Ron relates a recent exchange in a social media forum prompted by his announcement of his new book. Presumably the group is intended to promote the exchange of ideas. I don’t know that, since I am not even aware of which platform, much less which group the exchange happened in. (Gosh, that is just about the sole premise behind *every single* social media group). But, perhaps this group has a rule prohibiting self-promotion of poster’s own books. Perhaps. The commenter didn’t say as much, though. It would be a simple thing to point out self-promotion of one’s own books is prohibited. I suspect it was a Facebook group. FB groups allow for posts containing group rules to be pinned to the top of the group page. I know this because I administer one FB group and I do this. It could have gone like this: ‘Hi Ron, thanks for the note, but this kind of self-promotion is against group rules. Please take note and have a nice day.’ Easy enough. But that is not what the commenter said. You can read Ron’s post to see the exchange.
So, why re-blog this? Good question.
Well, first this incident is about writing and publishing, and I’m interested in that. As Ron said, “If you want to become an author, you’d better grow thick skin.” True. Perhaps this exchange is a one-off between a seasoned scholar and a child posing as an adult in a serious forum. I wondered aloud to Ron on FB, and will wonder aloud here, too, if his critic a) has not earned the highest credentials in the field, b) has not spent decades teaching or serving congregations, and/or c) has not written a book? How easy it is to call BS when you have not done or achieved what the other person has. There is a certain kind of person who learned this tactic in kindergarten and reserves it as a go-to MO. I left lots of FB groups because of comments like this. And as a moderator, I have culled a few (thankfully very few) from my group. So, perhaps this is one peril of entering the public discourse: you need a thick skin to deflect blows like this from people like this. On that count, and because of Ron’s kind and generous response, I reblogged it.
Second, it is also a reflection on the state of discourse in fora in which ideas are shared, advocated, and refuted. Presumably upon evidence and argumentation amid debate. The commenter offered none of those. This incident is perhaps a one-off, a cautionary tale for would-be authors. It surely is. But perhaps it is a symptom of a broader manner of discourse which has devolved in a pernicious way in social media petri dishes. So, Ron can spend years studying a discipline, decades teaching in it, and still more years identifying trends. This followed by months crafting a research question followed by writing and revising what he considers an appropriate and helpful book addressing the need he sees. Posts a comment in a forum and a critic smoothly dismisses the whole thing, unread, as BS.
Yep, sounds like social media to me.
I wondered if his commenter had any of the typical qualifications a normal person would value in one who proposes to critique such a book as Ron has written. I doubt it, but I wondered. The reason I doubt it is that normal people typically don’t act like that. Typically adults behave like adults, and those with qualifications engage on that basis.
Now, I didn’t pose this question to Ron, but will pose it here. I also wonder about the critic’s basic philosophical outlook. I predict the critic is proudly progressive. I doubt with just about everything within me that a conservative in a church-related forum called Ron Highfield’s new book bullshitty.
I am happy to be corrected, and welcome correction. Please, someone, anyone, correct me.
I’ll go one step further. Not only will I hazard a guess this critic is proudly progressive, I predict no other proud progressive in that group stepped up to call BS on the BS-caller. Why? Because in a BS world nothing matters more than perception. It is a real prize to skewer anything not progressive in as few characters as possible. And this enabled by those who know better but will not call BS on the BS-callers.
Welcome to the state of discourse in 2021. No one who has been paying attention is surprised by this. And that is the problem. I fear this one exchange is not a one-off, and that is the problem. I read Ron’s blog, had an immediate and visceral reaction, and had to get this post out. Maybe the only way to make it so that incidents like this are again one-off’s is to call the bluff.
Unlike some social media, my blog is wide open for comment, critique, and evidence-to-the-contrary no matter what the subject or question at hand may be. Anyone is welcome to comment here, but I brook no infantilism like Ron’s critic. Maybe this is the remedy: to call BS on the BS-callers? Maybe that is how sane people recapture the stage? I do not need you to agree with me, but I need to you to keep me procedurally honest. Demand evidence and argumentation out loud and in clear terms. And refuse to settle for less.
And this is my platform in which to do that. So I reblogged it.
As readers of this blog know I recently published two books, Rethinking Church and The New Adam: What the Early Church Can Teach Evangelicals (and Liberals) About the Atonement (Cascade, 2021). Although I felt compelled to write and publish those books and I believe they are worth reading, I have a hard time feeling good about promoting them. Part of my hesitancy arises from imagining that other people might view me as promoting myself, seeking honor, or placing myself above others.
This fear was reinforced about a week ago. I posted a link to the Amazon.com page for The New Adam to a FB group to which I belong. (It is important that you know that this is a church group.) One person commented on the link something like this:
“I wish people would stop trying to sell their Bulls…ty books to this group.”[See the note on B.S. at the…
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