to term.

        Do you believe in abortion in cases of rape or incest? If it is your own daughter, or your wife? Or do they get to carry a violence conceived, demented, low IQ baby to birth, like your are apparently prescribing for everyone else?

        If you can stop a rolling rock before it becomes a calamitous catastrophe, I’m in favor of doing so.

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Douglas,

        Again, you miss my point about who is real and ‘what ifs?’ and you have turned to the abortion lobby’s favorite red herring.

        Come by our church some Sunday and I will introduce you to a young man who is the product of a violent rape and you can then let me know if he should be punished for the sin of his biological father.

        John

      • Ben Emery says:

        John,
        You cannot use design by God for some issues and then others abandon the idea.

        If a women determines not to carry a pregnancy to term it must have been for a reason. That reason was the knowledge brought to her from God. The women who struggle with the decision but decide to bring to term had the same influence.

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Ben,

        As with any violation of God’s Law, the reason is sin.

        One of the great mysteries that is revealed in the Bible is the tension between God’s sovereign control of His creation which includes the free-will of mankind.

        In other words, when God told Adam “in the day that you eat of that tree you shall surely die” He really meant what He said. Adam was a responsible free-agent and his actions had real consequences for himself and all of mankind that followed until the coming of Jesus, the new Adam.

        John

      • Dear John,

        Perhaps I should introduce you to a young man who was merely the product of a one night stand who has amazing issues regarding older men, and who, BTW, is a fundy Christian to warm the cockles of your heart, yet is doing emotionally damaging things to his family, due to his history, and despite the fact that he has “given his submission to Christ” or whatever it is that your folks use to wall themselves off from the rest of us, unless we too show signs of converting.

      • “that followed until the coming of Jesus, the new Adam.”

        Sounds like the release of a new model, by a major car manufacturer. When do we get the All Electric version of Jesus?

        That would be an updated version that takes into account social networking and a great many young folks in the Middle East telling their current leaders, and al Qaeda and the Taliban to go take a big jump into the Red Sea.

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Douglas,

        I would be happy to meet your friend, but are suggesting that he might be a good candidate for the “final solution?”

        John

      • Having my friend replaced by a much more balanced individual would do the world a lot of good.

      • “much more balanced, but otherwise quite similar individual,” reads more accurately. yes, he can still be a fundy Christian.

  10. stevenfrisch says:

    I’m sure there are irrational, illogical, fruitless blogs on the left, I just never see them because I am not perusing the net looking and our local left is rational 8)

  11. kate hancock says:

    Frisch, 14 Tony Award nominations for The Book of Mormon! I am currently experiencing the envy category in the 7 deadlies. Hey, if the big one comes Steve, well, what a civilized and fun way to go! Kate

  12. kate hancock says:

    LoL…Sounds good and naughty Frisch…but hey, hey– leave that “fruit flavored fairy underoo dust” the hell home, soldier…Kate

  13. kate hancock says:

    I never liked to search for things if I had to use a compass to find them…especially if it also involved a “square” in long magic underpants. Just sayin…Kate

  14. kate hancock says:

    Speaking of lobbyists Stoos, could you tell me why THE secretary, cum Dumbya Supreme Court Nominee, Harriet Meirs, labors for THE lobbying group that is lobbying on behalf of PAKISTAN??? Better yet, ask Tom McClintock for us, will you? Suck on that lemon, while I peel you another one…Kate

    • JOHN STOOS says:

      Kate,

      It is all part of that military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower tried to warn us against [after it was firmly entrenched during his administration :(]

      I would end ALL foreign aid to Pakistan and then Ms. Meirs would have to find some real work.

      John

  15. kate hancock says:

    Well Stoos, you are not our representative–McClintock and Logue are. Their sychophantic views about Dumbya and Cheney and Pakistan and Iraq and Afghanistan…are very well known…changed their minds at all? Not really…and its starting to look more and more like the war scam/ponzi scheme it is with each passing second. For example John, there is a man about to testify about Pakistan ISI “involvement” in the Mumbai horror. The chips are stacking up…Kate

    • JOHN STOOS says:

      Kate,

      I think you are just attacking Republicans to be attacking Republicans.

      Assemblyman Logue does not serve in Washington and I think you would find yourself in agreement with many of Congressman McClintock’s views on these matters if you are willing to listen.

      John

      • Ben Emery says:

        John,
        Mr McClintock says he believes we need to be all in or all out when it comes to the war on terror. Since we are not all in he should vote to defund the imaginary war on terror. But he doesn’t because it is a big money cash cow.

