| In their own words...
Badge of Honor recipients tell how they earned their "stripes":
JANE'S STORY (Added 12/29/05)
I have had negative experiences with two Christian forums, one of them a very large, very well-known online community and the other a smaller Baptist forum. Both of them have hurt sincere people and taught me the important lesson that faith in Christ does not necessarily make one a kind and compassionate person.
I found the large forum just a month or so after I became a Christian. I grew up in church but didn't pay much attention to my soul until a personal crisis forced me to. I turned to God for forgiveness of my sins and guidance for the present and future. I began attending church and studying the Bible at home but I wanted to be able to fellowship with other believers whenever I wanted to. I searched online for Christian message boards and struck gold: I found a huge and busy community with hundreds of members online at any given time. Impressed by the enormity of the site and the variety of topics, I joi ned in and was warmly welcomed.
I posted regularly at this site for several months. Something that began to bother after a while was the way troublemakers seemed to gravitate to the women's section. There weren't many of them, but every once in a while a male poster would wander into the area for women and start showing off his misogyny. This wouldn't have fazed me if the moderators had put a stop to it, but the intruders weren't given so much as a warning. One of these troublemakers started a topic in which he chastised the female members for aspiring to be anything but perfect little homemakers. He gave the same tired old argument that women are born followers who are too emotional to be anything but wives and mothers (he made it known that he was still a bachelor--no surprise there!). One woman responded with an intelligent and well worded argument that smashed his tirade to bits. Rather than admitting defeat and moving on, he answered her with another tongue-lashing, telling her that she was "unsubmissive" and that she needed a man to keep her in line. He closed his post with "God says that women are to obey men. Are you going to obey or aren't you?" A few more women joined in to defend their section of the board and asked this man if he didn't want to have a smart, brave wife who would be his equal. He proudly said, "No, I want a Stepford wife!" After several complaints to the moderators, a new rule was made that only women could post in the women's section and only men could post in the designated section for men.
I left that forum not long after that mess, but I'm glad I stayed long enough to read a post from a young woman who was confused and angry about so-called Christian men who fight so hard to keep women down. She said that she was disappointed with God because He created half of the human race to be servants and footstools of the other half. I recommended a book to her (Paul, Women & Wives by Craig S. Keener) and she seemed interested in reading it. It's my prayer that she and other women at that forum will wise up and stop listening to the foolishness that is being taught in God's name.
While still a member of that forum I began regularly visiting an online Baptist community. While not an enthusiastic poster, I spent many enjoyable hours reading the discussions. The good times came to an end when I realized that this forum was only hospitable to those who agreed 100% with the moderators. This community had a designated area for the old Calvinism-Arminianism debate and it didn't take much poking around to find out which side the moderators were on. "Pastor Larry" and the other mod for this section (I don't remember his name) came down very hard on anyone who believed that Christ died for all and offers salvation to all. Anyone who dared to suggest that God sincerely desires all to be saved was raked over the coals by Pastor Larry and his fellow man of the cloth. "You've already lost this debate!" they'd huff. "Why are you still posting about this? You're wasting forum space." Avowed Calvinists, however, were more than welcome to post the same things over and over again, and were frequently answered with a hearty "Amen!" from one if not both of the mods. A non-believer once came on board trying to make sense of it all, and was greeted by an arrogant member who told him, "If the plan of salvation does not make sense to you, it's because God has chosen to damn you. There's nothing you can do about it." The mods were silent on the matter and did not reprimand the member who lashed out at the man seeking answers. That was it for me and I left that awful place. I haven't been back since then and I hope it has either changed or been closed.
These days I hang out at ECA [Postmaster's note: Egalitarian Christian Alliance], mostly lurking and reading but occasio nally posting. It's so good to have a place that encourages healthy discussion and loving fellowship, and I pray that the two forums I've written to you about will become kinder, gentler havens for tired souls.
PAULA'S STORY (Added 12/21/05)
Hi, glad to find a place to vent a little. I clicked on a link to you from a site promoting equal treatment of women in the church. Here's my experience.
