Gangsterism and the Aftermath

I do not doubt that some who visit the Proclaiming the Gospel Forum would like to know why postings to this forum are closely monitored. It all began back in the early 1990's, when people interacted with command-line postings of white characters on black screens.

People with similar interests would gather in channels (now called chat rooms) on the EFNet, UnderNet, IRC, etc., to discuss their common interests. Each channel was registered to a particular person who, often with designated helpers, managed the goings on. There were a number of channels dedicated to discussion of just about any religion imaginable.

Back in the day, I spent most of my time online chatting in one of two or three favorite evangelical channels. Occasionally, when things were slow, I would wander over to watch the action in a channel set aside for apologetics or polemics, where the interaction seemed always to be hot and heavy. For a while, I visited channels established by and for Catholics, where I soon learned that neither my questions nor my interjections, both from an evangelical viewpoint, were welcome.

In that time, individuals with similar religious convictions would occasionally gather and literally attack channels used by people holding other religious positions. Some of these cyber gangsters would attack the computers of their targets by “jinking,” planting a virus, etc., but the most common practice I am aware of was what we now call “denial of service attacks.” A number of invaders would login to the targeted channel and then “flood” it with chatter. Computers were slow in those days, and bandwidth was narrow. It didn't take a lot of flooding to make discussion impossible or to lock up a channel.

Computers became faster and available bandwidth widened, but the advent of Windows really opened up the Internet, or so it seemed. Chat rooms and message boards flourished, but the cyber gangsters also thrived. Cyber terrorism, as I choose to call it, kept up with online enhancements, even worsened. Now, rather than having eight or ten individuals banging out short posts to flood a channel, they could post entire documents, use bots to automatically post or respond, etc. The cyber terrorism that I am most familiar with involves Catholic harassment of Protestant chat rooms and Protestant harassment of Catholic chat rooms. Such behavior is rude and inexcusable.

It was because of Catholic cyber terrorism that an earlier version of the Proclaiming the Gospel forum was closed and re-incarnated as a Delphi Forum, with enhanced management controls.

What follows is an exchange between myself and a Catholic catechumen, I'll call him Ed, who was upset that I had booted a number of Catholic troublemakers from the forum: Ed's words are in bold face.

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Ed explained a few things and made a few suggestions, all in a manner that invites reasonable response.

You also realize that for us who are converting to the Church this Easter, you intimate that we are stupid, deceived, ridiculous, etc. This is not the way to engender discussion of doctrine and Scripture. Our attempts to show the historical nature of the Catholic Faith are ridiculed. Any attempt we make to defend the Church against such mean spirited and ill-advised attacks are associated with the evil one and the coming of the one world government.

Ed, I am aware that, throughout the year, new candidates for admission into the RCC are added to the roles of catechumens. Some of these perhaps are making their first religious decisions, while others are converting from some other religious affiliation. Personally, I would not label these people stupid, though I do consider them foolish for placing their hopes for eternity in the promises of a man-made religious system that will not be able to deliver. Most who embrace Catholicism are, in my estimation, deceived. They have succumbed to the siren song of Romanism and, like sailors of mythology, are being drawn to their destruction.

I am aware that many of these, perhaps all of them, truly believe that it is through the Roman Catholic Church that they will obtain God's mercy and forgiveness. This is what they have been told. Under the New Order, some of the pageantry of Catholic worship is no more, but enough remains to satisfy those who seek emotional stimulation. Certainly, there are plenty of theological and devotional writings, ancient and modern, to answer the intellectual needs of many looking for a religious home.

The sad part of it is that so many of those who convert to Catholicism, like those who were born into the RCC, will spend eternity in torment, in spite of all the promises, benedictions and sacraments dispensed by the Roman priests. Their eternal condemnation will not be the result of their affiliation with the RCC, but because they are not numbered among the elect of God. In common with so many in the non-Catholic churches and religions, and those who have no religion at all, they simply have not been called out by God nor have they received the gift of saving faith. Never having been regenerated (born again), they lack the eyes to see and the ears to hear God's truth and, instead, settle for something less.

It is a common thing for Catholics, at least the ones I have encountered through the Internet, to declare that those who do not agree with the teachings and claims of Roman Catholicism hate those who proclaim them. I cannot speak for others, but I assure you I hate no one, not even those who defend the RCC. I admit that I do not care for many who wave the banner of Catholicism and, in particular, those who, with superior manner and self-validated expertise, pretend to support their position with unsupported opinion and obnoxiously aggressive tactics.

I do freely admit that I hate that bloodless entity known to the world as the Roman Catholic Church.

