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I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now, and most of the comments I get are engaging–whether pro or con–and it’s been great fun and I’ve learned much from many of you.

But over the past year, mainly since my book The Evolution of Adam came out, I’ve seen an increase in comments that leave me wondering whether having an internet connection should be as closely regulated as becoming a foster parent.

So, for this next year, as you comment on my posts, please try to keep the following helpful hints in mind.

1. I hesitate saying this because it takes all the fun out of it, but blog posts are editorials, i.e., opinion pieces, meant to provoke conversation and stimulate minds. My thinking and experience fuel these posts, of course, and I stick by them, but they are also works in progress, not final “here I stand” moments. That’s why I allow comments.

2. Blog titles capture the emotive thrust of blog posts; they are not literal distillations of blog content. For example, in a recent post, “The Bible is a Smelly, Gross, Pile of Rotting Garbage,”–and again, I am concerned that for some this even needs to be said–I do not mean that the Bible is actually smelly, etc.

Likewise, take the title of this post. I am not actually suggesting that some of my commenters are criminally insane.  In other words, don’t judge a post by its title. Read the post itself.

3. I value strong opinions, pro or con, but try not to do so with an air of impatient exasperation at how someone can be so stunningly stupid as to say this or that. Don’t assume that your point of view is the self-evidently unassailable starting point for further deliberation.

You’ll know if you’re headed in that direction when, for example, you start prooftexting (as if no one has seen these verses before), you present your denomination’s theology as an obvious reflection of pure Christianity and the mind of God, or when you presume to know the state of my soul, that I am a tool of Satan, or that I am certainly headed for hell.

4. Like most people, I have a good feel for when I am being baited into an argument and I hope enough sense to not take the bait. Such comments are normally passive-aggressive or overtly hostile. Sometimes it’s good to let things cool down a bit and think twice about posting what you composed in the heat of the moment. The Bible calls that wisdom.

5. On a related matter, comments that evince dysfunctional and disruptive methods of communication (i.e., are super rude) may help you release some pent up psychological pressure but insults never ever have a persuasive impact.

My posts or comments left by others are not the cause of your dysfunctional response. No one is “making” you react the way you do. That comes from inside of you and you need to deal with that some other way.

6. Don’t take yourself so seriously.  A little humor is a good thing, even when –especially when–we are discussing topics like God that have been occupying thoughtful and faithful people for centuries and millennia.

The sun does not rise or set on how you, me, or anyone else sees the world. We are all pilgrims, not gatekeepers.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.