In the forum of a 'discernment' site (forum no longer exists), I innocently asked if the owners had ever considered upgrading their forum software, and I suggested a few good open-source products to consider, along with some links to examples using them. One would think from the reaction I got that I had just asked them to change to a different religion! I was accused of divisiveness, being a complainer (this was my first ever 'suggestion' there), wanting only to cause trouble. Both owners of the site, several moderators, and other members all proceded to jump down my throat, all for asking if they'd consider upgrading their software. I was ridiculed and told to leave. Eventually they did upgrade, but I committed the cardinal sin when I dared to ask what finally convinced them.
I've been in many boards and called every name in the book for a variety of reasons, but that one took the prize. I can understand people getting emotional about doctrinal positions, but this was outrageous.
Thanks, I do feel better now :-)
If you want to hear some "juice" on Fritz's history with Crosswalk (and his past shenanigans), I can give you quite a bit.
First, an overview: Fritz was moderator for Crosswalk, then he switched over to Christianity.com, then back to Crosswalk, then the two sites merged, and he presides over them both now.
This is the big picture, but there's more to it. I'm not sure why Fritz first switched to Christianity.com, but his stay there was very short.
Basically, the moderators and employees under him revolted - complaining to management, etc., about his iron rule, and they fired him. And Christianity.com was pretty darn conservative to begin with. So he went back to Crosswalk and resumed his control of that site. A few years later, Crosswalk bought Christianity.com. Once the merger had settled and the new forum began, Fritz banned all of the forum moderators who had complained about him. And quite a few of them were pretty darn
right-wing on their own; they just weren't aggressive about it.
All of this happened in a 6-7 year span, maybe less.
I was banned by him from Crosswalk the first time around; since Fritz has taken over once more, I haven't had any problems. But reasons for my first ban speak volumes.
As always, Crosswalk has had a "no pro-homosexuality views" policy. But while he was there, lots of people started anti-gay threads anyway. I learned of ways to express the liberal view without spelling them out in ways that would violate TOS. So I never got warnings from him.
When he left the site for Christianity.com, the new Crosswalk management was more laid back. Technically, they still had the same TOS, but they
rarely pressed people about it. So lots of debates about gays ended up going unregulated, so both sides could present their cases. When Fritz returned to Crosswalk, he went through those threads and banned everyone RETROACTIVELY.
In other words, he didn't give people a chance to fall in line with his new rules; he banned everyone who had violated his rules while he had spent a year or two employed by another website. Buit when he banned me, he said his reason was not simply because I talked in favor of homosexuality in his absence; it was because a group of 14 posters had gotten together and tried to see if they could get me banned. What was amazing was, he admitted this to me! I was banned because he got tired of people complaining about my views.
So keep that in mind as you contemplate your banned selves; odds are, there are some posters out there who really, really wanted you to disappear. Fritz is bad news, but I don't think he's the only problem.
CONTACTING CROSSWALK "POWERS THAT BE" (by COHEIR)
Thanks to Coheir's research, here are some ideas if you wish to pursue getting things changed over at Crosswalk.com:
To complain about Fritz Alberti's treatment of Crosswalk forum users, do NOT email the community at Crosswalk. That will go directly to Fritz. Instead, you can try emailing his immediate boss, Tom Perrault. Tom's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you get no satisfaction there, you can try the following:
Curtis Johnson, Vice President of HR, Salem Communications Corp. (California)
Email: email@example.com Telephone 805-987-0400.
You might also try the CEO, Ed Apsinger. I also believe he's at the above number.
I also have the name of Rick Killingsworth, a higher-up employee in Virginia. I'm not sure of his position. His number is 804-768-9404.
When calling or emailing, please be courteous and concise. Know clearly what it is you want to achieve. Don't be contentious, but be firm. Operate from the assumption that these people have the same goal you do for Crosswalk to be a welcoming place and a good witness for Christ, with respect for a variety of viewpoints.
