May 08 2009

Paul Balluff Lessons

by John Immel

I”m sitting in my living room hanging out with friends, cracking jokes, talking about ideas, barbequing tyrants, on occasion sharing struggles, pains and turmoils about life’s pressures and experiences.

Some newcomers join the conversation adding their 38 cents worth. They don’t agree. They say so. No biggie. This is the Arena of Ideas where it is more rough-and-tumble than other living rooms. Someone might hand me my ass in my living room, but hey, I’m a big boy, I can handle that. They are still welcome.

The other people with me understand this living room is a bit different, because I have said so, and they seemed to listen when I said so. We talk about cause and effect. We talk about why and wherefore. We advocate reason, and the tools of thought, and how spirituality fits into that dynamic; and we set out to know Truth. We try on ideas like some people try on clothes: abandon the bad and keep looking for the good. Maybe there is ideological consensus, maybe there is not, but it doesn’t matter because a hive mind is not the goal. It makes for an interesting conversation. And it helps people move from fear to confidence as they master tools and exercise their mind.

The newcomers are over, messing around by the curtains but what they are doing isn’t obvious.

The new comers make some more criticisms about the conversation, but curiously it is about HOW we are having the conversation, not WHAT the conversation is about. When asked to expand, explain or validate their reason, they are unable or unwilling to respond. Indeed, they seem to possess no ability to make simple but essential distinctions or follow a progression of thought. When this is pointed out, they are belligerent, vacant, or silent.

They mess around by the drapes again and what they are doing still isn’t clear.

A smell lingers in my living room. But where it is coming from, and the nature of its source isn’t clear.

They disappear for a while and when they return they are full of recrimination. The accusations are curious:  a small amount of effort could clarify. Indeed, when the clarifying information is provided, they offer apologies.

And then curiosity of curiosities, they use my living room to justify themselves for their conduct in someone else’s living room.

Something is rotten in Denmark. And now I realize that the stench has been here for a while. I check the drapes and sure enough…someone has taken a leak.

Now I’m pissed…

You know… I can tolerate quite a lot. I let a lot happen in my living room. The Arena of Ideas has an implied philosophical premise embedded in the metaphor: anything goes…mostly. I advocate that people should equip themselves to engage the arena because I am not a filter for other people’s minds. The arena is a dangerous place, and I don’t pretend otherwise. No protection exists in the arena but preparation. People live in the arena whether they know it or not, so my battle cry is caveat emptor.

Getting out from underneath Spiritual Tyranny REQUIRES knowing what ideas you bought. It REQUIRES knowing who the seller is and his reason for commerce. It REQUIRES understanding the outcomes. From this understanding it is very easy to take your own pulse: to understand the source of your fears, anxieties, and doubts. From this point you can get healthy.

But I digress…

Someone made a mess in my living room and I need to figure out how to handle it.

The knee jerk reaction is to press the ban button: and then offer no explanation nor comment. And that is exactly what a few other people privately have advocated. Banning those who make a mess would be easy, and perfectly justified. I’m a blog Tyrant. I can do what I want.


I realize something important is happening here: a series of teachable moments. And not least of which I want to make it very clear the lengths I will go to clean up the mess in my living room. I want folks to understand, how serious I take it when people who are guests try to manipulate, belligerate, and fraudulate. (Yes, I made those words up.)

So with that in mind, here are some teachable moments.

Teachable Moment 1:

Let me be abundantly clear. You have the right to speak. I will take up arms for your right to speak your mind in the public square and to erect whatever apparatus you need to carry your own voice. But you DO NOT have the right to be heard. And you have no moral claim to the apparatus that I, or anyone else, creates to carry their voice to the public square.

There is a bizarre non-sequitur being trotted out by SGM advocates. Because blogs like this and Survivors, and Refuge are directly criticizing SGM authoritarianism, we have forfeited the right to draw standards about what is said by whom. The logic being advocated is: by enforcing standards, we are executing the same authoritarianism. This is absurd. No one on any blog (that I have read) is advocating SGM MUST open their church microphones to any and all comers. No one is defining SGM authoritarianism as a monopoly on the SGM communication apparatus. We are not advocating a spiritual “Fairness Doctrine.” They built it. It is theirs. I will take up arms to defend their right to speak into the public square.

However, once they get to the public square–i.e. books, tapes, blogs, email distribution, Sunday sermons–I will bring every resource to bear to address the failures and errors of those ideas, spotlighting the outcome and results of their practice.

So, now drawing this back to this blog: If I decide I don’t like what you are saying for whatever reason, it sucks to be you. Go build your own blog and rail about my perceived injustice if you like. (Some have already done that and I wish them success.) Build a radio station and take the editorial into the public square. Build a building and buy a Plexiglas podium and say what you like. I will grab my nuclear weapons to defend your right to do that very thing, but I didn’t build this platform for your good pleasure. I built spiritualtyranny.com for mine. In this I am an unapologetic blog Tyrant.

Teachable Moment 2:

Get Over it. Beyond the absurd assertion of Dr. Laura being theologian extraordinaire I want to point a few things out.

