I wrote this on my Facebook page last night in response to the ongoing conversation on my John Allen Chau post. I thought I would post a version of it (slightly edited) here. –JF
Recent posts about the “presuppositions” of those commenting prompted me to write this long note to everyone who participates in conversation here at my Facebook page (which I see as an extension of my blog).
I hope everyone realizes that the people on this page come to the conversation with all kinds of presuppositions. Some of the people posting here are evangelical Christians. Others are Christians who may not identify with evangelicalism. Some are Jewish. Some do not identify with any faith. This is what makes these kinds of conversations on Facebook so difficult and awkward. As one of the few people (and maybe the only person) here who knows something about the presuppositions of just about everyone by virtue of the fact that it is my page, I can see how most folks are talking past each other. One problem with my Facebook page and my blog is that I have readers who share my faith and others who do not. Much of my career and work has existed in both the evangelical community and the academy. I thus have conversation partners in both worlds. I think a conversation about Chau might look very different among fellow evangelical Christians than it might among those who are not Christians. This is indeed a mixed group, but it doesn’t have to be a problem.
I like to think that my Facebook page is a place where it is difficult to remain in our silos.
I hope evangelicals (and there are many here) can learn to appreciate the insights of non-evangelicals, even if they disagree. I hope they realize that this space is not an extension of a Sunday morning service. Evangelicals who come to the table must come with a public voice. This does not mean that they abandon their religious convictions at the proverbial door. It means that they come with a realization that not everyone in the conversation may share their presuppositions and then behave accordingly. I realize that this is hard for some evangelicals.
I also hope that non-evangelicals or non-Christians also realize that this is a public space where many kinds of people come to read and discuss. My blog and Facebook page is not an extension of the faculty lounge. My non-evangelical academic friends have a lot of work to do in respecting and listening to people with different presuppositions and ways of viewing the world. Some folks do this better than others.
All of us are prone to self-righteousness in spaces like this. I hope we can learn from each other and find common ground and not demonize those with whom we have deep and fundamental disagreements. On an issue like Chau, it is very, very hard to find common ground. But we must try.
If this is not a project that interests you or you do not have the inclination to engage in a civil way with people who see the world differently, I would encourage you to just stay in your social media silo where everyone thinks the same way you do. You will be more comfortable there.
But if you do want to engage in a spirited but civil fashion, you are always welcome at my page.
And I will try to be less cranky! 🙂