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The Deacon's Bench

keyboard.JPGAlrighty. After two weeks of relative peace and quiet, I’m bringing back comments.

The past several days have been both restful and instructive – and I’m profoundly grateful to the various bloggers and readers who have offered advice, counsel, support and prayers. The Anchoress, Googling God, Deacon Scott Dodge, the Concord Pastor and Jim Lackey at Catholic News Service are just a few, and I remain in their debt. The responses they’ve elicited have been encouraging – and very often, humbling and instructive. It’s all given me enough food for thought to feed a small village in Romania.

Anyway…to resume this exercise in bloggery, I’d like to make plain a few ground rules. Rather than making them a list of “don’ts,” I’d like to lay them out as a series of “do’s.”

DO treat those who gather here with charity and decency. Even if you want to strangle them. Especially if you want to strangle them.

DO believe in the power of grace to change minds and hearts – including your own.

DO exercise restraint before commenting. A deep breath or a short walk can do much to turn aside anger and help you think more clearly and discuss issues more compassionately.

DO recognize in all who come here the humble image of Christ our brother. Mother Theresa used to see him in the “distressing disguise of the poor.” Well, he may also come before us in other distressing disguises – and you may be surprised at how you might encounter him, even here.

DO avoid sweeping condemnations, especially when it comes to consigning someone to the furthest reaches of hell. Similarly, DO avoid deciding unilaterally who is or is not an authentic Christian or a Catholic. (Likewise, outlandish statements like “All Democrats are baby-killing cretins” or “You can’t be a Christian and be a Republican” are guaranteed to be deleted.)

DO disagree, if you must, but DO so with respect, civility and – yes – love. DO work to understand what others are saying, and what others are seeing, without dismissing them out of hand. It may help to remember that respecting life entails more than protecting and defending the unborn or the infirm. It also demands that we defend human dignity – and that includes defending it here in the blogosphere.

DO accept that every one who wanders into this space is a beloved child of God. As the Father loves us, so we should strive to love others. Especially those we would prefer to hate. “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

DO remember that we are all imperfect, broken, seeking to be whole, born to be holy – even if you are convinced that such a concept could not possibly apply to you, because the cause for your canonization is already underway.

I won’t tolerate Catholic-bashing (or any other religion-bashing), racism, sexism, homophobia or petty name-calling. (In short: this isn’t the place for any sort of expression of hate.) I’d like to think there is room for everyone here at The Bench. I don’t want people pushing each other around. Bullies will be sent packing.

I don’t want to have to start censoring comments before they are posted. But I will if I have to.

Oh: and, of course, all these rules apply to yours truly as much as they do to anyone else.

That’s about it.

One final thought. In my home office I have a plain wooden plaque bearing a famous phrase that’s been attributed to Carl Jung: “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” Maybe that’s something we too easily forget. The author of life is among us — abiding with us, hovering by our keyboards, glancing at the furtive tap-tap-tap that hurls letters onto an electronic screen, where they eventually find their way into e-mail boxes and homepages and bookmarked websites, to be read by countless others, who may then pass them on to others still.

We may not always know who reads what we write. But we may think of those words differently, and give them more weight, if we write them with the certainty that one of those readers is, in fact, God.

Bidden or not.

Okay. Let’s blog.

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