A Fresh Start
This last week I arrived safe and sound back home from spending time with my family in California. Needless to say I miss home. After getting away from things here in St. Louis I took our return as a fresh start. To that end I took the opportunity to send a note on Friday to Daniel Jones, aka Photios. As many readers know, Daniel and I founded this blog together after we met on Kimel’s Pontifications. Daniel eventually moved from Catholicism to Orthodoxy. I had been received about four years earlier.
In any case, the note consisted of a few points on the direction of the blog, who I wanted to bring on board and more specifically the tone of some of the comments. It has been a long time in coming but I have felt that many of the comments have been far too confrontational and unproductive. They tend to be rhetorical without argument or just the stating of a conclusion, usually with a load of jargon. And some have been rather dictatorial and condescending. Everyone blows their stack now and then, but a pattern of bad behavior isn’t appropriate and it doesn’t help our cause and certainly won’t help persuade people of the truth of our position.
I suggested to Daniel that we needed to move away from this mode of engagement since it is counter-productive. Even if one is correct, without explaining a view and leading the reader through the argument, we aren’t going to persuade people but turn them off and play into the hands of our critics. It is far better to state something dispassionately so that your discussion partners are simply forced to address the argument.
I also suggested that a number of discussions in the comments had gone off the rails and so we needed to work on keeping discussions on track more or less. I also suggested that I really didn’t want people who advocated conspiracy theories, bordering on anti-Semitism and who endorsed other kooky stuff to be commenting so as to use our blog to generate traffic for their own blogs.
What I received from Daniel on Saturday was a response which I suspected but had hoped for a long time I would never have to read. In fact it was far worse than I suspected.
Mixed in with the charges that the canonical churches were “pseudo-churches,” were charges of “institutional apostasy,” found among Old Calenderists, calls for maintaining our “cultural autonomy” and some anti-Semitic swipes at the Jews as “imposters” and “Khazarians” thrown in for good measure. It was rather surreal. I fully expected Rod Serling to pop out with cigarette in hand.
The only thing missing from this hodgepodge were surprisingly the Freemasons, though I suspect that they will be coming along any time now. It had all the hallmarks of the typical psychology and mode of argument of Landmarkian Baptists, Sedevacantist Catholics and other groups.
You can see the general attitude displayed below.
Now I don’t take conspiracy theories seriously. First, if it, whatever it is, is such a great conspiracy, how did the person in question find out about it? Second, how is it that said person found out about it and is still living? Third, even if true, in the vast majority of cases, there is really nothing one can do to stop Jewish Bankers, Coca-Cola or anyone else from carrying on with the conspiracy. So the only point it serves is to make the person who knows about it feel more important than they are and inflate their ego and pride. And God and my wife both know that my ego doesn’t need growth hormone. Fourth, I am able with a cursory evaluation to detect logical holes so large one could drive a semi-truck through…sideways. If I can do that just looking over the material, then it is far more likely that these people have been duped. So sorry, when it comes to Jew hating ideologies, I get off the bus.
I responded on Sunday evening addressing Daniel’s charges in summary form. I personally implored him, in fact I begged him, to slow down and to not go down this path. Or at least to take a step back so we could work through this stuff together. We had helped each other work through issues before and this should be no different. We were friends and friends trust each other. I begged Daniel to trust me given our past experience together. But Daniel had sold me down the river.
Daniel responded late on Monday morning launching another missile. He informed me that the blog would be taking a new direction that of some kind of quasi-Old Calanderist vigante-ist direction. It would be transformed as he had been. And while it was possible to reconcile, it was pretty clear that I could either get with the program or leave. Sometime on Saturday, Daniel had gone into the User tab for the blog and demoted all administrators, editors and contributors, including myself to that of mere author.
Of course he didn’t tell me that yet and hadn’t informed anyone else on the blog that he had done it either. Daniel had the One Ring and there was nothing I could do about it.
I suppose I should have seen it coming. In fact I suspected something like this might happen. But I wanted to think otherwise. I made excuses for Daniel even when he insulted personal friends of mine. I covered for him. I interceded with others after he had acted in an uncharitable manner. Even when I disagreed with him, I let things go. I did it because he was a friend. I did it because I thought he would make progress. I did it because I loved him as a friend.
And as things stood on Monday morning Daniel had it all. He was holding all the keys and felt he was in a position to essentially dictate terms. I suppose the appeal of complete control was too much. He could have come to me directly and agreed to end the blog amicably by dissolving it and taking what we each wanted and going our separate ways. In fact, this is what I had offered on Sunday evening.
But Daniel brushed it aside. So there I was. I was locked out. Daniel informed me that it was “over” since he had “the high ground” citing of course a line from Revenge of the Sith.
Did I say that I was locked out? Did I write that Daniel had complete control of the blog? How is that possible if I am writing and posting this? What is going on? Well I am kind of Sicilian. I am not really Sicilian, but actually Calabrese, which is really funny when you consider my opposition to the teaching of Barlaam. In any case, Calabrese is about as close as you can get to being Sicilian without actually being so. I grew up with plenty of Sicilians. I know. And one thing everyone knows, that you never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!
You see, when we founded the blog together it started out on a Typepad blog set up for us by Kevin Johnson. Not long after, we moved to WordPress. When we did so we agreed that since I was raising kids and Daniel wasn’t, he’d foot the cost the hosting. In any case, a friend of mine set us up in WordPress and he has been the silent partner ever since. So silent that Daniel didn’t seem to notice, that “technically” the silent partner, and not I or Daniel was the blog owner. I suppose it is difficult to notice Harvey the Rabbit.
