I miss the NCR discussion boards! Yes, the tone often drove me to despair, but after I read an article, I was always eager to read the responses of others. I knew the regular posters by name or by pseudonym. Some could always be counted on for thoughtful and insightful reflections. They truly raised the level of discourse and helped to flesh out the issue at hand. They did not always agree with each other, but they respected their difference. These are the voices that I truly miss.
And then there are the others.
The one-issue warriors seemed to have no concept of listening, either to the writer of the article or to other respondents. Whatever the topic, they would try to bring the conversation back to their own issues. Being a passionate advocate is a good thing. But here's a wee hint: If you speak of nothing else and force your issue into every conversation, you will eventually not be heard. It is easier to scroll down discussion boards than it is to walk away from someone mid-rant.
The conservative trolls must simply have too much time on their hands. At the first whiff or hint of heresy, they come marching in with their crusader banners unfurled. If there is one lesson to be learned from the inquisitions of old, it is that bullying tactics convert few hearts. Name-calling and threats of eternal damnation make for lousy evangelization.
Is there any hope for dialogue in our church? Is it really impossible to have a civilized sharing of thoughts and experiences between persons on opposite ends of the progressive-traditional spectrum? Must we merely learn to live with difference, perhaps staying in our own ideological conclaves in order to avoid the nastiness of disagreement? I hope not. I am a firm believer that dialogue, not nasty debate, will not only heal the church but also strengthen her effectiveness in her mission work.
Before Christmas, I was talking with a friend about the issue of heresy hunters in the Catholic press, whether through letters to the editor or discussion boards. These modern-day Pharisees also fill the mail and email boxes of their local bishops or nuncios with reports on pastors and laity who are not Catholic enough in word or deed. Some have the ear of their bishop, and with that ear comes a sense of power. But times are changing. There is a new pope in town, and he is preaching a different message. The conversation with my friend turned into an article for the Prairie Messenger.
I hope the good people at NCR can find a fair and effective solution to the discussion board problem. So many recent articles are begging for a good dialogue!