Creating and Sustaining a Safer Blogging Environment – A Guest Post by Brad/Futuristguy

I was part of a team effort with Julie Anne Smith to write a recent post on Spiritual Sounding Board, A Warning to Commenters: Be Aware of Potential Blog Owner/Moderator Intrusiveness. This post created a significant amount of heat about spiritual abuse survivor blogs. But the controversy also potentially brought forth an important amount of light about the dynamics of survivor blog owners and commenters on them.

I spent time over the past few days trying to process it all into something clear and constructive. That’s because I found it disturbing that a huge number of assumptions were being floated in all directions. For instance, some blog owners assume it is automatically okay to use a commenter’s email to follow up with them, while others found that a horrifying intrusion through misuse of unpublished information. And some commenters assume the comment system requires them to use their real name, while others chided them for such childish ignorance.

To me, this culture clash and condescension was unnecessary. All it takes to start creating better understanding is being clear and transparent about our blog policies and practices. Then people can know exactly what we do, can grapple to comprehend why (if they want to), and post questions or challenges if they desire. But we have a deep problem if we think we are above writing out our otherwise-invisible assumptions by posting our actual concrete practices.

So, I did the best I could to summarize information that I think will contribute to a more civil and safer blogging environment – especially for those of us who come from backgrounds of spiritual abuse and are often more sensitized to anything that smacks of secrecy and/or bullying. Here are practical suggestions for commenters and for blog owners/moderators, followed by the example of revised commenting policies that I posted on my own futuristguy blog earlier today.

And frankly, I am not so concerned if you’re a blog owner who chooses to use a very different set of guidelines and/or rules from what I do. I realize that different practices make sense for the overall context of specific blogs. But I am concerned about transparency, because that relates directly to the level of trust people can have in who we are as bloggers, and thus the impact that we can have for the Kingdom. The more that remains as hidden assumptions, the more conflict that is likely to emerge, and the more we’ll all fry in the heat instead of be healed in the light.

[NOTE: This article is cross-posted at futuristguy. Brad/futuristguy is currently in the midst of a major editing project, but he plans to check in and respond to comments periodically.]

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Suggestions for how to post more safely to protect our own identity, and the identities of those we care about.

1. The Absolute Number 1 Rule: Be very cautious about what content we post in our comments. We should assume that once we have posted it, that information can NEVER be “scrubbed” away. Even if it gets deleted (such as by the blog moderator, or if we contact the blog owner and request it be deleted), that does not guarantee it cannot be seen. For instance, the Internet Archive WayBack Machine may have already archived the information, or other readers may have taken screenshots of the material.

So, if we want to shield our identity, we need to be cautious about sharing personal identity details, such as names of family members, town we live in, names and/or descriptions of church or ministry we participate in. Every additional detail we provide increases the possibilities for internet searches that could connect those dots and reveal far more about us than we may have realized was possible.

2. Consider a personal policy of where we will and will NOT post comments, and stick with it consistently unless there are overwhelming reasons otherwise. For instance, we may not want to comment on blogs where either there IS NO transparency about privacy policy, terms of use, etc. (so we don’t know what they might do with our personal information). Or, do not post on blogs where there IS transparency about what they do with our comment content and/or unpublished information, but we disagree with the uses they specify.

3. Determine beforehand when to post/not post. If we are concerned about shielding personal identity and/or being a constructive commenter on a blog, then we may want to have a personal policy of not posting comments when we are angry, or are otherwise emotionally upset, as we may end up revealing personal details that we would never share if we were calm or otherwise thinking more clearly. Or, we may want to consider a practice of not posting comments after a certain time of day if our thinking tends to be cloudier then. Or we may want to wait at least an hour from the time we draft a comment off-line before we read it one last time, make any edits, and then post it on the blog thread.

4. Protect personal information. Many blog platforms require several specific pieces of information from potential commenters in order to post their comments. These usually include a name and email address, with a website address as optional. If we do comment, the computer platform typically also picks up our IP address number and records it in the comment data that only the blog owners and moderators can see. This unique number for our computer’s internet connection can be used in online searches to identify whose computer account we posted from and where that account is located in the real world.

So – if we feel uncomfortable about giving out these kinds of personal details – but we still want to comment on a blog – we still have possibilities for helping to shield our identity. We just need to realize that if we do any of these, there may be blogs that reject our comments. (For instance, there are blogs that disallow comments from people who do not give first and last name.)

NAME. Consider creating a pseudonym (to shield our actual name and identity). Some options: We can use a permanent pseudonym if we’re okay with using the same commenter profile across a number of blogs. Or, we could perhaps use a blog-specific pseudonym, or change pseudonyms periodically even on the same blog. But if we use a fake name, we need to realize that sometimes, other readers can tell it’s the same person using different names because of our distinctive vocabulary and writing style. Also, in creating pseudonyms, we should be careful that we don’t use someone else’s real name or their long-term pseudonym. We might find get into trouble with accusations of impersonating others, even if that was not our intention.

EMAIL ADDRESS. Consider setting up a separate email account that we ONLY use for blog commenting, or use a temporary or false email address for commenting (to shield our personal email address for unexpected usage).

I.P. ADDRESS. Consider using a proxy server (to cover our unique internet address and geographical location).

I found two comments from Bene D especially helpful in (1) understanding the need for using non-identifying name, email, and I.P. address and (2) suggesting a “anonymous proxy” server.

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Suggestions for full disclosure of relevant policies, for the sake of creating a safe and trustworthy place for blog readers and commenters.

It is unwise and unfair to assume that any potential commenter (1) is internet savvy and understands the rights and risks associated with information they disclose, (2) can discern what your usual privacy practices are just by reading your blog posts, or (3) knows your assumptions (or internet-wide assumptions) about what is or is not appropriate in terms of content for their comments. Also, it is unwise to make ANY assumptions about what commenters do know, should know, or already expect on how you will or will not use the required information (name, email, IP address) they supply. It is inconsistent of us to invite dialogue, but simultaneously have an entire set of invisible-to-commenters expectations about how that dialogue must be carried out.

So – if we want to create a safe space and avoid potential accusations of invasion of privacy, unprofessionalism, stalking, misappropriation of content, etc., here are some suggested ways to increase our transparency and, with it, our blog’s level of trustworthiness.

1. Be specific on our policies/practices about what ways we do and/or do not use personal information that is gleaned from commenters and the content of what they post.

2. Make this information accessible, such as a clearly labeled page or section, such as “Privacy Policy,” “Terms of Use,” “About,” “Blog Information,” etc.

3. Be comprehensive about our policies and practices
– don’t make readers guess or ask. (They may not even know what to ask.) Here is a list of suggested points to cover in transparent disclosing of how we handle private and unpublished information supplied to us by potential commenters:

  • Their name/identity.
  • Their email address. Do you use this for identity verification? Do you ever use this address to contact commenters, and if so, for what purposes? Can they opt out of these uses of their information? What do you do if you contact them via email and they don’t want you to anymore?
  • Their I.P. address.
  • Cookies generated by their clicks (for instance, if your blog has advertising that uses cookies).
  • The content of their comment(s). Do you reserve the right to “own” the material and quote it in blog posts, or even turn it into a separate post?
  • Practices for carrying on civil, respectful dialog, and what happens to commenters who violate these rules. Whether unsafe, uncivil commenters will be banned and criteria used.
  • Comment moderation policies.
  • Comment editing and deletion policies. If a commenter decides later they want their comment edited or deleted, what do you do and how should the commenter contact you?
  • Contact policies, contact form.
  • Any other disclosures and disclaimers about identity, content, rights, responsibilities, etc.

4. If we are the blog owner, we need to realize that anyone to whom we grant certain levels of administrative rights and responsibilities (such as blog moderators, regular contributors, etc.) may be able to see behind-the-curtain information that commenters have supplied, as well as comments in moderation, items in the trash, etc. Our own reputation, and that of our blog, depends in part on how these individuals use or misuse any of that information.

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10 Basic Practices to Sustain a Safer Blogging Environment

Thanks for your interest in my futuristguy blog! As I see it, we need to work together to make this a safe place for discussion, especially since many topics on my blog deal with recovery from various forms of abuse, and many of our regular readers and commenters are survivors thereof. I believe it helps avoid unnecessary conflict when we make our expectations explicit. That way no one is left presuming what supposedly will happen with comments they post, or fearing what could happen with them.

So – here are 10 basic practices I use as the blog owner and moderator on futuristguy, to sustain a safer blogging environment for all who come here. The set I use may differ from those used by other blogs in general, and other spiritual abuse survivor blogs in specific, so please read this rather than assume.

What I expect from you as commenters.