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Ben,

        Congressman McClintock stood with us in opposing the Patriot Act and I have no idea what the “cash-cow” comment means. Tom is very near the bottom of the list when it comes to establishment donations. They don’t like the fact that he wants to take away their gravy train.

        John

      • kate hancock says:

        John–I am picking on the relationship between big money, republicans AND war hawks of all parties during the Bush years and Bush and Cheney LYING at the very least on behalf of Pakistan, Dubai, Blackwater, Halliburton, KB ENTERPRISES, and tyrant dictators the world over, causing death and suffering and literally bankruptcy our country. And now that that mission is “accomplished” McClintock and his ilk blame the middle and working classes–calling them lazy, fat, good-for-nothing while ravaging and hoarding this state and country’s money and blessings like a band of wild, undisciplined, and very dangerous pigs. That’s who I’m talking about Stoos. They should get very busy “tightening their own belts”–shameful. Kate

    • stevenfrisch says:

      Hmmm….I actually think that if we want to make progress we need to give people their due when we agree with them and be free to critique when we do not.

      Congressman McClintock voted against extension of the Patriot Act, which was not a popular vote in the Republican Party, was the right thing to do. In addition McClintock is one one of the few Republicans to agree that defense department cuts need to be on the table. He should be praised for that.

  16. Ben Emery says:

    John,

    And I thanked Mr McClintock for that vote. It shows how much the republican party stands with centralized power and don’t stand with the Constitution and our guaranteed civil liberties.

    When I talk about the (R)’s and (D)’s being owned by big money I am not talking about individual reps or candidates. Tom McClintock belongs to the republican party and makes deals with his votes with party leadership to get committee and commission appointments.

    Dennis Kucinich voted for the Health Care bill when he openly opposed it because of party leadership pressure. The main beneficiaries of the bill were big pharma (Obama’s 2% secret drug deal) and health insurance companies with a mandated 30 million new costumers.

    • Ben Emery says:

      To my understanding Rep Kucinich is different by sending back contributions to supporters because of that vote. A rep with integrity not the typical political hypocrite.

  17. Ben Emery says:

    John,
    If God isn’t in charge by design isn’t that equivalent to evolution? God started the process and the rest is just evolving?

    • JOHN STOOS says:

      Ben,

      What you are describing is usually called deism which is what President Jefferson was a fan of.

      The Bible says that God is the creator and sustainer of all that exists, including the free will agency of men and angels.

      John

      • Ben Emery says:

        Actually many of the high profile founders were Deist.

        If that is so then a woman who chooses not to bring a pregnancy to full term was acting out Gods work. So I go back to the statement you can’t have it both ways. I am just looking for consistency.

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Ben,

        I am not trying to have it both ways: This is the way the world works: Judas sending Jesus to the cross was in God’s plan, but Jesus Himself said it would have been better for Judas if he had never been born.

        Perhaps C.S. Lewis said it best [I think it was in The Great Divorce] when he tells how he believes that those who end up in heaven will see every event in their lives as a step to eternal life and those who end up in hell will see every step in their lives as one toward eternal damnation.

        John

      • Ben Emery says:

        If Judas sending Jesus to the cross was part of Gods plan would it be fair to say a woman choosing not to bring a pregnancy to term was within Gods plan as well.

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Ben,

        Yes it is, as is the case with all of our sins. And if we remain unrepentant our fate will be the same as Judas. That is why the Gospel is indeed Good News.

        John

      • Ben Emery says:

        How can an action within God’s plan be considered a sin?

      • Ben Emery says:

        John,
        Let me speed things up. I understand what you are saying, I would like for you to explain it to me in your own words.

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Ben,

        If you want a full explanation try the first three chapters of the Book of Romans. Sixth book in the New Testament and it runs about four pages.

        John

      • Ben Emery says:

        John,
        I would like for you to use your own words to explain it to me. The reason is I have a good sense of picking up emotion from people who I interact with or even have dialogue with on a computer. I know you are passionate about this issue and think you would do a much better job explaining it, at least for me anyway.

        As I have said here many times before, I am glad you have great faith in something larger than yourself. I do to and I am not here to disprove yours or push my interpretation of God.

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Ben,

        What is it in what I have said that is not clear?

        If you want me to explain how, from a human perspective, a sovereign God can make free-agency a part of His plan and still hold the sinner accountable, I would have to say what the Apostle Paul said to those who asked such things, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.”

        We as Christians believe that God has revealed Himself and the salvation of man through His Word, the Bible. There we learn about what we are discussing, also some of His nature as a Triune God and the mystery of God made flesh as Jesus the Son of God came as a man: Fully God and fully Man as the great creeds say.