Ed, you mentioned that Catholic attempts to show the historical nature of the Catholic faith are met with ridicule. I acknowledge this is often the case. Again, speaking only for myself, I am not greatly impressed with the antiquity of most of the sources of RCC doctrine and practice. The Scriptures are the sources of the doctrines I hold as God's truth, and they pre-date most of the fonts from which sprang Catholic doctrine. Many Catholic apologists make appeals to the writings of the church fathers, many or most of whom were not Catholic, despite Rome's claims. There is much we can learn from the study of patristic documents, but they must be approached with care and sound scholarship. As you likely know, these great men of the early church not infrequently developed changes to their personal systematic theologies as they matured in faith and understanding; Origen and Augustine come quickly to mind as examples. Church councils often can be shown to have conformed more to the will of the convening authority than to an honest effort to find the will of God.

In other words, Ed, though defenders of the Catholic faith may truly believe that Tradition and the Teaching Authority of the Church have equal weight with the Scriptures when developing dogma and doctrine, I do not. Therefore, any appeal to Tradition or magisterial declarations is meaningless to me. To convince me of the validity of Catholic doctrine and practice, prove it from the Scriptures by showing me the products of your exegesis, arrived at through sound hermeneutics.

You mention that any Catholic effort to defend the RCC against what you term mean-spirited and ill-advised attacks are deemed demonic and associated with end-times revelation. Why does that surprise you? I am not convinced the RCC will be THE world religion of Revelation, but I do believe it will play a key role in the development of that religion. Will a Catholic pope be the False Prophet? I don't know, but he could be. I do believe, without reservation, that the Roman Catholic Church is not a Christian church, but a parody of a Christian church inspired by, and under the control of, the Prince of this Age. Holding these beliefs as I do, how else would I respond to a spirited attempt to defend the RCC? Would you have me compromise my own beliefs in order to accommodate yours? Would you do such a thing?

May I suggest something?

I think it might be good to take a single topic of disagreement, your choice, run it up the flagpole and then have all sides begin to debate using Scripture with associated writings such as apologists, Greek texts, etc. Posters must stick to subject and ad hominums, perjoratives, cussin' outs, etc. be stricken and the offending party be rebuked until an apology come forth.

On the surface, this seems a reasonable suggestion. Under scrutiny, however, if seems unworkable. On the IRC, such an idea can be made to work, by the simple expedient of limiting the number of participants with “voice.” How would you propose to limit the number of active participants and prevent others from joining in at will? You suggest sanctions, such as deleting posts and rebuking violators. Who would do that? How would you ensure that judges or referees were absolutely impartial? How many judges/referees would you use? And how would you select them?

Ed, you've been around the Web and seen a number of boards. In my experience, they usually start out with promises of equal access for all, to be assured by the administrator. Steve Ray's board began that way, and Steve made a determined effort to keep it so. Eventually, however, it became necessary for him to impose serious sanctions against some when his gentlemanly appeals for respect of the board's rules failed. You may have been around when the PTG board commenced operations. It was open to all, Catholic and Christian alike, but it soon became necessary to take back control of the board from those Catholic cyberterrorists who had hijacked it. Thus were born the restrictive rules and monitored postings.

Rather than urge a change in the way this forum is operated, why not go one step better? Why don't YOU set up an forum? You could establish YOUR utopian model and act as the impartial judge/referee. Would such a board not meet the needs of Catholic and non-Catholics seeking a level field upon which to meet and discuss their mutual issues? Certainly it would serve the needs of the PTG administrators and the folks who like to come here. Rather than disrupting a functioning board, you would be creating a new purpose-oriented venue.

Or we can just continue havin' the same old fun we have been having, which quite frankly, is indeed a lousy witness to our Lord. And as long as that continues, yes, you may expect from time to time a "flood" of Catholic apologists coming in who desire to straighten the record out.

We don't have to continue having “fun,” Ed. Could it not also be possible that the people who appear to operate from some compulsion to gather in gangs and go to places where things are not as they prefer them to be in order to overpower and disrupt the normal flow of discourse learn respect for others? What happened here last night was not a random event. The large number of the thugs who came here last night came as a gang with a mission, not as individuals who just happened to stop by.

This was an attempt to take over the board, and that is a different issue from dueling with a lone apologist. These guys, if permitted to do so, would so have filled all the threads that few Christians or true seekers would have bothered reading through all the crap in order to get to meaningful posts. If enough of them had managed to post those little harassing posts, they would have kept the server so bogged down that getting any posts to the board would have been difficult and time consuming. The long posts can fill threads and force meaningful interaction to rear pages.

Ed, there are plenty of boards where Catholics are encouraged to participate. There are plenty of boards where evangelicals and other non-Catholics are encouraged to participate. There are boards where both groups are encouraged to participate. It should not be necessary for any band of theological thugs to impose their will on any forum. Doing so is simply gangsterism. If you don't like what goes on at a forum or blog, simply don't go there.

Some argue that they are simply defending Mother Church by their actions. If this is so, what does it say of Mother Church that her defenders conduct themselves like hoodlums?

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