  1. NAME. You are welcome to post your comments using a pseudonym. For the sake of continuity in conversations, it would be helpful to all if you used that same name consistently.
  2. DISALLOWED CONTENT. Your thoughts relevant to the post subject are welcome. However, there is some content that is strictly not allowed. If you include any of the following, either your comment will not be posted, or it will have that information edited out, at my discretion. When writing about people who are in the public eye, it is acceptable to identify them by name. However, do not reveal the identity of someone who is a private citizen, or is a survivor of abuse or crime, unless you have their permission.
  3. CONTENT CAUTIONS. Because so many topics I write about are emotionally intense, and deal with recovery from abuse, I would appreciate it if you would not use sexual innuendo in your comments, or make light of abuse or violence. Also, please be considerate about what topics or words might easily trigger a destructive emotional response in other readers.
  4. TONE/ATTITUDE. I expect respectful treatment of other people who post and/or comment here, even when we disagree. I do not allow comments that include intimidation, harassment, name-calling, similar kinds of personal attacks, or foul/vulgar language.

For more on the subjects of content and “tone,” please read my post on Writing Respectfully and Defusing “Triggers.”

What you can expect from me as blog owner and moderator.

The following three practices are guidelines, not rules.

  1. COMMENT MODERATION. This blog is set to put all comments into moderation automatically, even those of commenters who have been approved before.
  2. COMMENT DELETION. I only delete comments in the queue by refusing to post them. I do this only in extreme situations, such as where it includes mostly disallowed content and/or the tone is offensively uncivil, accusatory, or otherwise inflammatory.
  3. COMMENT EDITING. Editing of a comment can be instigated by me as blog owner or you as commenter. I reserve the right to edit comments, such as to remove inappropriate language, sections of unacceptable content, and/or identifying details about persons other than yourself. If I do this, I will leave a “Moderator Notice” with the comment. Also, you can request that I edit or delete a comment that is in moderation or has been posted. I will generally accommodate your request and leave a “Moderator Notice” for the record.

The way you handle things might be different from me, but ultimately this blog is my responsibility. I do my best to use discernment and discretion in applying these guidelines. I consider the overall situation, including any private, behind-the-scenes knowledge that may require me to take certain actions without explaining them, lest I break confidentiality.

Still, if my decisions come across as unreasonable, inconsistent, or unfair, please do not try to discuss or challenge it in a comment thread. Instead, you can contact me directly through the contact form below. You can also use this address for any other questions you have. I will respond as soon as I can.

The following three practices are rules, not guidelines, and I seek to apply them carefully and consistently.

  1. PRIVACY. This blog uses the WordPress platform. When you post a comment, this system requires that you give a name and email address, and your website link is option. It also automatically collects your I.P. address (a unique number which identifies your internet connection and location). The WordPress comment system publishes your name and website. It stores but does not publish your email or your I.P. address – and I do not use or disclose these pieces of personal identity information. My only exceptions would be to break confidentiality if/when I am ever required to by law or for the protection of someone’s life.
  2. CONTACT. I do not use your comment email address to contact you, unless you have given prior permission. If you use the contact form below, I take that as automatic permission to reply to you through the email address you give there.
  3. COPYRIGHT. You own the content of what you post – and the responsibility for it. I may quote from your comment under “fair use” guidelines, but I will not turn your comments into posts without your prior permission, which I would request through the comment thread unless we already have an established email connection.

[This is followed by a stock contact form, which requires the person’s name and email address.]

99 thoughts on “Creating and Sustaining a Safer Blogging Environment – A Guest Post by Brad/Futuristguy”

  1. Brad – – Thanks much for this. You have done so much for the survivor community. I hope this helps both bloggers and commenters as it is not always as clear cut and problem-free when you are dealing with abuse issues (and even may have abusers coming to the blog to stir trouble as well!).


  2. Good post Brad/Ja, the last post/followup comments were a bit horrendous and a non target post like this, dealing in general, is excellent.

    Something to keep in mind is that since the fallout from the VF affair there are a lot of people, myself included, who now participate on your blog and Jen’s who would never have even come across these blogs otherwise.

    A lot of us have never suffered spiritual abuse, sure we may have seen it from a distance but that would be the extent of our involvement. I for one would not have thought twice about emailing somebody who left a valid email address, wouldn’t have crossed my mind that there was a problem with it. It’s good to see the other side of the coin and this whole issue is certainly food for thought.


  3. “Also, in creating pseudonyms, we should be careful that we don’t use someone else’s real name or their long-term pseudonym”.

    I tend to use the names of pets, past & present. Those who know me well enough (IRL, or online) may recognize me because they know the names of my animals.This helps no end in sorting through my emails: Anything that shows up addressed to a cat (dog,goldfish, chupacabra) is automatically deleted without reading it.
    Occasionally, I call myslef after one of the [long dead] star of early James Whale horror films.

    I mention this because it gives me a “person-like” name. My feeling is, when I paid the fee to the animal shelter, the name became mine.
    In the case of of Boris Karloff, et al, I am probably breaking the rules somewhere. This doesn’t mean I plan to stop; I just can’t imagine that, say,;-) Maria Ouspenskaya, is going to be in any way harmed by my actions.
    But, hey, that’s me.


  4. I have been naive when commenting. I was not aware that you could enter a bogus e-mail address and it would still accept. (Be nice -LOL.) I only know it because I did it on my own blog to test it 🙂 (I’m a true redhead, not a blond – ha!)

    By the way, I’ve been doing a lot of digging in the homeschool/Vision Forum back blogs that are on the Wayback Machine, etc. There have been some malicious things done, whole websites attacked and shut down, pseudonyms, lots of back biting amongst leaders in the homeschool community and church groups. It’s pretty disgusting behavior. So this post really is important and helpful.


  5. The comment policy for my blog is quite minimalist. As for what I do with the info people use to post comments, that’s simple too: I might click on their name to visit their blog if they linked it, but using the info as a data-mine is the furthest thing from my intentions.


  6. Thanks, Brad. This is great information. Assumptions by bloggers and commenters about how each blog owner runs/should run their blog is the worst scenario 😦


  7. What would you say about links? Yesterday I saw a commenter (on another blog) link an article by a Patriarchal Fellow. The next commenter wondered whether the PF had repented for his sins against his former flock. Quick as a flash, the PF, who’d never commented on that blog, was there to defend himself and claim that he repents every day. And when he isn’t, he’s trying to be a faithful elder to the current flock.
    Then the blogger where I was reading contacted PF to see if he’d like to contribute to an upcoming article about PF’s article, which PF declined– apparently in a unkind manner. (In this case, the blogger wouldn’t have needed to use PF’s email from the comment, of course, since PF has a website).


  8. Brad,

    Thanks so much for laying this out in such a comprehensive way! I wish I had access to something like this to read when blogging first started. I had to learn the hard way. Back then it was the wild west on the blogosphere. Everyone was sort of feeling their way around this new communication tool. One blog stood out back then that was run very well in those wild shoot them up days was Ingrid Schlueter’s Slice of Laodicea. I have a lot of respect for how she handled that blog.

    A few things I learned along the way is to read a blog for a while before I comment. There are blogs I will not comment on at all and you can only pick that up reading them for a while. I had some very bad experiences in the past. And as you read more and more discernment blogs you start seeing the red flags on other blogs. Interesting, that!

    I highly recommend folks set up a blogging email account. I have an email for that, one for internet shopping, a business email and a personal. It cuts down on confusion and junk emails.


  9. Lydia is so right. A close relative is in internet security and advised me to set up different accounts for different actions back in the mid 90’s. Through my sloppiness, everything started going to one email alone, and I forgot how to access the others. When my account was hacked, it was a real pain to fix. Now I have a full stable of emails and names I use for various purposes.
    I also grew a thick skin to defend from the trolls who invariably appear.


  10. Brad/Futurist Guy:

    Glad I was able to help.;^)

    I’ve been blogging since 2002 and learned the hard way.
    We do readers a disservice to assume they are web savvy; given the range of topics I cover, that would be inconsiderate of me.

    Tim: I like your comment policy – I’ve kept my About page simple, and try to maintain transparency in the comment section. (ie: would you email me, or may I email you).

    Good post. Blog on!


  11. @zooey111 – Good suggestions on pseudonym selection. And hey – you gotta cat named Boris Karloff?! And Maria Ouspenskaya … now there’s a scary M.O. For those in the know.


  12. @Tim and BD. I definitely think we need to allow for differences in “blog missions” and blogger temperaments, while considering the needs of readers so they can navigate safely. My sample Comments and Contact Policy in this post is probably way too detailed for the preferences of many bloggers, but it’s meant as just one example of my trying to be transparent about expectations, to write them up as clearly as I can, and be comprehensive enough for my blog’s purposes.