        These are mysteries and we as creatures will have mysteries: I could ask Peter or Bruce to show me how the big bang worked or even if they can show me an electron and they would have to admit that it is beyond their ability to do so.

        This does not change the fact that there is a universe that we live in, that there are electrons and such things as gravity: We may all have ideas about how they work, but there is an objective truth about them whether we get it right or not.

        Our modern world wants things like justice, love, mercy and even God existence or the special nature of man to been things of a different kind: No objective truth here, just what ever one chooses to believe about them.

        It works no better here then it would with the material things that I listed above.

        Hope this helps.

        John

      • kate hancock says:

        John–I understand that your church informs your views on christianity, so I typically don’t speak directly to them. The Good News was the definitive Last Word. Nowhere in the words of red will you see a request for women to submit or subjugate herself to any mere man. Nowhere will you see a request for a mere man to intercede, interfere, or interrupt a woman’s free will and her relationship to her savior. Who IS no mere man. No stones, no LAW, just LIGHT. Kate

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Kate,

        You are right to say that I believe that the entire Bible is authoritative, written by Jesus if you will and you may not.

        However, even if you only go with what is written in red in most Bible, are you saying that Jesus did not say it was wrong to kill another individual?

        John

      • Ben Emery says:

        John,
        Thanks for the reply. One more question. Are there different levels of sin or are they all equal?

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Ben,

        They are all equal in terms of separating us from God: There is no grading on the curve.

        They are different in terms of punishment, albeit Jesus said Sodom would be better off than the Pharisees who rejected the Messiah who stood in their very presence.

        John

      • Brad Glasse says:

        So John what you’re saying is that I could be a absolute horses rear end for all of my life and if I say “OK, I’m sorry” 20 seconds before I die, then I’m Okey Dokey!

        I prefer the Buddhist’s trends where you do the right thing every day of your life rather then be given a “get outta Jail for free card” just before you go where ever the final place is…

        This is one of the problems I have with a book that was written by men who were told stories over and over and over…..

        I remember when we were kids we were given a task by our teacher to tell a story to the kids next to us, and they would tell it to the next kid, and so on, and so on and by the time that it hit the last kid the story about how were were going to all chip in a buck to get the teacher flowers was suddenly how the Teacher was going to BBQ the blonde kids!

      • JOHN STOOS says:

        Brad,

        Actually that is exactly what happened at the cross as Jesus was crucified between two thieves, both of which taunted Him at the beginning.

        One came to realize that Jesus was the Son of God who was paying the price for his sins, yes his entire life’s worth, and turned to Him for forgiveness. He was told he would be in paradise that very day able to stand before a holy God because of what Jesus did.

        The poor Buddhist on the other hand can work all of his life to overcome the sin that still besets him because he is a child of Adam and when he refuses to trust Jesus, he must face the holy God unable to pay for even his minor sins.

        Your illustration about how difficult it is for humans to communicate accurately even in a small group is one of the best evidences for the divine authorship of the Bible. Sixty-six books with forty some authors written over 1500 years with all of them telling the same story. Not humanly possible.

        John

      • “We as Christians believe that God has revealed Himself and the salvation of man through His Word, the Bible. There we learn about what we are discussing, also some of His nature as a Triune God and the mystery of God made flesh as Jesus the Son of God came as a man: Fully God and fully Man as the great creeds say.”

        Should read, “We as our particular brand of Christians,” yada, yada, yada…

        You do NOT own the copyright on “Christian,” as I have to remind my friend, nearly every day.

  18. Pat Wynne says:

    John, if Congressman McClintock wants people in Nevada County to listen, he should first set an example, or at least do a better job of keeping an ear to the ground here.It is not without some basis in fact that he is regarded as a “carpetbagger”, as evidenced by his comments and stand on two recent local, highly controversial issues: one, the non-partisan race for county clerk-recorder, where he jumped in with higly partisan comments aimed at defaming the incumbent Greg Diaz, who was supported by an assortment of both liberals and moderate conservative, and recieved an overwhelming vote of approval of 69 + % (that doesn’t happen in Nevada County without a lot of conservative as well as liberal votes); and two, the re-opening of IMM, which also is basically a local issue with much opposition from all partisan political points of view except the few Hard Right supporters who are likely stockholders in the company. If the Congressman hopes to be another John Doolittle and hold on to his District until retirement, he had best familiarize himself with local issues and concerns and spend more time listening to all factions of his constituents rather than just the ultra-conservatives who always agree with him. This strategy might work for him in other counties in his District, but not Nevada, and increasinly even Placer.

  19. Ben Emery says:

    John,
    How about my comment about McClintock and his selling out his votes for seats on committee’s or commissions? If he believes we are all in or all out he needs to break from the republican party and vote to defund the occupations that are being operated with great restrictions due to the fact War was never declared, which is unconstitutional and is another hypocritical stance by Mr McClintock.

