Dealing with the Cyber-Inquisitors



A year or so ago, I posted something about the weird habit people have of “calling you out in love” – and how anti-phenomenological the whole thing is.

Well, no one ever calls me out on the internet anymore, I guess because they figure I’m a lost cause and bound for hell no matter what.  At first I thought it was that the online community was developing a sense of decorum, but that was wishful thinking. Apparently it’s still happening, just not to me. 

Of course, cyberbullying is a problem that extends far beyond religious groups, but it’s particularly troubling in the context of (supposedly) Christian conversation, because it seems a trifle oxymoronic to give oneself carte blanche to be unChristlike for the sake of Christ.  I understand impulses to meanness, wrath, mockery, sarcasm, and general shittiness, because I succumb to them all the time. But meanness for Jesus? Really?

Christ walked among us, the divine incarnate, all-good and all-knowing, and tolerated us in our stupidity. Considering the astonishing rarity with which he lashed out ever, at anyone, I would think that we who claim to follow him would hesitate before justifying our snark by saying it’s “for Jesus” – or “for the Church” or “for the truth” or (best of all) “to save your soul.”  Because, honestly, we’re not winning any hearts that way. If you want to be nasty, have at it – just don’t try to put the blame on God.

Like I said, no one bothers me much these days, but in case you HAVE been the fortunate target of the online inquisition and their metaphorical torture implements (for the good of your soul, heathen!) – here is a form letter you can use for response. Fill in the blanks according to your situation in life. You may fill in with as many answers as are relevant.


Dear  _________________________________

Thank you for your repeated attempts to save me from the hellfire of ______________ (modernism / fraternizing with homosexuals / feminism  / sharing articles from Huffington Post / worrying about the environment / swearing / looking too hot in my profile picture / not thinking capitalism is the bee’s knees /  liking Pope Francis /  etc). I appreciate your sincerity but must in honesty remind you that, according to the theology you and I both share, you cannot save me. Only Jesus can. Considering that you have failed to represent with accuracy this hugely important piece of dogma, you are not entitled to be an online inquisitor.

Furthermore, you have indicated yet another heretical bent, precisely in the nature of your concerns. Since we have been acquainted, I have had occasion to post a number of details about my life, including: _________________ (my child’s illness / the loss of my job / financial worries / flooding basements / gun violence / an auto accident / toenail fungus / the bubonic plague / etc). While you have never yet commented on any of these difficulties, or offered to assist me or my family in any way, you repeatedly call me out for the ideological  offense(s) noted above. This leads me to believe that you do not recognize the intrinsic and objective goodness of the material world that God created, and subscribe to some pernicious neo-Platonism, perhaps even of a Manichean or Albigensian bent, believing only the soul to be truly important. For this reason, also, I regret to inform you that you are not qualified to fill the role of online inquisitor.

In case you happen to be sincere when you state that you are genuinely concerned for my soul, thank you. However, before you begin the arduous  task of fixing me, I suggest that you embark on a rigorous journey of study with a variety of fully qualified theologians and catechists, as well as sign up for a few classes on logic, rhetoric, and ethics. And maybe get thee to a psychiatrist while you’re at it. Thinking you’re Jesus not only is bad theology; it’s not healthy.

I’m not actually telling you this because of my deep Christlike love for you. I’m telling you this because you’re annoying and I’m not virtuous enough to be completely charitable about it. But God loves you, you asshat, all the same.

Pax et bonum,



About Rebecca Bratten Weiss

When I'm feeling optimistic about my life, I call myself a Renaissance woman; when I'm being realistic, though, I have to confess that I am no Pico della Mirandola girding my robes to debate the luminaries of the day, but rather an easily-distracted post-modern pro-life feminist environmentalist farmer and teacher, with too many theories and not enough discipline. Maybe that's okay, though: I've come to discover that academic rigor sometimes leaves no space for the kind of conversations in which philosophy really "happens." Or maybe this is just my excuse for preferring lively dialogue with friends over the drudgery of scholarship. Since I am busy raising a family and working several odd jobs, I don't have the time I need for genuine scholarship, anyway, but that doesn't mean philosophy takes a back seat or waits for me to get done with this phase of my life. Philosophy is at the heart of life. To be a thinking, questioning, valuing, doubting, believing, bodily creature - that's what it means to be human, after all. I have an eclectic religious background (Jewish, Evangelical Protestant, Catholic) - so, while I am now a practicing Roman Catholic I find myself more interested in building bridges of understanding with people from a variety of faith traditions, than in worrying about apologetics. I am fascinated by the different processes by which people try to figure it all out, this struggle called life. I am also fascinated by the ability of so many to ignore the struggle, to silence the conflicts of the human heart, whether by turning away from the "ultimate questions" - or by forcing overly easy answers to these questions. When it comes to matters of faith, I have moments of Nietzschean agnosticism, and moments of neo-classical Deism, and moments when I believe that beyond all the veils that lie across the faces of reality, there is a being who not only created the world and set things ticking, but also loves us. These moments of religious certainty are born not out of rationalism, nor any gifts of mystical insight, but just out of my stubborn existentialist refusal to think of a universe in which any person can live and die utterly unloved. That's why I have stuck it out with Christianity, fundamentally: the compelling image of a God who loved us so much he'd rather come down and walk among us in the mess and murk of human life and death than coerce us into perfection. If it weren't for this image of Jesus - if it were just the institution and the rituals and the apologetics and the authorities, I'd just say "to hell with it" and be a Zoroastrian.
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