  13. @Dave A A – links … ahh, yes. As a research writer, I often refer people to “primary sources” (i.e., first-hand accounts of what happened, or who said something, from those who were there when it happened) and “secondary sources” (i.e., attempts by off-site people to gather, analyze, and interpret a set of primary sources). I also write a lot of case studies that track the “cultural DNA” of an organization or movement and how that inherently leads to situations they find themselves in now (for good or ill), and the likely trajectory that will take them on in the future.

    So I link. A lot. And often dealing with rather intense situations and controversies that have wide ranges of intellectual and emotional responses attached to them. Links give people a chance to read or hear or see as many of the original sources as possible, so they can discern and decide what they think for themselves. (I’m a big advocate of attempting to be responsible in our learning and discerning, and then self-determination of what we want to do with that information.)

    I’ve occasionally been contacted or had a comment left by people who wrote something that I linked to. In my experience, it’s mostly been good. But I can well imagine that some people get mad at me for either writing something about them, or for facilitating a blog where others write about them. However, I’m of the general opinion that if we give credible evidence, carefully and clearly presented, especially about those whose impact on others seems to be mostly destructive, they have a hard time navigating around the evidence information or its implications.

    But especially with survivor and discernment type blogs, “dialogue” can quickly devolve from heated, to inflammatory, to incendiary. That’s part of why I think it’s helpful to lay out expectations on respectful dialog and being civil as possible in our commenting — part of commenters’ responsibility — and to openly state the option of blog owners/moderators to stop any thread, delete any comment, blacklist any repeat offender — part of owners’/moderators’ rights and responsibility.


  14. @lydiasellerofpurple. Great suggestion to wait around a while as a lurker at a blog to figure out how the blog owners/moderators treat people, their styles for facilitating dialog, how they handle conflict with commenters and conflicts among commenters, etc. Ultimately, this is about discerning whether we can entrust them with our responses.

    And maybe a key lesson here about entrustment is the importance of learning to discern. For those of us who are survivors of spiritual abuse, our “default” view is often askew – first of all, because all of us have blind sports. But second, because abusive, authoritarian, legalistic people groomed us to overlook certain things and conditioned us to obey certain things – all of which ultimately led to our harm. So we need to learn to trust ourselves, and exercise our discernment muscles to figure out who has sufficient Christlikeness in their character to be trustworthy. But it takes time and, like any wisdom-related endeavor, means we’re likely going to make mistakes. A.Whole.Lotta.Them.

    As far as that learn-and-discern process for those who don’t feel savvy about surviving spiritual abuse and some of the blogs out there, I think it would be helpful to have some other blog posts or tutorials. Maybe you would consider writing one perhaps?


  15. My sample Comments and Contact Policy in this post is probably way too detailed for the preferences of many bloggers, but it’s meant as just one example of my trying to be transparent about expectations, to write them up as clearly as I can, and be comprehensive enough for my blog’s purposes.

    Brad- And I think the kind of blog makes a huge difference. A survivor blog in which someone is dealing with abuse recovery is quite a bit different than a blog like you might find at The Gospel Coalition or Denny Burk or Tim Challies. You will find people engaging each other and even debating each other, but threats are at a minimum when one is discussing topics of interest rather than personal stories of abuse.


  16. @lydiasellerofpurple and Cind Surpry. Good specific suggestions on splitting our online life among separate email accounts for the sake of increased safety. It is scary how many info bits and bytes can be quickly connected these days, so what you’re saying is an important part of a practical strategy for making our online presence safer.


  17. @BD. I didn’t start out with any inherent understanding of The World Wide Web or blogging or social media or even email. Can one be a total geek, but, like, not a techno-geek? Voila … moi!

    I started blogging in 2003, and I was so techno-challenged, I think it took me over four months to get it right in creating an embedded link — and that was after multiple times of people showing me! It also took months to figure out basic commenting strategies, and identify what kinds of comments I regretted posting and why.

    And it would be another five years before I started following some spiritual abuse survivor blogs. That turned out to be a significantly different readership group with some very different expectations, and so, more for me to learn by observing the patterns and trying to figure out what did and did not fly with this community, and why. And making more mistakes.

    Anyway, it may have been a year or two before I ever started commenting regularly on survivor blogs, and my most frequent “style” turned out to be read-read-read and then occasionally inject a big-picture comment that attempted to capture the “What?” of larger patterns and trends at work, try to interpret them for their “So what?” factors, and suggest some “Now what?” practical steps. It seemed to benefit other readers when I “externalized” my thinking process so they could see how I got from observations through analysis to conclusions about this or that issue.

    But really, just like every blog purpose is different, as commenters, each of us needs to find our own level and style. And, hopefully, it will be mostly a constructive contribution … whether through humor as stress relief for fellow survivors, or sharing a particular expertise on the many technical kinds of issues that arise, or sharing personal experiences and you-are-not-alone compassion that helps others.


  18. @Cind Supry and Julie Anne. *Trolls.* The word that strikes fear or flames in the hearts of bloggers …!

    I’ve had to deal with a few on my blog and blacklist them because they were so intentionally seductive/destructive, and/or sarcastic/bombastic. To paraphrase the New Testament Scripture, “Some people’s sins are obvious, those of other follow after” (1 Timothy 5:24). Sometimes it takes a few comments to see the trajectory of where people are trying to take themselves and others, and whether that is self-serving and trollishly evil, or just ignorant and immaturely misguided.


  19. Okay, ’nuff writing for the day! I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to follow up so extensively after this. But since I had the time and oomph left today to do so, I did. Thanks for the feedback and encouragement and suggestions, glad this post has been of some help, and hope some others who are qualified to write other kinds of “Safer Blogging 101 and 102” tutorials will get in touch with Julie Anne to offer!


  20. “A lot of us have never suffered spiritual abuse, sure we may have seen it from a distance but that would be the extent of our involvement. I for one would not have thought twice about emailing somebody who left a valid email address, wouldn’t have crossed my mind that there was a problem with it.”

    Great point. Spiritual abuse/control often comes with other types of controlling behavior: physical, mental, emotional, etc. abuse. Wife spanking was the topic just a few days ago. Believe it. Thank God some of us have not suffered these abuses. But we should always be at the ready with utmost compassion & care to help those who have been hurt or are hurting.

    Glad both posts & the many comments have us thinking, JA. Thinking is good.

    We must remember that a commenter may not want to communicate via email. An unsolicited email to them may tip off their abuser & put them in danger.

    Caution is key.


  21. Thanks for the good summary, it helps people feel safer when things are clear. My pseudonyms are mostly linguistic, often from constructed languages rather than real ones. They are all related in some way, though – it helps me keep them straight. I also have about five separate emails that I use for different purposes, but I tend to use my main personal one for commenting.

    I would not be personally alarmed if someone were to contact me on it after I left a comment, but if they continued to do so after I asked them to stop or refused their request then I would definitely feel threatened. And I can see how someone who had less internet and blog experience would find even an initial contact scary, if they didn’t realise the blog owner could see their email address and use it to reply to them privately. If my comment or private email reply was quoted or repurposed into a new post without my prior permission I would consider that a huge violation of trust, though. Maybe that is naive.


  22. This is very good, many thanks to Brad and Julie Anne! I agree with JA, this has been a concrete demonstration of how to check/reassure safety. And especially on the internets, which is a new form of communication and over which the story of the NSA hangs. I will be taking better steps because of it.

    We survivors take a long time to understand what is/isn’t good boundaries. It takes even longer to recognize that good people are sometimes careless of boundaries, both theirs and others. Good people sometimes haven’t considered issues of basic online courtesy (such as not to use email except for emergencies). I don’t think that survivors needs special treatment but they, above all, need to be extended consistent basic courtesy.

    But what has taken me longest to understand is that some survivors don’t get all the way through their traumas. This comes in a couple of forms: remaining somewhat agreeable to others’ abusive tactics or remaining somewhat aggressive towards others. We don’t heal in straight lines and sometimes we don’t heal all the way.

    Over time, when we keep at it faithfully, we become less raw and sensitive and more automatic in a healthy understanding of self/others. Yesterday’s flame-out was a sign of remaining rawness and lack of healing, and that it came mostly from the outside showed me that you, here, are getting on with your healing rather marvelously. I am very glad!


  23. Somewhere in the midst of that very long string of comments I posted last evening, I put forth a suggestion that people with expertise would create tutorials for our community. I still think that is a good idea and hope if some readers out there feel the urge, they will do that. Some of the”safer blogging environment” topics I’d like to know more about include that could help us relationally as a community, and help us maintain an above-board reputation in our content usage.

    * How to “not feed the trolls.” Ways that blog moderators and co-commenters can respond constructively when commenters inject what could be interpreted as malicious material, inflammatory statements or questions, “hijacking the thread,” things like that.

    * Digital identity and maintaining online security. How to set up systems of different email addresses, what other considerations in using multiple addresses and pseudonyms, etc.