Let me talk about me for a minute. Since I don’t do that very often, this will be fun. People continue to make the inane accusation that my commentary is nothing more than venom from a bitter, tormented, deranged soul.


If you can read my commentary and honestly reduce its content to such triviality, then I suspect you are a half an inch from arguing for a flat earth. This simple-mindedness is not hidden behind the volumes of high school Carl Jung you apply to writing analysis. I am tired of suffering this foolishness. Either offer a critique of the ideas, wage a counterargument (assuming you know what that is), or would you kindly go do something else with your time.

Don’t bother to breathe all manner of sanctimony at me about compassion. It will be useless to rail at me about the treatment of guests. I have been called worse by much better. Getting indignant when I call you out for peeing on my floor will not faze me one inch.

I am not here to win friends or create a following. (Though people do seem to follow my ideas and the readership is immensely gratifying.) I am in the arena of ideas for the express purpose of destroying the philosophical and intellectual assumptions that ALWAYS destroy people’s lives. If you happen to hold those ideas… then my argument is aimed at your head: duck, change your mind, or offer a better argument.

Now, let me talk about other people:  How is it that pro SGM people are consistently impatient with hurting people? What is it about that environment that produces such profound intolerance? What is embedded in the philosophical assumptions of “this bunch” that makes them almost universally indifferent to the pain people have suffered? And the pain those people have suffered is universally identified being from the SGM leadership.

Here is the OBVIOUS question: Why do so many people have something they need to GET OVER with SGM?

I will let your lightning-fast minds ponder.

Teachable Moment 3:

Theme: Sarcasm bad. Ergo, people don’t listen.

We end up dancing around this mulberry bush with regularity because I’m King of Snark.

(That is what I will call my kingdom when I rule the world. Earth will be renamed: Snark!  I have zeal and concern, so it will happen.)

With regularity, people get sucked down the path trying to justify or validate or mitigate someone else’s sensibilities.

Dale Carnegie wrote a pretty good book, if you like to schmooze.  But his advice is not how to REALY influence people. If someone is justified in disregarding words merely because they don’t care for the presentation…the disaster begins. I am going to continue my advocacy that being preoccupied with a METHOD of expression when discussing SGM (or in any conflict) is a disastrous standard.

Method and Manner is the SGM Get-Out-Of-Jail free card. By conceding the premise that a method of expression is somehow more righteous, more Christian, people concede the authority to define that expression. Every subsequent conversation becomes about how well one emulates the proscribed methodology. This is how SGM preempt EVER having to respond to conflict specifics.

Furthermore, this is also how SGM defenders evade having to answer the specifics of a counterargument. The moment they deem the method of expression invalid, they consider the ideas behind them irrelevant. With this Method and Manner magic wand, they make all objections to their actions, conduct, and doctrines disappear.

Truth is truth no matter who speaks. The idea that Truth must cater to sensibilities for validation is beyond ridiculous.

For all the advocacy of being Peacemakers, we have lost sight of the fact that Jesus said he came to bring a sword. Truth divides. Truth says one thing is right and one thing is wrong. Maybe someone needs to write a book called Sword Makers.

Teachable  Moment 4:

The Virtue and Vice of Blog Anonymity. A sub-theme denigration is that since blogging is anonymous, criticism offered on blogs is invalid.

Think a moment. By this definition, Newspapers should be roundly condemned. How many columnists in those good old fashioned papers have you met and looked into their face as they railed out some Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor? If you haven’t met them, then by definition they are anonymous. How many news anchors have changed their name to a better stage name, or to protect their family from the pressures of notoriety? By definition, this is a public persona, not the REAL person. By the advocated definition, they should be run out of reporting post haste.

Don’t fall for this, Dear Readers. Don’t even bother to argue the point.  This is a non-logic that presupposes people are only truthful in person. This is absurd. People lie for all sorts of reasons, in all sorts of venues, with all sorts of sensory perception engaged to ferret out the truth.

Blogging is no more or no less truthful than any other form of mass communication. NO ONE on the Internet is advocating that communication via Cyberspace has more veracity than any other medium. But with regularity, critics of cyberspace content rail against the means to avoid the substance.

The brilliance of the World Wide Web is that it is unfiltered. It pays people the compliment of believing they can arrive at the truth, because the information is available for them: all they have to do is seek, ask, and knock.

Unfiltered: This is an important word. The reason that stories have finally emerged about Sovereign Grace Ministries’ conduct and practice is because the Internet has let a LOT of people compare notes.

And it is time for those of us addressing the issues of Spiritual Tyranny to unify our voice against the implicit evasion anti-blogging critics commit. They evade the very obvious question: Why do so MANY people feel the need to make their comments from behind anonymity?

How is it that SGM advocates fail to see the stunning implication?

Teachable Moment 5:

Theme: we are all just sinners in a sinful world.

I am going to keep saying this until everyone agrees with me. The soil that grows moral relativism is richly seeded with the notion that all failed human action is sin of equal consequence. This is the flip side of there is no morality: anyone can do what they want.

