Bill Lindsey is stepping away from his computer for a few days while he processes some recent, ugly attacks (in public and via email) on his incredibly valuable blog. I cite Bill a lot here,* and while I’ve never met him in person, he has been very kind to me and, when you’ve (electronically) celebrated somebody’s wedding, it’s hard not to take things like that personally.
I read Bill’s announcement right after I read Elizabeth Bruenig’s piece “Civility, Outrage.” At first, I thought Man, does Bruenig have it wrong. Look how nasty and harmful a lack of civility can be! But then I realized that was a dumb misreading of Bruenig’s argument and, that, in fact, Bruenig is exactly right. The attacks on Bill Lindsey were attacks on his civility—he was called disrespectful and told that his blog is home to “wild claims” and rants. But here’s what Fred Clark at Slacktivist said, correctly, about Bill earlier this year:
What I like best about Bilgrimage, though, is that Lindsey doesn’t just consider the perspective from his own peripheries. His own peripheral status, rather, has led him to seek out, engage and amplify the voices of others from other peripheries, other margins, other otherings.
There’s wisdom and virtue in that seeking out of other voices, but also too — at a more practical, selfish level for me as a reader — it makes Lindsey a better bloggeras well as a better theologian. It means he’s often ferreting out and lifting up voices, people, ideas and perspectives that I might never encounter otherwise. He may quote or link to them directly in one of his regular round-up posts, and he’ll also allow their views to inform his own.
Part of what that means, too, is that when he writes in anger, it never seems to be anger solely, or even mostly, on his own behalf. He’s not fueled by resentment of those who would push him away, further out into the periphery, but by solidarity with the others he has met out there.
To attack Bill as disrespectful—of all things!—is to illustrate Bruenig’s point that these calls for civility are a way to blunt moral arguments. They come in these types of conversations, Bruenig says, when you’ve “argued exactly what you meant to argue, where the strictures of civility would’ve forced you to give up not only the way you wanted to argue, but the very thingyou wanted to argue.”
Anyway, I’m saddened at Bill’s distress, and I’ll miss reading his posts while he’s away.
*Seriously, I quote him all the time. I have to sometimes set limits for myself, like I won’t quote Bilgrimage for at least the next two posts. Then I write about punk rock or something else that seems outside of Bilgrimage’s scope.