    * Copyright issues with words. “Fair use” standards in quoting published material, legal restrictions and ethical guidelines on quoting unpublished material (such as @Kagi just mentioned, from personal emails).

    * Copyright, trademark, and ownership issues with images. Any fair use differences between cutting and pasting words versus using a screenshot of the same material, citation and attribution of sources, legal/ethical uses or misuses of copying images from online sources, copying of commercially licensed images (like from Fotolia or iStock).

    Any takers on doing those tutorials, or links to good sources?


  24. I can remember a certain blogger explaining their blog in this way: It is like you are visiting my backyard. It is open and people can see and hear you and others talking but it is STILL my backyard so be respectful and follow the rules. Yes, it is public but that does not give folks carte blanche who visit. They cannot demand to be heard. Go get your own backyard and invite others in for that. :o)


  25. Chortle? LOL Oh my, Barb – – you-know-who ruined that word for me. It will never be a fun, clean word anymore. It will always be sprinkled with conquer, penetrate and colonize.


  26. my autofill cup underfloweth today.

    That was a snort-worthy comment.

    The world would be a better place if everybody got to experience one Brad-ism a day.


  27. Even if it gets deleted (such as by the blog moderator, or if we contact the blog owner and request it be deleted), that does not guarantee it cannot be seen.

    Case in point, the Schleuter/Driscoll fiasco. I removed comments by request (another very difficult moderator decision). Another blogger, Warren Throckmorton, had already copied the comments and used them in his own post (Throckmorton). Said comment got spread lickety split (spell check is not happy with me) throughout social media within literally minutes. I did my best to protect, but there was not a darn thing I could do.

    What I found very interesting is that not one person except for Throckmorton asked me for the deleted comments or the screenshot. (Throckmorton knew I had a screenshot and kudos for him for asking me directly.) For the record, I refused to give Throckmorton the screenshot and instead advised him to go directly to Schlueter. Isn’t that interesting? This story spread to major media outlets and not even ONE reporter contacted me to validate if the comments that Throckmorton copied were in fact accurate.

    Interesting, huh?


  28. JA, Who ruined “chortle” for you? It is one of my favs! How dareth them.

    That is very interesting about reporters and validating comments.


  29. JA (11:20am), I was wondering what happened with that! I was paying attention that day and I spread it to TWW; I didn’t know that Schleuter was regretting it or I certainly wouldn’t’ve done so. Ach!

    Reporters are under a huge amount of pressure to produce constant stories, but that doesn’t excuse their lack of integrity. No effort in validation shows a lack of care about accuracy and what is journalism without that?! No wonder BS reins supreme in all quarters.


  30. Patrice: For the record, I have never revealed who asked me to remove Schlueter’s comments. When I was asked to remove it and thought through the whole situation, I went into the MO of protect survivors first.

    You had no way of knowing just as I had no way of knowing. Once it was removed from my blog and Twitter feed, the only one who had it was Throckmorton before it spread from him. That’s why it was interesting for me to watch reporter after reporter quote his comment when it was a cut and paste, with no place to track the original. Strange stuff, indeed.

    Lydia: Chortle comes from Doug Wilson. He used it most likely in reference to me (because my article was linked at his site). Do a keyword search for “chortle” and you will find it in the comments:


  31. JA, yes, we can only act on what we know. And as I said then, after having read your posts for quite a while, I trusted your judgment and see no reason to alter it.

    Anyway, perhaps it’s not being correct that is most important, but rather our desire to do the best with what we know, and then following through on that with our most loving effort. It’s a learning curve, being alive.


  32. Hey, JA, The word ‘chortle’ has now become enfolded into the DNA of SSB, for better or for worse. It is a community recognized and affirmed word, slightly more formal than just a written: ‘Hahahaha’! So, bring the ‘chortles’ on!


  33. It’s a learning curve, being alive.

    No kidding!! I have friends who have told me they have seen that I have changed my ways of thinking since they have known me from my early blog days. We are all ever changing as we gain more understanding.


  34. JA, yes, after I became used to the idea, I found it hugely freeing! It makes life an adventure rather than a battle. My own small self slips into her proper place as a flawed but working creature who doesn’t need to maintain correctness in order to be considered ok but who is constantly working towards it with all the love and clarity that can be mustered at the moment.

    This way, I can be wrong and feel sad but not devastated. I can be right and feel delighted but not self-righteous. It’s actually a splendid way to live, IMO. W00t


  35. I made a late comment on the last post which I will copy here since I think it is better for this post. JA already answered it there, but I will leave it here for others to see:

    Not sure if my 2c will help anything here, but I’m unaware that a blogger has access to commenters’ email addresses. I always assumed it was a requirement of the host/platform, and not the blogger. Is this a WordPress thing? I just searched my comments page, and I can’t find commenters’ email addresses anywhere. The only access I have to an email address is if a commenter posts a website link where their email address is purposely given on their own webpage or blogger profile.

    I’ve read blogs for over a decade, blogged for 9 years, tweaked every known setting on my blog, left thousands of comments (many on “enemy” sites), had ultra-sensitive narcissist types use rabbit ears to “hunt me down” and flame me in my comments section, been in all kinds of debates… but I’ve never known anybody to contact me by email as a result of posting a comment on their blog. It would have startled even me. When commenting, and a blog says “your email address will not be shared with anybody”, I’ve always assumed that meant it wouldn’t even be shared with the blogger. Yes, there is the “notify me of additional comments by email” box that I may check, but I was under the impression that it was just a service to commenters available from the host. Am I naive here? Please tell me, and I promise to not be offended. 🙂


    First off I haven’t commented regarding this issue btwn JA and jens gems . But I need to. I would like to start by saying this article gives great advice on how to handle ones’ self online. As a new blogger I neeed to hear it. As a result id like to make a public apology . Privately I did tell mr eston that he scared and intimidated me for asking me to do something he was unwilling but I am able to do, being local. I cc’d Jen so she would be aware. Somehow this got public and JA and SSB is not to blame. I suppose since I’m the one who said those things to him (privately ) that I am to blame and I ask for his forgiveness as well as jens . Mr eston did apologize for scaring me and that should be noted. JA’s arguments go much farther than what am referring to . She had her own things she needed to address. As did others. But if anything I said or did caused any harm I humbly apologize. I’m afraid this whole internet venue is over my head and I just wanted to take a moment to publically apologize if I hurt anyone. This is sincere and genuine though my heart is always deceitful as I am a sinner. I don’t want there to be fighting amongst those who are united in calling out spiritual abuses and I don’t want to contribute to that. JA I’m sorry I didn’t know where else to post this. JA and SSB have never done anything to coerce info from me and from what I know of JA she’s fighting for an amazing cause. Jens gems as well is trying to ferret out truth and hipocracy and I didn’t mean to interfere. Please accept my apologies and let’s move past this so y’all can get to the real work of what you do. I won’t interfere in any way . For those who may be confused I’m referring to jens gems post, Jan 9th at 9:56 a.m. She was referring to what she had thought I had done . JA has nothing to do with my events . I’m my own person and take full responsibility for calling out and hurting mr eston. This grieves me- the entirety of it grieves me. Thank you for taking the time to read this


  37. “And some commenters assume the comment system requires them to use their real name, while others chided them for such childish ignorance.”

    The Calvinists blogs trained them well. The Calvinists bloggers have made it a sin to post anything under a pseudonym (although they do themselves) because they want the ability to go after a person personally if they disagree with Calvinism. They want to know your real name so they can contact your pastor and badmouth you, call your place of work and get you fired. They want to use their vast network of familiars to punish anyone who names the name of Christ without bowing to the devil’s TULIP.

    Personally at times that I’ve had a blog, I haven’t cared. Only disallow anonymous posting because it becomes confusing when you have 10 different anonymouses and you can’t tell if they’re all the same person or not. Most of my experience blogging has been with blogger, and I find it very strange and backward that wordpress allows you to edit people’s comments!!!! So if you go on a hostile wordpress blog using your real name, the owner can edit it and make you say whatever they want and then use it to tarnish your reputation. You can’t do that on blogger; you can just delete or approve, not modify anyone’s comments.


  38. ” When commenting, and a blog says “your email address will not be shared with anybody”, I’ve always assumed that meant it wouldn’t even be shared with the blogger.

    With wordpress the blogger gets your email AND your ip address. With blogger, neither one.


  39. Very helpful post, Brad. I never even thought I needed a Privacy Policy, but after reading what has happened with other blogs–and especially how folks in this community have responded–I just added a Privacy Policy to my site. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, right? I appreciate your efforts with this.