So while Daniel himself listed both of us as the blog “owners” in the “About” section, on paper, neither of us really owned it. As far as WordPress was concerned, the silent partner was the blog owner. We just paid the bills and kept it running, day in and day out for about five years. The silent partner was well…silent.
So when I received Daniel’s first email and suspected he might try a coup, I just looked at the silent partner on the screen of users. All of the users save him were removable. And if I couldn’t remove him, neither could Daniel. So I waited and watched. History is not without a sense of irony. I did my masters thesis on Frankfurt Counter-Factual Controllers and here I was one!
I composed a second email addressing his theological charges in cursory form. I pleaded with him to slow down, to work with me through this stuff. I begged him not to do this. At the end I offered an amicable and fair way to end the blog. We would both take our respective materials, walk away from the blog as it was, and go our separate ways. None of it contained any hint that I knew what he had done. But I didn’t send the email yet.
I waited and watched. I watched Daniel go into the user tab and demote all of us, giving himself all of the power and then pretend nothing had changed when he conversed with me via email. He made other alterations removing the copyright under my name and was well under way to transforming the blog to suit his new goal. He did this all on his own of his own free will unprovoked by me or anyone else.
By later on Sunday, I was back into the blog undoing the changes Daniel had made. I eliminated him from the blog immediately, restored the copyright and turned back a number of other changes. I then sent the second email offering an amicable way to settle the matter later that night. If he thought he had control of the blog and still agreed to end it honorably and amicably then I would do so and his offer would be genuine. If not, then his true character and intention would be revealed. Our friendship would be revealed to be a sham.
Come late Monday morning I got my answer. He had never tried to log in between Sunday night and Monday morning. Daniel pretty much made it clear that I could either like the new direction or lump it. I am sure come Monday he was probably feeling pretty comfortable with his position. He could do anything with the blog.
Even then he didn’t reveal to me what he had done, even then. The odd thing is that he should have known that if he could not have removed the silent partner, then the whole thing would fall apart, but for some reason it never seemed to dawn on him. I hoped he would at least take my offer and end things fairly and amicably rather than to try to take it all. I was very hurt when he didn’t. I just couldn’t believe it. After that, all bets were off.
Within about an hour or so of his sending his new manifesto he must have tried to log into the blog sometime between 12 noon and 1pm on Monday. What a surprise that must have been for Daniel. To think that you have total control of something and then completely and unexpectedly find out by the slap of cold hard facts that you have nothing must be quite a shock. Poof! Just gone. Didn’t he get the memo?
Like Adam, in trying to take everything he was left with nothing. He should have made the moral choice when he had the chance. Now it was too late and the game was up. Check mate. He emailed me in a panic demanding that I reinstate him. I had no right to remove him from the blog after all and the threats started to fly. But they were really empty threats. I did everything with the permission and knowledge of the blog “owner.” So he could say whatever he liked.
I had no right to do what he had essentially done to me and others already and in a deceitful manner? Physician, heal thyself! Remarkably his tone changed quickly after that. He started backing down from his claims of exclusive ownership and maybe he should have come to me first before removing me from administrator status. He had after all listed me as an “owner.” But he could never come clean about what he had done and just admit that it was wrong unconditionally. In fact what I got was a rationalization that I was supposedly going to do the same thing. If that had been true, I would have done it already. Besides, I didn’t need to since I’m not the blog owner. My alleged possible action doesn’t provide any exculpatory grounds for his actual immoral behavior.
At this point, there really isn’t anything left to talk about. Daniel has acted of his own free will in a sinful way and continues to be impenitent. He has separated himself from the Church and violated more canons than I care to bring to mind. So he has made himself persona non gratia here.
I have no idea exactly where Daniel will go as far as church but it seems entirely ironic given the rhetoric that one would flee the canonical bodies for groups focused around a handful of bishops, most of whom trace their orders back to vigante bishops from the Nestorians or other heterodox groups.
Daniel has decided to burn his bridges and head elsewhere. He is certainly free to do so. If you believe in free will, these things will happen. People make mistakes and God knows I have my own fair share.
I suspect Daniel will need to spend some time in whatever group he ends up in, long enough for the honeymoon to wear off so he can begin to see things as they are and not according to some ideology. I know how this goes. I have been there before when I was in the Continuing Anglican churches. It takes a few schisms and power struggles for you to realize that you three heart attacks and a bad cough away from having no “bishops” at all and somehow that can’t be anything more than a sect. But like any infatuation, it takes a while for reality to settle in, if it ever does. A good question anyone who is infatuated should ask themselves is, what is it about your new love that you don’t like?
Now I have kept the comments closed for a few reasons on this post. I don’t want any “I told you so’s” or “ganging up on Daniel. This isn’t a chance for all of Daniel’s critics, personal and theological to gang up on him. What is past is past. And this is because I still care for Daniel and I hope he finds his way along with some peace of mind. And before our critics in blogdom get any ideas of attributing this to Orthodoxy per se, whether Catholic or Protestant I’d suggest you take a step back. For Protestants, well not much needs to be said about kookiness. Just turn on the TV. As for Catholics, I’d simply suggest taking a stroll over to JayDyer’s blog to see the kind of wacky stuff put forward there. Or how about Sungenis’ Geocentrism or the Sedevacanteists? I could add more to the list, so do us all a favor and spare us all.
As for the past, I personally ask those who have been insulted and offended for forgiveness for some of the behavior here in the past. This doesn’t mean we agreed then or that we agree now. What it means is that this will no longer be tolerated. Commenters are free to discus the ideas in a civil and respectful manner without personal insults. The blog will continue much as it was as I try to build a diversity of spiritually minded and academically gifted individuals to discuss the teaching and life of Orthodoxy.
One last thing. Daniel currently owns the domain or energeticprocession dot com, so if you have links here, you will need to update them to the wordpress address.