  20. Ben Emery says:

    John,
    I sincerely find this stuff fascinating. I know you know the bible and that is why I ask for your words not pointing me to a verse in the bible.

    So is it a sin to kill a heathen/ savage (your terms) or a slave? They didn’t believe Jesus was their savior and were considered less than human.

    Is it possible that Columbus and all those who came to the New World and killed savages/ heathens (again your terminology) and slaves did so without repentance because they were only killing something less than human?

    Does St Peter or God know whether a person is truly sorry or only sorry in a moment of great stress/ vulnerability?

    • JOHN STOOS says:

      Ben,

      Murder is always a sin. This does not mean that all taking of human life is sin. God has given the sword to the civil magistrate and we are allowed to protect ourselves if attacked. However, even in those cases life was protected: Capital punishment is only to be administered for capital crimes and then on the basis of two witnesses [it is interesting that the Biblical penalty for being a false witness was the same as the crime that you lied about].

      You are not to use unreasonable force even in self-defense. If someone breaks into your home at night your are presumed innocent if you harm them but if they break in during the day you are not to harm them unless they pose an imminent threat.

      The Bible never considers anyone less than human: We are all made in the image of God. When I use the term savage or pagan it is speaking about culture or religious belief not their intrinsic value as people.

      Anyone who killed an Indian without just cause, as outlined above, was guilty of murder.

      St. Peter has no means nor duty to judge hearts, but God knows all hearts and sins. Psalm 139 might be good to read to help you understand that.

      And finally, I have been called a lot of things, but I think you are the first to say that I am fascinating.

      John

      • Ben Emery says:

        John,
        Maybe one day we could meet for a long talk. I would love to hear your story about the path to where you are today.

        I get the feeling that there will be very few silent moments in the conversation, we both have plenty to say.

  21. kate hancock says:

    Of course, there is the progressive christian traditions, like the Quakers, Sojourners, and Methodists that John, being exceedingly right-wing, knows little about. Further, the 66 books “agreed” upon in the Nicean Creed by church leaders during the roman rule of Constantine was and is well known as a political “calculation”…designed to merge the pagans and Christians into a controlled, more easily manipulated mass. Even holidays like Easter were merged. There were other books written at the time of Christ and during the Pauline period that were, and are much more all “peoples” friendly…including many women’s stories that happened to somehow be “left out, edited, and deleted” by the Big Pants makin all the power calls at Nicea. Funny how that happens, huh? Kate

    • JOHN STOOS says:

      Kate,

      Actually we have a family that comes from the Quaker tradition in our church, I enjoyed the Sojourner magazine as a young Christian and since the Methodists tend to be a rather diverse group, I cannot be sure which of their traditions you refer to.

      When I speak of agreement, it would be reflected in the Apostle’s Creed which came long before Constantine or Nicea.

      As you should know, woman play a major role in the Bible and it is almost humorous to see how much insight they have during the events in the New Testament compared to the confusion of the men, but that is a long story for another day.

      John

  22. kate hancock says:

    See there, Stoos? You just made my point…according to some, most, let’s say, of male big pants church authorities in Nicea, the women’s stories are ALWAYS “stories” for “another day”. Um, breaking it to you…TODAYS the day, my christian colleague. Word. The hand that rocks the cradle and runs the seal team…Word. Kate

    • JOHN STOOS says:

      Kate,

      Well you have Sarah, Rebecca, Deborah [however I must warn you that her war song in Judges 5 is not very politically correct], Jael, Ruth, Elizabeth, Anna, Mary the mother of Jesus, all the women who ministered to Jesus during His earthly ministry, the wife of Pilate [who he should have listened to], Mary Magdalene [the first person Jesus appeared to after His resurrection, Lydia, Dorcas, Priscilla and a host of other unnamed faithful females as well.

      Where would you like to begin?

      John

  23. kate hancock says:

    Like Golda Miere , or Hilary Clinton or Elizabeth Taylor even… Remember Golda, Stoos?

  24. kate hancock says:

    I’d like to begin with the ones who were politically and cynically omitted, John. I love these women too though and know their stories well. And Stoos, like all things politically incorrect, while I choose not to use most of it, I usually just consider the ignorant source and move on…Kate

  25. kate hancock says:

    Did I say Deborah was ignorant John? I only described my chosen response to obvious, uneducated political incorrectness…even right-wing christian political incorrectness. Much the same as my response to the Westborough Baptist Church and Harold Camping…oh, and some in the Tea Party. Like Marky Meckler…Kate

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