  40. “Yes, there is the “notify me of additional comments by email” box that I may check, but I was under the impression that it was just a service to commenters available from the host. Am I naive here? Please tell me, and I promise to not be offended. :)”

    Steve, You are not naïve, just lucky! David is right about certain YRR/NEo Calvinist blogs. They are serious about going after you. I know. And yes, horrible emails. Rants. One person I had to block as she sent me 25 ranting emails in a row because I disagreed with Calvinism. There are some worse things that have happened but I won’t go into details except they found out where I lived and threatened my children.

    I am sure the Gothardites/IFB guys are just as bad except I have not really interacted in that world.


  41. Thanks for pointing out the fact that this behavior crosses doctrinal lines, Lydia. I was visiting an Arminian blog a while back. There treatment of Calvinists and their views was nothing short of shameful bullying.


  42. Woman for Freedom: you are under God’s grace and he doesn’t condemn you even the littlest bit. There is no shame in his kingdom, including your part in any of this. It’s all grace!


  43. WomanforFreedom:

    I’m glad to know that Eston apologized to you for scaring you. That is good, but as you said, it goes much further than your personal story which is why it needed to be said in the article.

    Jen and Eston seemed to imply that we are fighting the same battle. That is partly true. We agree in many areas, but specifically, the abuses by Doug Phillips and his destructive teachings. However, there are areas where we are clearly not in agreement. Jen seems to support Patriarch Michael Pearl and also patriarchy. I do not endorse patriarchy in any way, shape, or form. I find it destructive and many times abusive to families and especially to women and daughters. I think it is important to note the differences of our blogs and put it on the table, not in an effort to divide, but so that people frequenting them will have complete understand where blog owners are coming from. I think my readers deserve full disclosure of where I stand on these important topics.

    Thank you for sharing. I don’t think you needed to, but if you felt the need to, that’s fine and good. I loved what Tim had to say to you and echo his sentiments of God’s grace for you!


  44. I appreciate the grace given here. Everyone deserves a voice so JA I hope made it clear I wasn’t speaking for you. There are times when God calls us to humble ourselves and for me that seemed the best thing to do given the circumstances . Thank you for the reminder of God’s grace. I hope we all learn to give grace as we have been given . I’m guilty of not doing that for sure. I am Romans 7. Thank you all


  45. @Tim “I was visiting an Arminian blog a while back. There treatment of Calvinists and their views was nothing short of shameful bullying.”

    But Arminianism is just another brand of Calvinism like Kroger brand Fruit Loops is another brand of Fruit Loops, so that’s not surprising. It may use more generic ingredients, but it tastes the same in the end.

    On the issue on bloggers emailing people, the only time I’ve ever been emailed is when my comments are censored. Usually an email demanding that I completely change my comment to be 100% the opposite of what it was before or it won’t be published….as if I care.


  46. “Jen seems to support Patriarch Michael Pearl and also patriarchy.”

    How did you know that, JA? By reading thru posts? Is it on her “About” page?

    I did not know that. It can be quite difficult to figure out who supports what, when you don’t have the time to slosh through post after post, comment after comment. Wish there were an easy way to know which spiritual abuse blogs are for what. ESPECIALLY for victims!!! Yikes!

    For now, I guess the best thing to do before commenting is read, read, read for a long time until you feel comfortable (& as Lydia recommended) & know where the blog owner stands & how they seem to moderate. But I keep thinking there has to be a quicker, easier way…..


  47. A Mom: Here is one comment I found recently on patriarchy:

    Jen said:

    January 10, 2014 at 7:40 pm
    Jay and Clellie, that is a good example of how one can base their convictions upon something very good and very worthwhile, and yet, with just the slightest twist, can turn it into something horrible and ugly. I believe that is what has happened with patriarchy, and probably what happened with this favorite quote that Scott Brown uses.

    As far as Michael Pearl: Jen does identify that there are bad teachings, but she holds on to what works and gives credibility to the good teachings. When it comes to abuse, I don’t think it’s appropriate to give an endorsement to one who encourages abuse of any kind. It is too confusing. It would be like me saying, “But Doug Phillips or Jack Schaap or Chuck O’Neal have a lot of good.”

    The reality is that a lot of these men are abusers because they are wolves in sheeps’ clothing. Of course they have some good which conceals the bad – – that’s how they can carry on their evil for so long. But if we are to protect people, we do not identify the good in a wolf, as the “good” is really veiled evil. You can find Mike Pearl conversation in the comments in this thread.


  48. A Mom (12, 6:55pm) When I first read Jen’s story, I wondered whether she still held to the patriarchal system. I became certain when TW Eston came into her blog “house” and completely changed its spirit and standards. There was no sense of TW entering as a visitor, “these are guest TW’s posts and these are mine”. Instead it was as if he hauled in his own furniture and habits, and she bustled along behind him, acquiescing. When/If he leaves again, the blog will feel empty because it is no longer Jen’s place.

    Jen is a courageous intelligent woman who saw through a huge amount of disorienting garbage. I mourn her inability to take those last steps and reject the system itself, in which women are simply not allowed to have personal boundaries or maintain a continuous sense of self. God made her beautifully and to keep rejecting her self for any guy who comes into her life is sad!

    I hope that she will eventually be able to take those last steps. It is hard to do, I know, but it is truly what God wants from us.



  49. A Mom, I did what you said- I have been reading Jen’s blog for a couple of months now and I can corroborate what Julie Anne has said. Its hard to find because there are hundreds of comments to sort through but she does defend Michael Pearl and she fails to see how his teachings directly lead to abuse. Personally I choose not to comment on Jen’s blog for many reasons. It just does not feel like a safe environment for me at this time.


  50. “As far as Michael Pearl: Jen does identify that there are bad teachings, but she holds on to what works and gives credibility to the good teachings. When it comes to abuse, I don’t think it’s appropriate to give an endorsement to one who encourages abuse of any kind. It is too confusing. It would be like me saying, “But Doug Phillips or Jack Schaap or Chuck O’Neal have a lot of good.”

    I totally agree. All it does is enable evil done to others. I won’t waste my time looking for “good” in those who teach abusvie doctrines or spirtually abuse others. What is the point? (I know, I know sounds mean but thesse guys are pastors and set themselves up as “spiritual leaders”)

    There is nothing good about Patriarchy. It is a result of sin and some want to teach this sin as virtue. Or parts of it as virtue.


  51. Does believing in some of the teachings of Pearl make someone a believer in patriarchy? I don’t see the connection. (And I’m no fan of Pearl.)

    All bloggers and commenters are not necessarily set in their beliefs. Many seem to be searching and in a process of refining what they believe and sorting through what they have been taught. It’s my opinion that Christians should all be doing this — being Bereans.

    We could just as easily question the safety of reading at a certain blog because the abused might feel unsafe and be harmed encountering some of the theology that is taught on a thread there. In fact, I believe some commenters quit reading and commenting there because of an issue they had with such theology. I think it is a wise choice to avoid something that causes you great angst until a time comes (if it comes) when you can be there without angst. If peope don’t want to read a certain blog or disagree with something said or done at that blog they can “say so” and/or not interact there. Obviously, blog owners will moderate as they choose as well.

    We are all at different places and in process . . . a good thing to remember as we interact with each other.


  52. Does believing in some of the teachings of Pearl make someone a believer in patriarchy? I don’t see the connection. (And I’m no fan of Pearl.)

    Of course not. Like I said earlier, spiritual wolves have a lot of truth mixed in with the bad stuff. I’m sure all of us could find a good teaching from Driscoll, Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Jack Schaap, etc. You have to sift through it. But to endorse/give credibility to a wolf? Nope, as owner of a survivor blog, I cannot go there.

    And for the record, I’ve read a lot of Pearl’s books, subscribed to their newsletter for years, and went to several of their conferences. I have seen them in action, watched Debi in how she interacts with Mike. So, no, I won’t be mentioning anything positive about the Pearl’s here because I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I support them, their discipline methods, the Patriarchy, etc.


  53. JA –

    Many blog owners have been abused spiritually and are still processing themselves. You seem to know alot about the Pearl’s teachings. Have you done an article regarding the Pearl’s teachings and the falacies you see in it? You could point people to that article or write about it. It could be very eye opening for people coming out of certain environments. It seems like many people are beginning to opening their eyes in the wake the DP/VF exposures.


  54. I probably could. Sadly, I threw away almost all of their materials. I now wish I had kept it. It’s so important to have source documentation, so I probably wouldn’t do an article about them without it. Anyone have any Pearl stuff they want to send me? LOL


  55. Julie Anne, do you suppose it would be possible to stop lying about me here? You are welcome to ask me questions, especially at my blog, but I am getting a little tired of all your lies about me. Thanks.


  56. January 10, 2014 at 7:40 pm
    Jay and Clellie, that is a good example of how one can base their convictions upon something very good and very worthwhile, and yet, with just the slightest twist, can turn it into something horrible and ugly. I believe that is what has happened with patriarchy, and probably what happened with this favorite quote that Scott Brown uses.

