reclaiming spiritual territory from the adversary

October 25, 2004

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A friend of mine emailed a link to me about internet porn.

It’s a good article: thorough, and as far as I can gauge, dead on. I won’t dwell on my first-hand knowledge of the topic. Suffice it to say, my time spent online underwent a shift this summer, and I find that the compelling quality of blogging is more than a match for the compelling quality of e-porn. I’d been priding myself on having made a good trade, and feeling a lot more dignified overall. A recent experience, however, has dovetailed with a conversation I had with my wife to change my thinking somewhat. I got “flamed” – I made a posting that inspired a very angry, abusive response.

What happened was, I had suggested in a response to someone else’s posting that someone who thoughtfully compared different religions might actually decide to become a Christian. Speaking in good Presbyterian terms, the way I put it was: God might use comparative study to lead someone to Christ. Well, that set off all kinds of alarms with this guy who clearly had met a lot of Xian ogres in his day [I say guy, but I really have no idea of this person’s gender]. He thought I was saying that other religions were completely bogus – nothing but tools God was using to lead people to the one true faith.

Intellectually, I couldn’t possibly be surprised that expressing that thought should have garnered an angry reaction. Not only so, but I couldn’t be surprised because, knowing my interlocutor wasn’t Xian, I had surely meant to be provocative. So the most surprising thing about the whole encounter was that I was surprised. I was getting a long-overdue object lesson in the degree to which everyone’s emotions are on the line in these LJ exchanges. I found myself getting emotionally involved. I wrote an apologetic email, to which he responded with an even more angry and abusive reply.

So anyway, I realized that this was affecting my emotions, and so affecting how I related to Marlene and Georgia – and it made crystal clear how the illusion of intimacy provided by both e-porn and blogging was addictive and treacherous. I still think blogging can be a lot more constructive than my ab/use of porn was, and I expect I’ll still write things and post them online – but I can acknowledge that, at the level of sin, it’s really all the same. Blogging is, if anything, more dangerous because I can tell myself I’m witnessing to others about God through writing – which is true, as far as it goes. But from Marlene’s point of view, it’s time spent online that leads to my being emotionally unavailable – something she feels helpless to stop but doesn’t really like – so there’s no fucking difference. To think that God would be pleased simply because I’m engaged in exchanges about theology, some of which amount to mutual masturbation in which neither side is really open to changing his or her mind, is to be unbearably asinine.

So I’m trying to beat a strategic withdrawal from the restless search for a meaningful exchange that is going on 24/7 on the blog world. Posting is one thing – getting involved in ongoing conversations is another. Foraging for ongoing conversations in which to get involved is yet another – and trying to engage people aggressively, to pick fights (which I was doing to some extent with this recent exchange) is totally beyond the pale. And the bottom line is, as a devourer of time, in comparison to everything else going on in my life, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Pray for me – or, for any atheists to whom I owe an apology – wish me luck.

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