As some of you may have seen, this week I have an article on the Huffington Post, which has so far gotten nearly 600 comments, most of them negative, some vitriolic. It’s been interesting watching the comments pile up faster than I can read them, let alone respond. Mostly they haven’t bothered me because it is clear that the anger people feel toward religion has very little to do with me, though I am trying to understand it.
I don’t have a clear analysis yet, just a sense that what my writing tries to do—help people get past their negative stereotypes of God and find a mature connection to the Divine that’s not based on coercion—is needed more than I realized, not to force a different kind of religion on the atheists who clearly aren’t interested, but to offer an alternative to all those people who are searching for something, but think that religion is just an evil institution that makes people feel guilty and starts wars.
Despite the sense that I have something to offer, I’ve had two problems in responding to the comments. First, I have almost no work time during what is both my last week home with the kids and the official launch of the paperback (today!). Whatever time I spend reading or responding to comments is detracting from something else that feels more urgent. (I have the sense that some of the frequent commenters just want to hook others into a time-suck.)
But second, I find I am unsure how to respond to comments that seem so intent on attack. There is a tone to many that is all about ridicule, rather than dialog, which one friend pointed out was typical of our polarized political culture. Though I did make a few comments early on, I don’t want to engage in that kind of conversation, especially when my time is so limited. The problem, I’m realizing, is that by leaving the conversation, I’m yielding the stage to the bombasts. I fear something similar is happening on the national stage. Are we who disagree with them voicing a coherent alternative to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin? Are we speaking up when we need to? Liz Opp raises a similar question in her recent blog post.
Next Tuesday, the kids go back to school, and despite an exciting, but busy speaking schedule, I’m hoping for a little more mental space to figure out what I’m called to say amid all the shouting.