    So, this statement from JG is confusing to me and I’m not sure what exactly was meant by it. I thought this when I first read it at that site. I wasn’t sure if she meant patriarchy isn’t the issue — it is a subtle twisting of scripture that took patriarchy in the wrong direction that is the issue. Or, if she meant that a subtle twisting of scripture introduced patriarchy and patriarchy itself is wrong.

    I have not dialogued with Jen at all about this so I still don’t know what she meant. From my own recollection, she did mention that she was going to do some articles on some of these issues in the future. I wasn’t needing to know what she meant immediately, so I was fine with waiting to read what she had to say. I figured her views would be made clear. As far as the comment about Scott Brown’s quote is concerned, I’m clueless. I didn’t go try to find it.

    As far as the comment being confusing, I don’t say that to place blame anywhere. It seems to me that the blogesphere is prone to all of us writing comments that aren’t always clear. I always appreciate people asking for clarification.

    I realize we could have as many interpretations of the above comment as people reading here 😉


  57. @Bridget. Speaking to the general problem of communication online, rather than the specific comment you raised, my training and experience have reinforced just how difficult writing clearly can be. (My formal training is in linguistics and teaching English as a second language, and I have also been an editor for over 30 years — everything from poems and popular-level books, to theological articles and Ph.D. dissertations.)

    Beyond just writing clearly, blogging and tweeting have added problems that make it difficult for truly “digital dialoguing.” Namely, words on paper (or in this case, e-paper) do not convey as much information as we would pick up if we were actually sitting down for a face-to-face conversation with someone. If I remember correctly, there is a “60/40 rule” about this. When the content of words spoken is ambiguous, only 40% of the meaning comes from the words themselves and 60% comes from other elements in the context — tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. These give cues and clues as the emotion and emphasis that simply don’t come across from the words themselves. So, those are missing from blog threads. We make up for that lack by (1) making lots of mistakes in figuring out what someone means, and (2) taking time to ask more questions and write more comments as we attempt to clarify what was actually being said and meant.

    Things can get even messier when we add to those considerations the kinds of source materials woven into written statements. Even if the writing is clear as to general meaning, that doesn’t always answer a set of specific questions. We have to reflect, consider, and discern:

    * Is this a documentable statement of fact, or is it a personal opinion?

    * Is the information from a primary source (i.e., a document, photograph, recording, etc. of a first-hand account by an eye witness), or from a secondary source (as-told-to, hearsay information, summary of what some else saw, heard, or did)?

    So, there is as much effort that needs to go into accurate reading (and listening) as there is for accurate writing (and speaking). It’s part of what makes learning and discerning so very important — especially in parsing the possibilities in what people seem to be saying when they blog and/or comment online. Meanings can get twisted quickly — whether intentional or not — because we’re working with less information than in conversations.


  58. Brad/Furturistguy –

    🙂 I get what you’re saying. Communicating clearly is challenging. There are so many variables that play into even two people hearing and understanding each other, it can boggle the mind. I know this just from my own marriage of 26 years. Hubby and I are still working on that one! You’d think we’d have it all figured out by now — not so much though.


  59. JA, On your Jan12, 7:59 comment:
    Thank you for clarifying. I found it very helpful. Hopefully others found it helpful as well.


  60. “When it comes to abuse, I don’t think it’s appropriate to give an endorsement to one who encourages abuse of any kind. It is too confusing. It would be like me saying, “But Doug Phillips or Jack Schaap or Chuck O’Neal have a lot of good.” ”

    100% agree. Rarely is there someone who does no good action at all. Mafia bosses, for instance, may be kind to their children. Does that make their agenda good?

    You can also apply that to certain theology. For instance, patriarchy, comp, wife spanking, gender inequality, racism, etc. are wrong even though the Bible is twisted by some to support these beliefs. AND there are individuals who practice each one that do much good for their neighbors, kids, parents, etc. So does that make the belief right (or the person right?), just because some of the people who believe may be a little nice or very nice?


  61. Thank you, Brad. Online communication can be rather complex, especially when you don’t know the other person in real life. Thanks for a really good reminder. We should be very careful to ask questions of clarification rather than jump to conclusions, and we should always clarify privately first before posting public articles. Good words.


  62. Glad this piece was of some help, Jen. Some thoughts on various parts of what you noted …

    1. The more experiences I have in all kinds of cross-cultural communicating, the more I’m convinced that making ourselves understood is just plain hard, even in person. Then the online environment amplifies some of those everyday problems, because we’re missing the usual vocal and visual cues we rely on for meaning. And then, clear and constructive interaction is made even more complex for those of us in the spiritual abuse survivors’ community, because we’re dealing online, publicly, with situations and issues we’re passionate about.

    So, I’d hoped this piece would suggest more transparent structures for all of us in the spiritual abuse survivors blogging community to consider, to help make it safer in the future by perhaps preventing problems instead of intervening when blow-ups need to be defused. I’ve been gradually working on a book for nearly seven years now, on how to create “safe houses for God’s people,” i.e., hospitable not hostile environments that include both virtual/online and IRL/local churches and ministries. So these are topics close to the core of what I’ve been writing about.

    2. As a research writer/blogger, and a historian and archivist for several non-profits, I’ve long been aware of how important it is to do our research as carefully as we can. The most daunting research/analysis article I ever posted was on the spiritual abuses of leaders in the so-called “Lakeland Outpouring.” It took me about 40 hours to document, write, edit, and check. And creating the facts-and-analysis archive on the BGBC defamation lawsuit took 300+ hours over a one-year period.

    These both represented a lot of processing that involved the kinds of techniques and questions I mentioned in this guest post. It takes investment of time and thinking to figure out the relevant pieces, consider the overall contours of the issues, and reflect in order to come to tentative conclusions. Perhaps hardest is to hold conclusions lightly, not tightly, as we absorb ever more information and make adjustments to how we interpret situations.

    3. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the last thing you mentioned, about always clarifying privately before posting publicly. I don’t know if the last part of your comment was intended as commentary on the recent SSB post dealing with your blog and calling out T.W. Eston specifically, but the issue of private vs. public is very relevant to online communications generally, and I have some thoughts on it.

    While I agree that those kinds of private, behind-the-scenes conversations are *generally* the best thing to do when there are problems, I’m not sure I agree with the *always* part, because I don’t think it’s the only principle in play. It seems to me there are a number of different patterns about private vs. public that show up in the New Testament for dealing with disputes. (And with our reading of Scripture, again, here we face information in words only and don’t know the tone of voice or facial expressions or body language displayed, but we do at least know about the context.)

    Sometimes Jesus talks with people one-to-one to challenge or correct them, sometimes He calls out a lead disciple in front of others when they blow it, sometimes He challenges or rebukes publicly a group who are leaders among the people when their behavior misleads or harms other.

    Similarly in Acts and the epistles, sometimes we see the apostles requesting publicly for people to settle their differences, sometimes they call out leaders and teachers for faulty actions or flawed teachings, sometimes their rebukes differ depending on whether the perpetrator of harm is a true or a false Christian.

    I’m mindful of the weight of words, in light of James 3, especially verses 1-2. To paraphrase, “Don’t be in such a rush to be a teacher, because you deservedly incur stronger judgment because of what you say.” And, in my opinion, part of the communication context changes radically with our online situation when we choose to be bloggers and commenters. We enter a realm where we are no longer merely a private citizen of the Kingdom; we’ve become a public person whose words lead others. So, isn’t that putting ourselves into another category – public teaching/leading — where additional/other patterns and principles apply when it comes to challenging how we carry out our responsibilities?

    Also, regardless of whether we post under our own name or a pseudonym, every blog article and/or comment we write adds permanent information to an ever-increasing, non-erasable profile of what we are passionate and opinionated about, what we think about ourselves, how we tend to treat others. Cautious readers will be watching, too, for how open we are to changing over time those things that need to change, and how firm we stand on things that should not change — that’s part of how they figure out how trustworthy we are. We keep adding to a body of information from which our readers keep drawing and revising their conclusions. If we didn’t take our influence seriously, I doubt we’d still be blogging. If readers didn’t trust our influence, despite our flaws, they’d stop reading what we say.

    Bringing this all back to the past few post threads on Julie Anne’s blog and your blog, Jen, I am very aware that they’ve drawn forth a lot of unpleasantness. Hopefully, all of us who are survivor bloggers and commenters can learn beyond this how to become better in allowing one another to make our mistakes and to grow from them. Graciousness and generosity take effort to cultivate, and I hope we can all see past the fuzziness of any given “snapshot” of where someone is at, in light of the “video” of where they are going. And though all of us start from different places in our spiritual journey with Jesus, may we see our trajectories toward Him converge in greater Christlikeness over time …

    4. Wow. That was long. But then, I think in big chunks of information, so there it is, FWIW.


  63. Brad, thank you for a well-reasoned and logical reply. I have never corresponded with you, so I left you only a short comment above, not knowing much about you and what to expect in return. I was pleasantly surprised!

