24 August 2012

Naming names.

Back in 2005 Kyle Lake, a Texas emergent-church pastor, electrocuted himself. He was standing in a baptismal and grabbed a microphone and zzzzt, dead. On the one hand, I was sympathetic to the family, friends, church—namely the 800 people who watched him drop dead—but good Lord what a stupid thing to do.

Irony of ironies, when Christianity Today eulogized Lake, they included excerpts from his book on God’s will—namely that old myth about how “everything happens for a reason,” despite an entire book in the bible, Ecclesiastes, pointedly written to teach otherwise. I digress, but mostly ’cause I’ve had to correct a few people about that myth recently. If everything happens for a reason, then God had that pastor killed simply to remind us not to grab the mic when we’re hip-deep in water. Seems a bit extreme. Seems more likely the pastor lacked the proper respect for electricity.

I bring this up ’cause Brian Kelly, my then-boss (and then-pastor), read my blog and, some weeks later, expressed some concern that if he ever did anything so dumb, he’d get a write-up in my blog.

“But you don’t do anything so dumb,” I pointed out.

“But I might,” he said. So how free was he to act around me, when any ridiculous thing he said or did might wind up on the Internet, where all 27 of my readers could see it and mock him? This ain’t that popular of an internet destination. I get tons more traffic on More Christ.

Well. It’s not my policy to unintentionally shame people on my blogs. In general, if I’m talking about something that’s more or less on the record—it’s public knowledge, or kinda public knowledge but not everyone knows the details—I’ll name names. If it embarrasses you, let me know. In some cases I’ll replace your name with a pseudonym. No guarantees people won’t figure out who you are anyway, but they won‘t hear it from me. Well, afterward.

I said, however, that it’s not my policy to unintentionally shame people. Sometimes I intentionally share a story which I know will shame people. The point isn’t to shame: It’s usually to point out misbehavior, bad philosophy, wrong thinking, and so forth. If I’m not already using pseudonyms, it’s because I feel I need to use proper names. I can’t critique President Obama, fr’instance, if I call him “Joey” to conceal his identity and spare his feelings. (As if he’s one of the 27.)

So if you ran over my leg, you’re likely gonna get referred to by name. And if you’re embarrassed about running over my leg, sorry, but you’re still likely gonna get referred to by name. (No, nobody has ever run over my leg. Mom ran over my foot once, when I was 16, but that’s on me; I was standing too close to the car.) I reserve the right to name names. Even though I frequently won’t.

…A blog with policies. All those journalism habits die hard, don’t they?