COHEIR - STORY 1
Like many others, I've also been the target of a hostile and unwelcoming climate by the Administrator at Crosswalk, Fritz Alberti. I noticed a pattern of people who were more traditionally-minded being allowed to post links to articles in support of their positions. But if you were an egalitarian, and used the "gold standard" of scholarship to support your position, links to the Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) web site, your post was immediately edited or deleted. Now, CBE is known worldwide for its outstanding Biblical scholarship, and it publishes several award-winning magazines (awards bestowed by the Christian, not secular, community.) So once when the CBE link was edited out of my post, I emailed the community administrator and was told that it violated the Terms of Service. I went through the TOS carefully, finding absolutely nothing that even came close to addressing this situation. So I emailed again, asking for clarification, and was told that the reason the CBE link was edited out was because they supported the TNIV, and support of the TNIV was against the TOS. So, back again I went to the TOS nothing about the TNIV at ALL. In fact, while this email exchange was going on, there was an active thread about the TNIV on the board, with plenty of people posting in support of it, with no action taken against them at all. So I immediately suspected a red herring. When I once more politely asked for clarification about why the TNIV was against the TOS, since I didn't see anything specific in addressing it there, Fritz sent me an email that said, "Before posting further in any thread that has anything to do with the role of women, please submit a 300 word essay clearing explaining the controversy, Why are so many conservative evangelical Christian leaders opposed to the TNIV?" (I have saved every email as proof of my claims.)
This was absurd. A query for clarification on Terms of Service, in an attempt to understand the reasoning and so that I can better adhere to the terms, results in being treated like a fourth-grader? I believe in standing uup to bullies, so I took action.
I did some research, and found that Crosswalk is owned by Salem Communications Corporation. I contacted the Vice President of HR of Salem, Curtis Johnson. His phone number is 805-987-0400. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I found Mr. Johnson to be courteous, and responsive, and he took prompt action on my complaint. I requested three things: a personal apology from Fritz, a cancellation of the essay assignment, and clarification on the policy of promotion of the TNIV. He passed it on down to Fritz's supervisor, Tom Perrault, who telephoned me a couple weeks later.
Mr. Perrault did not sound very pleased to be talking to me, although he was courteous. I got the sense that he was just doing his job, but that he
supported Fritz. I received an institutional apology from Crosswalk, not a personal one from Fritz. I was not required to write the essay. And Mr. Perrault personally told me that speaking in support of the TNIV was not a problem. (To this day, though, Fritz still issues warnings to people who support it in posts.) I wish I had asked for clarification about posting a link to CBE in posts, but I neglected to do so.
I continued to participate in Crosswalk until a few weeks ago, when I was banned without any reason whatsoever. (See COHEIR'S Story 2)
If you've been treated inappropriately by Fritz Alberti, who claims to be a Christian and should therefore be acting like one, please see the information about who you can complain to (posted here as CONTACTING CROSSWALK "POWERS THAT BE," above).
Here's what I find so ironic. I'm a moderator at a very active health and fitness forum. It's as active, if not more so, than Crosswalk, so there's a
lot to keep up with. (You think theology is controversial? It ain't got nothing on health and fitness afficianados.) Our moderator team encompasses Christians, atheists, Jews, and even a Wiccan and we have never ever treated our membership with the disdain and rudeness that so many are treated on Crosswalk. The rules are clearly stated, with no ambiguity or arbitrariness like Crosswalk. Even when a member is way out of line, they are treated with RESPECT and given clear explanations for our decisions.
Too bad a Christian website can't conduct itself with the most basic Christian values.
COHEIR - STORY 2
I was recently banned from Crosswalk, although no explanation was given except the citation of "Rule 20" which says nothing about nothing. I can only surmise at what happened.
I was engaged in a thread about the roles of men and women in marriage. One young poster, who is only about 21 years old took me to task, saying something like, "For your own good, you should give up your egalitarian philosophy," and went on to verbally scold me. I found it more than a little funny that a 21 year old single man thought he knew better how I should conduct my life than me. So I responded with something like, "I'm more than twice your age, and have been following Christ longer than you've
been alive. I've been happily married in an egalitarian marriage for over 18 years. When you're a little older, have a little more life experience and wisdom, and a track record of a few years of successful marriage behind you, then you have a leg to stand on. Until then, I don't think you should be advising me how to conduct my marriage." (That's not an exact quote; my post was deleted.)
Hours later, I was banned.