    Regarding doing research for blog articles (or other forms of communication), we understand all too well how much time and effort should go into a well-researched article. TW and I spend far more time researching than anything else. We have many miscellaneous pieces of information that we would really like to relay, but there are still too many missing puzzle pieces, so we continue to research so that we can bring the most accurate information to light. Sometimes that means we wait, a long time, before sharing what we know. Sometimes we never share certain things because, even though they are true, it would do more harm than good, in the overall picture.

    In other words, as bloggers, you are correct: we do have a responsibility to be careful what we share publicly.

    Regarding my statement about always clarifying privately before posting publicly, yes, I was indeed referring to your last post you co-authored with Julie Anne. I was also referring to my own practices as a blogger. There are many people who contact us with bits and pieces of information. Some of it does not need verification (a public picture, or an old blog post written first person, or a public teaching, for example), but much of it does need more than one witness, or further clarification. We actually get tons of that info. And we do not go public with that until we have confirmed it. And in this case, we are writing about a particular public person, so that is where our focus is.

    Regarding the situation here, if the reverse had happened, this is how I would have handled it. Let’s say that you, Brad, and Julie Anne wrote here regularly. I don’t know the specifics of how this whole thing started, but for argument’s sake, let’s say that someone who reads BOTH our blogs writes to me and forwards me an email from a friend who also reads both our blogs. So far, so good. But then I see that the email is a private conversation between Julie Anne and Commenter A. Commenter B sends me this email with some type of commentary on it, which appears to me that both Commenter A and Commenter B are talking about Julie Anne and telling me something about her that they do not agree with.

    At this point, since I have nothing to do with Julie Anne’s blog, I would immediately write to Commenter B and ask them if Commenter A has taken this up with Julie Anne and attempted to resolve this issue. I would probably also tell Commenter B that this is a situation between Julie Anne and Commenter A and that it should be handled at that level. If they could not resolve it, Commenter A and Julie Anne were welcome to go to one or two other people, together, for help.

    If the situation escalated at that point, I would contact Julie Anne and inform her of the situation. Then I would leave it at that. If Julie Anne asked for my help in resolving the situation, I would be glad to help. But under no circumstances can I see where I would ever have reason to write about Julie Anne on my blog, especially if I had not done everything in my power to resolve this privately first.

    This is simply not the mission of either one of our blogs.

    When I first told my story, there were several blogs set up for the purpose of attacking me. That’s fine. That was their sole purpose. I don’t expect to find that here. We have a similar mission. Let’s work together instead. I think the Lord would be much more glorified in that.

    So, Brad, after all that, I do feel the need to ask you: If you had it to do all over again, considering that you seem to be very level-headed, would you handle this situation any differently?


  64. Jen:

    I made a judgment call in not contacting you privately and it is very clear that my choice was a sound one. This is exactly what would have happened had I contacted you privately – the bantering back and forth, getting nowhere.

    You have accused me of defamation, slander, and repeatedly called me a liar on my blog AND your blog, yet you don’t provide quotes to prove it. Funny thing, I only quoted you and linked to your own conversation, so it can’t be me lying.

    I am very thankful for Brad’s article. It was very good to let my readers know (many of whom are interested in the Phillips story) that you and Eston may contact them privately via e-mail if they comment there. It is clear from the comments on the article that many would have been surprised to receive an unsolicited e-mail from a blogger. It was also good to discuss how some people have said “no” regarding repeated requests by Eston and “no” has not been respected. That goes into the “bully” category for me and needed to be identified.

    The other issue that confirmed for me that it would have been a waste of my time to go privately to you is this: your own readers on your blog have alerted you to the behavior of Eston. My readers and I have also alerted you. Instead of addressing those concerns appropriately, you defended Eston, thereby dismissing your own readers’ feelings and concerns. If you refuse to deal with these concerns when brought to you at a public level, you certainly weren’t/aren’t going to do anything about it privately.

    Brad’s blog post was important and necessary and until you choose to deal with those real issues, you are not welcome to disrupt my blog by complaining about going to you privately. That issue is done – you’ve already demonstrated your lack of sensitivity to multiple people publicly, there was no need to test that out privately. I value my time.

    Brad, no need to reply to Jen. I am the one who read your article and gave the ok to publish. Your article was good.


  65. “It was very good to let my readers know (many of whom are interested in the Phillips story) that you and Eston may contact them privately via e-mail if they comment there. It is clear from the comments on the article that many would have been surprised to receive an unsolicited e-mail from a blogger.”

    Absolutely it was very good. But it’s not about being surprised. Most important, there are commenters out there who would be in unnecessary danger if contacted. Who’s to say any one commenter is not enduring abuse (spouse/parent/etc.) & the abuser doesn’t have access to their email? This behavior is just unacceptable by an abuse blog, IMO. And this breach can be repaired if a blog will post a statement & promise to cut unrequested email contact out. And it needs to stop if victims are the point, IMO.

    To shift focus on how or way it’s brought up is tragic. The focus needs to remain on an action that has potential to cause damage to someone. The point is unrequested email contact with commenters on abuse blogs may cause harm.

    I know my comment is blunt. I may sound like a broken record at this point, but I don’t care. Bring on the push-back, I’m a big girl. I care about the hurting more.


  66. Readers:

    I decided to read through all of Jen’s comments because I wanted to see if she addressed any of the key issues that I am concerned with, namely the safety and protection of survivors. Interestingly, even though survivors has been my primary focus in my conversations with her, the focus in her comments has not. I have posted the links to all of Jen’s comments so you can see for yourself (starting from oldest to most recent).

    Jen’s Gems is a great place to go to get information on Doug Phillips/Vision Forum, etc, but it should not be called a survivor blog. We need to be clear on that distinction.

    Comment 1
    Comment 2
    Comment 3
    Comment 4
    Comment 5
    Comment 6
    Comment 7


  67. “Jen’s Gems is a great place to go to get information on Doug Phillips/Vision Forum, etc, but it should not be called a survivor blog. We need to be clear on that distinction.”

    Thanks for the distinction. All the while, it is not a stretch to think hurting (the surviving) lurk AND comment at ANY blog where abuse is a regular topic.

    This has been discussed as a spiritual issue. How one approaches the other in a Biblical way, etc. But it goes beyond that.

    The decision to initiate unrequested email contact with commenters on a blog where posts topics regularly reference abuse has ethical / moral implications as well, IMO.

    And this ethical / moral issue is a reality for ALL blogs where the main topic is abuse (physical, mental, spiritual, etc.). Please understand, I’m not singling out Jen’s Gems. I am troubled by the potential for tragic outcomes resulting from unrequested email contact with commenters on ANY blog that discusses abuse. Is anyone else concerned?

    This discussion has been an eye-opener, to say the least.


  68. A Mom,

    I appreciate your comments and especially your concern for survivors who are sometimes vulnerable.

    BTW, sorry about your comments getting stuck in moderation. You must be using keyword(s) that are sending them to the moderation pile. I’ll try to fix that.


  69. “I made a judgment call in not contacting you privately and it is very clear that my choice was a sound one. This is exactly what would have happened had I contacted you privately – the bantering back and forth, getting nowhere.”

    JA, I agree with you. For those who have been through spiritually abusive situations what is the one thing the spiritual abuser insisted upon throughout the relationship (or whatever you call it)? Private communication.

    The one thing they need to control the most is any negative communication being public. That is their biggest fear. It leaves them without a good grasp on damage control. That is why negatives truths or disagreements are seen as gossip, not Matthew 18, etc, etc.

    I am not saying this situation is about spiritual abuse but people have red flags so when someone laser focuses in on “you should have contacted me privately”, lectures you on this like a child and makes it the centerpiece of the situation, I think there is a waving red flag to consider.

    I still have people from the old days when I was in league with the seeker mega spiritual abusers who contact me and say, ‘call me” I have something to tell you. I always tell them to email it. Why? Because if they are still in that system or playing footsie with it, pretending it is normal, I don’t trust them and if they won’t put it in an email, not sure I want to know anyway. Some say that is not right but these are not folks who are being spiritually abused. They are folks who know how things operate and stay there pretending it is normal.

    My view is that if more communication were open, there would be less spiritual abuse. Sunlight is the best disinfectent for this stuff. And it is not a good thing to use or put pressure on others to bring down a tyrant.


  70. I am not saying this situation is about spiritual abuse but people have red flags so when someone laser focuses in on “you should have contacted me privately”, lectures you on this like a child and makes it the centerpiece of the situation, I think there is a waving red flag to consider.