Since Augustine formalized the concept of “I’m a dirty rotten sinner,”  Christianity has become ever more schizophrenic in its railing about sin. We will shout from the house tops, “Sinners go to Hell, so Don’t sin, Don’t sin, Don’t sin,” and in the next breath say, “But I can’t help it if I do.”

Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness have been highjacked to mean no matter what anyone does, they should never be judged for their actions. The ultimate consequence of our schizophrenia is we have eradicated the idea of moral growth and provided people with a Moral Blank Check to be cashed against the FFHI (Forced Forgiveness Heaven Insurance) account. But Heaven doesn’t really cash these checks. People on Earth are compelled to provide the moral absolution of anyone who demands an ethical pass. It matters not what the offender has done, the offendee has a moral obligation to forgive, which really ends up meaning they can make no judgment, condemnation, or relational demand. It matters not if the offender identifies his own error, takes action to address the error, or seeks to make restitution.

Blithely wave the magic wand of “We are all just sinners,” and immediately the scope or depth of atrocity gets swept into the demand: forgive, forgive, and forgive. This is moral relativism on parade. This is the destruction of values and proportion and justice.  And make no mistake, this is NOT a Bible standard.

So, let me draw my comments to the specific instance that is behind this post. Over the last few weeks, two personas, Paul Balluff and Me Love You For Long Time, have been commenting on various posts: Who’s your Daddy and Reform or Not to Reform among others.   They are SGM advocates and have voiced the same criticisms of this blog and others since time immemorial: fine and all right.


Here is what is not fine and all right.

Paul Balluff uses private communication between me and him in an effort to illustrate what he considered to be a lack of compassion of moi. (Remember I told you it was open season.) He wanted to tattle to the world that I’m not a nice guy. I’m not. Mystery solved.

I accept the unstated understanding that private communication between blog hosts and folks that email remains private. I understand and in principle affirm the social convention. To that end, I will protect those who contact me: and many do.

But I will not be manipulated or handcuffed by a misplaced sense of loyalty or propriety to people who have no interest in loyalty or propriety. When people seek to use my good nature against me by exposing private communication to misrepresent me or the content of my thoughts, I declare open season.

Furthermore, and more important, when people lie to me about themselves to perpetrate fraud, and manipulate my reaction, and the reaction of others…the record will be set straight.

Paul Balluff accused me of being an anonymous Blogger. This is, of course, a detail easily proved untrue by asking the very leadership he is defending if they know me. He accuses me of taking his identity to manufacture…something…In a comment on April 25, Paul Balluff says I’m a “Scary Character” because I used his name to say things he didn’t say.

He insists that his identity has been stolen. He insists that he did not write those words. Paul Balluff says he has suffered ID Theft. (But he’s sorry to have jumped to conclusions.)

I, of course, have no clue where this is coming from.

I checked the comment from Paul on April 25 Reform or not to Reform (indeed I checked all comments) and see nothing particularly scandalous. It wasn’t like ID theft Paul claimed to shoot the Pope in the head or anything. This whole thing fills me with questions: why would someone write THOSE comments if they were going to steal an identity? But okay… maybe someone used his name in an innocuous comment. But now I realize this is fraud: the claim and the subsequent histrionics.

Here is what I noticed: in subsequent posts, Paul Balluff affirms and reiterates details offered by ID Theft Paul Balluff. Curious…how is that possible?

Me Love You For Long Time submits a comment full of recrimination accusing me of filtering information I don’t happen to agree with. Only someone who hasn’t been paying attention to what is actually ON www.spiritualtyranny.com can make that accusation. But this attention deficit is only the first of a few.

Me Love You For Long Time submits a comment that is “proof” of my blog tyranny. This proof was a notice of moderation…from www.sgmrefuge.com. Indeed, the comment was moderated but not by moi.

Me Love You Long Time come to my blog and flames out Jim here, and then flames moi out on survivors. (Those comments were moderated and deleted I think.)

As a wise man once said to me: “Some people should drink in the daytime.”

  • Paul Balluff posts with the email address Oldbaldguy@xxxxxx.xxx
  • Me Love You For Long Time posts with the email address scentofawoman2u@xxxxx.xxx

>pay attention blog owners<

Both of these email addresses originate from the same IP address distributed by the same Internet vendor. Further investigation reveals these two personas are husband and wife.

So, this begs the questions: Why?  Why accuse a blog owner of trying to fabricate posts? Why claim ID theft when the person doing the thefting is in the same house? Why feign ignorance? Why rail at perceived offense? Why manufacture offense by claiming censorship when very little if anything gets edited off this blog? Why the endless string of disinformation?

I have pondered these questions reading the comment looking for clues to a rationale.

The only thing that makes any kind of sense is that Paul Balluff has a teachable moment in mind. This assumes of course that Paul Balluff really does think. So, since I am interested in teachable moments, I am going to offer Paul and wife one opportunity to make their point. This is more than generous in my mind considering the liberties they have taken in my living room.

One shot guys. Take your time: think well what you want to say. Because I reserve the right to point out the BS and ban you forever.

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    1. 91

      John, just grab your surfboard then! Surf’s up!

    2. 92
      Mainstay Ministries

      I find this article pretty amusing. Not to mention uniquely interesting.

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