So, I ask you, why is it okay for a young person to treat an older person with disrespect and scold them, but not okay for the other person to respectfully respond?
Here's why: I think it's very obvious that Fritz has an axe to grind. And that axe is to put women in their place where they belong. When they get uppity, why, he will use every means at his disposal to plunk them right back into their place!
This is NOT the behavior of a spirit-filled Christian. It's also a terrible witness for Christ. Shame on Crosswalk for allowing this nonsense to
I used to post at Crosswalk.com several years ago. The fact that I am both a woman and (at the time) a pastor, while I didn't go out of my way to advertise the latter, made me a target. My willingness to defend my beliefs in biblical equality also made me a target. In the Women's folder especially, I received a whole lot of ad hominem comments which went unchallenged by the moderators. When I occasionally refuted them, however, I would get harrangued by the two female moderators in Women's.
At one point, I was threatened in public with being banned from the Women's forum by one of these moderators for my "tone." No specifics, no way of understanding what she meant, because I'd been very carefully factual and avoided ad hominem in my posts. So, I asked her for clarification.
This brought Fritz Alberti, the community admin, into the picture. He took me to task for questioning a moderator in public. So I asked him to tell me what, specifically, was wrong with what and how I'd posted, so I'd avoid such hassles in the future.
Instead of responding to my question, he sent me a very threatening e-mail response that said, in essence, that the two moderators as well as some others, didn't like my mode of discourse. Well, that's about as helpful as nothing. I was threatened with being banned altogether if I didn't "learn to respect authority."
I thanked Fritz for his response, but noted that since he had not answered my question, I had no way of knowing, despite asking several people, what I was doing wrong and therefore had no way to correct it. I said I would not pursue the matter further.
This resulted in an unsolicited, very insulting message. At that point, I added Fritz's address to my spam filter and left the community.
I have visited Crosswalk.com as an unregistered reader occasionally since then. Unfortunately, I've only seen an escalation in Fritz's unreasonable, one-sided targeting of people who don't hold his extremely conservative views of the roles of women in church and home, birth control, homeschooling, politics, and anti-homosexuality. For the most part, even when such people break none of his 20+ Terms of Service rules, he silences them or they "disappear" altogether. I personally know of several he's banned for no reason other than that they stand up--respectfully, despite outrageous ad hominem from others--for their beliefs, which are well within Crosswalk's "Range of Beliefs" (or whatever they call it).
I believe Salem Communications, which owns Crosswalk, needs to either monitor Fritz very closely so that he is forced to obey his own rules, or replace him with someone willing to administer the community with a more christlike and FAR less dictatorial "tone." He's an appallingly bad witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ in the way he treats members of the community. Barring either of those remedies, Crosswalk needs to stop posting their TOS and their "Range of Beliefs" and be honest about being a community for "Conservative Evangelicals who Agree Substantially with Fritz Alberti's Opinions."
For too many Christians, Crosswalk is anything BUT "community," and certainly not a Christian one. Be warned: their only "Christians only" forum is blatantly labeled "For Conservative Evangelical Christians who accept the Terms of Service." If you accept the TOS but aren't considered conservative or evangelical enough to suit Fritz, you can figure out easily enough that you're not considered a Christian. Like so many other problems at CW, that huge dig at mainstream Christians is not up for discussion.
Why bother with CW? I believe in being light in the darkness, but that's one place where darkness is rigidly enforced. There are plenty of other communities where the Spirit of God is alive and well. I've found a very warm welcome at Crossandflame.com, even though they're deliberately an interfaith forum that welcomes non-Christians as well as non-evangelical Christians. And (gasp), they even welcome GLBT people! Funny, the Christians there manage to remain Christian. Perhaps their faith is strengthened, rather than threatened, by treating other people as they themselves would like to be treated.
Another forum community where I've been welcomed, though at times felt the "odd one out" for my mainstream beliefs, is "Egalitarian Christian Alliance" at equalitycentral.com. Honestly, GLBT and decidedly liberal Christians wouldn't probably feel the same kind of welcome I did. But believe me, even these people would receive far more courteous treatment and even-handed moderation than at Crosswalk.