    Good point, Lydia. If I was treated like a child publicly, one can only imagine what would happen in a private conversation.

    I am convinced that in this case, having a private conversation would have gone nowhere.


  71. “The one thing they need to control the most is any negative communication being public. That is their biggest fear. It leaves them without a good grasp on damage control.”

    It is a red flag. A while ago, I made a comment, but something about it nagged me afterwards so I thought about it & realized what was wrong. I made a follow up comment as soon as I realized it to it saying what was wrong.

    I didn’t ask JA to edit it for me. I made a mistake & needed to own up to it, grow & not do it again. It was made publicly & needed to be corrected publicly.

    I have a hard time understanding anger at being corrected. Isn’t correction what we should be doing first for ourselves & then helping others? Iron sharpens iron? Don’t we want to be sharp? Learning is a life-long process & I hope to continue.

    Proverbs is full of instruction. Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof (correction) is stupid (yikes). Hebrews 12 also talks about correction. I happen to believe these verses. I want to do my best to live by them as well.

    Although correction may be humbling, if we are already somewhat humble it won’t be catastrophic. 😉 Life will go on, learning will have occurred. I get nervous around people in a public forum (and in private) who bristle at being corrected, challenged or questioned….


  72. Dear Julie Anne,

    This will be my last word on this subject, unless you would like to discuss it further privately.

    Yes, this was a private conversation, welcomed by all, that resulted in miscommunication. That happens — in real life and electronically. This private conversation between TW and a commenter was completely cleared up by 1:46 pm on January 7. All was good between all of us. Why is that important? Because you posted your public article about a private conversation between people having nothing to do with you several hours later. Yes, I find that pretty much wrong.

    Thank you for writing an article about people living in fear. I am deeply grieved in my spirit that so many people live in fear of an email arriving in their inbox. That level of fear does not come from God. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. I pray that those who are living in fear, any kind of fear, and especially fear that is a result of being abused, would run to God for healing. My Bible tells me that perfect love casts out all fear. What is that perfect love? God. God = LOVE (I Jn. 4:8). When we allow ourselves to be wrapped in the love of God, our fears will dissipate and disappear.

    As a blogger who desires to support those who have been abused, I would encourage you not to foster those fears, but to teach them the love of Jesus instead. It is not natural to be afraid of receiving an email from someone you have already interacted with, especially if that person really cares about you. I care about all my commenters. I love them all and want only what is best for them, but I will not mollycoddle them to remain trapped in their own minds either. I pray that God would free those living in fear, as they come to truly know the love of Jesus.

    Blessings to you,


  73. Jen said:

    Dear Julie Anne,

    This will be my last word on this subject, unless you would like to discuss it further privately.

    Jen, you and I have never had any private conversations. There is no reason to do so now when our relationship has only been public.

    Yes, this was a private conversation, welcomed by all, that resulted in miscommunication. That happens — in real life and electronically. This private conversation between TW and a commenter was completely cleared up by 1:46 pm on January 7. All was good between all of us.

    Evidently all was not good between you, Eston, and W4F or else I would not have been notified. However, you are speaking about a situation with W4F, but my article was about much more than that. I notice once again that you are not willing to even touch the subject of how Eston has treated people – – the very subject that your own readers have brought to your attention. Your silence is speaking volumes, Jen, it is not going unnoticed.

    Regarding the perfect love casts out fear and fostering fears, I will be using those 2 paragraphs for a new blog post to discuss. I have concerns about the way you expressed those comments and hope you will spend some time reading the comments. My readers are sharp when it comes to abuse. I understand you are strongly against me for posting Brad’s article. I get that. However, when seeing something that could cause harm by a practice or belief, it is good to discuss it. That is what we do here. You’ll notice that although I did link to your comment in the new article as a measure of full disclosure, I did not name your blog’s name, nor your name.


  74. I almost fell off my chair. You have got to be kidding me, right? With blessings as the cherry to top it all off & make it okay? The context of my concern is the danger an unsolicited email may pose to a commenter experiencing abuse while commenting on a blog which discusses abuse on a regular basis (their abuser parent/spouse/etc. may have access to their emails with hell to pay). Frankly, I am horrified at this response from a blogger who discusses abuse on a regular basis. I am interested to know Jeff Crippen or Barbara Roberts’ thoughts on this one.

    There is a MUCH bigger problem here than private vs public, communication vs miscommunication, etc.


  75. How very rude. How rude to be condescending to survivors and victims who live every day with the terror that their abuser will ____ and something like and email could absolutely put a victim in danger. How rude and ugly to suggest that a victim is wrong or sinful for using sense that God gave her to have caution about her inbox. Anyone who would not respect a boundary and accuse a boundary setter of living in a sinful state of fear is an abuser.

    Any DV shelter will tell a victim to be careful about these things. I was at a shelter yesterday where I witnessed a victim seeking help, but she was so nervous because her abuser was in the car waiting on her. She had to give him a cover story so he wouldn’t KNOW SHE WAS GETTING HELP. The shelter helped her by giving her food and a cover story.

    Unbelievable that anyone would accuse like that. Wrong, wrong, wrong.


  76. Jesus said the greatest command is to love God, ourselves & others like we love ourselves.

    I don’t think she realizes it, but her words in her statement were very unloving towards herself…. Ouch. I hope she eventually realizes she can decide to do better at loving herself & others & God.


  77. 1 John 4:17-18 means that God’s perfect love of you combined with your perfect love of him casts out fear of condemnation in the day of judgement. It doesn’t mean if I love God I have absolutely nothing to fear in this world. To suggest that is to suggest the same thing as Satan did when he told Jesus to jump off the Temple citing Psalm 91:11-12 as proof that it would be safe.


  78. davidbrainerd2, Should we fearlessly cross the street without looking? It’s all in God’s hands? We are BUBBLE-wrapped in the love of God? 😉

    Sounds like faith in determinism/fate teaching to me.


  79. Ann left a comment on another thread and I am going to respond to it here because it fits better under this discussion thread.

    Ann said:

    JA, I have followed your blog and respect all of the good work you do to expose spiritual abuse. I hope that many are able to find freedom and comfort in this supportive community. I have dealt with other types of abuse which taught me to follow no man. I have also learned you can not get all your needs met by one person-you will only be disappointed! However, I do have one concern, but do not want to add fuel to the fire. There are many different blogs that work toward the same end-calling out spiritual abuse. People make mistakes and disappoint each other. I am confused about this second post about another blogger. I hate to see your blog lose it’s focus-Spiritual leaders who are abusive and the terrible fallout. It seems to me that both you and Jen have experienced heinous abuse from despicable men. You both carry that wound. And you both are using your woundedness to reach out to others. I respect both of you for the sacrifices you make to help others. These and other blogs are lifelines to those who are drowning. Thank you and I hope my intentions aren’t hurtful.

    Ann, I hear you and share your concern. It is an awkward situation, but I need to show that my actions speak what my words say. When I see the mishandling, public and private of readers (and when I had a similar personal experience), we have an identified pattern of behavior that must be addressed publicly.

    No one wants to deal with conflict and that is how so many abuse cases get covered up because people are afraid to talk about them for fear that it makes a mess. Well, it is already a mess – – people are getting hurt, so it needs to be put on the table.

    The behavior that has been brought to the attention of the blog owner multiple times has not been addressed publicly and that is the same kind of behavior we see in abusive environments: denial, defensiveness, changing subjects, ignoring, etc.

    The site I believe has a lot of good information and has a lot of understanding of the whole Phillips abuse system, but it is not yet a safe place for survivors to get help. This post and the comments explains only one example why it is not safe:


  80. Thank you for your response. I have assumed there must be more to it that was unspoken. Keep up the good work!


  81. I’m sorry I have not read every post on this thread since I last visited. I did skim over the comment by the lady.

    I have been cyber stalked before, and it is freaking creepy as all get out.

    When the lady says it should not cause a lot of fear to get an email from a blogger whose blog you’ve posted to before…

    I’m not even sure (for me) it’s “fear” per se, so much as feeling creeped out by it. It also depends.

    I had one guy follow me around from blog to blog, forum to forum, and other sites for over a year. He got one of my e mail addresses after I posted to a blog where he is a contributor, and they require e mail addresses to post.

    He then began e-mailing me at the address I used to sign up and kept on following me around other sites. He did all this even though I kindly asked him a few times to take it down a notch.

    Hearing from a blogger whose blog you’ve visited and given an e mail address to, and then they e mail you later, it’s like if a police officer pulls you over and asks for your driver’s license.

    The policeman then has your name and home address.

    Yes, he has a right to ask for that information (I guess), but how would you feel if this same cop visits you at your house two weeks later just to say hello, or bring you flowers, or whatever? Him having initial rights to your contact information doesn’t necessarily make it okay for him to use it to contact you later, unexpectedly.


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