On Civil Discourse

MICHIGAN MUNICIPAL LEAGUE https://blogs.mml.org/wp/cc/2019/03/22/practicing-civil-discourse-in-community-conversations/

Over the past decade, we’ve had to issue a “time out” every so often.  Not many, mind you, but enough; I’m thinking maybe three or four.

Well, now’s the time for another. 

Lately, things have been getting a little contentious on the blog and I can understand why.  Even the old Firing Line debates on PBS were not always as decorous as we would like to remember them.  I remember one  episode in which Gore Vidal called William F Buckley, Jr a “crypto-fascist.”  That was too gratuitous and in the heat of the moment, Buckley immediately responded in an equally gratuitous fashion, calling him a “goddam queer”.

Anyway, we’ve never gotten to that level and I hope we never do.  So, to make sure that things don’t get that vituperative, we’ve decided to reiterate the House Rules once again:

  1.  Don’t make it personal.  Go to the argument, not the man.  You can call someone’s comment “naïve,” “simplistic,” “foolish,” “idiotic,” etc., but don’t call the person an “idiot,” “fool,” “jackass,” etc. 
  2. Don’t expect apologies or an acknowledgement that you were right and that someone else was wrong.  No one owes anybody anything.
  3. No criticizing someone because you don’t like something they said. 
  4. No needling by drawing attention to something someone said over and over again to annoy them.  (It annoys us.)         
  5.  Don’t assume too much about the person you disagree with.  Life is way more complicated than that.  
  6.  At the same time, we understand that sometimes the issue is (unfortunately) binary and you got to pick a side, but there is a difference between picking a side and picking on a person.
  7. And don’t take anything you read too seriously.  Like Will Rodgers said, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it will change.”  

Now, given the times we live in, we’ve decided to add a few more:

  1.  About the Jew thing.  No group is above criticism.  Not on this blog.  We don’t need to be hateful, though, and some of the comments we receive we can’t publish because of the way they’re framed.  Discussion about anything in a dispassionate way is welcomed.  Spoiling for a fight is not.  (For an example of what I mean, go to  https://www.monomakhos.com/on-the-jewish-question/)
  2.  Ditto the GOA/EP.  For those who have short memories, I went after the Syosset apparatchiks of the OCA many years ago, pulling no punches.  I criticized the Holy Synod as well.  Nobody in authority is above critique, especially if they are making spectacles of themselves.  Right now, it is functionaries within the GOA/EP that are doing so.  It’s impossible to not call it out.  We do so in the hopes that they can cut it out.  Their antics not only presage a schism, which is the most horrible ecclesiological sin (one which even martyrdom cannot blot out), but have brought us to the brink of nuclear annihilation.* 

One of the reasons that we continue doing this blog is because it’s often exhilarating.  This is one of those times.  As you can tell, Gail and I love geopolitics.  Your comments make things lively at Stately Sheppard Manor.  Seriously, there are some darn good comments lately, things I’ve never considered, nor would have in a hundred years.  

We’re both very much aware that you help shape the narrative.  You should know that this blog is being read in Orthodox chanceries all over the world.  (Yes, it’s true.)  It’s heady stuff to think that we are not only exposing malfeasance but are cresting on a historical narrative-shifting wave with a strong and steady voice.   

And we’re not just talking about the “royal we” here.  We’re talking about all of you; our readers (who don’t comment, but talk to one another), our contributors and our commentators.  Some of our more prolific commentators actually have their own following.  People come here to read you and to see your reactions.  This is what makes Monomakhos what it is.  Don’t forget that.   

So let’s remember that we are all part of something important and people in positions of authority are taking us seriously.  If we can’t be as erudite and elevated as Bill Buckley all the time, then let’s at least try not to be like Gore Vidal.


BTW, here’s that delicious exchange between Buckley and Vidal.

*I mean it: cut it out. —now.   (It’s not going to get any better, if people in the GOA/EP think you’re going to be the last man standing as far as Orthodoxy is concerned, they’re quite deluded.  Especially when the criminal referrals start coming out.



  1. This is what people pick up in our society nowadays. Besides adults, this is what children pick up also. They act like that in gov’t and society. That’s the “new norm”, I guess, so to speak, SO SAD.

  2. I plead: Guilty as charged.
    The trouble is, I love the ancient tradition of flyting;
    for which, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flyting

    Unfortunately, this style does not fit every forum.
    Mostly I remember and adjust accordingly,
    but sometimes I forget.
    I do apologise.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      You are one of the 98% we don’t have to worry about. I’ve noticed that those with something interesting to share don’t have to resort to punching people they don’t know behind a screen.

      • Solidarity Priest says

        Gail, I have asked forgiveness before, but if the lady who posted as “Sage Girl” a few years ago is still here, I want to specifically ask her forgiveness. I have had two major faults over the course of my life; I have shot off my mouth when I should have kept quiet. The second fault is being quiet when I should have said something.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          George can get in touch with her! She’s a very forgiving person. I’m sure it will please her to know you’re thinking of her.

  3. John Sakelaris says

    I may be showing my age, but I remember the original broadcast of the Buckley-Vidal encounter. The YouTube captions here could not pick up all of it, but that may have been for the best.

    Anyway, in the movie Smyrna (shown last week) there was much bitterness expressed over the Constantine-Venizelos dispute of 1916-1922. Two brothers debated fiercely. They reconciled before being murdered by the Turks.

    I do not know how many Greeks can even state an opinion these days on the Constantine-Venizelos matter. I can, but that is just me.

    And for blog readers here who are of a WASP background, consider a very bitter controversy in the US in 1910-1912 over the Ballenger-Pinchot matter. Your great-great grandparents probably debated it. Now it is long forgotten.

    We do need to try to get along with one another somehow.

    • George Michalopulos says

      John, the Constantine/Venizelos controversy rankled my house😁.

      We Greeks tend to “not let go” of certain incidents, do we?

      • John Sakelaris says

        A key question is whether a controversy is passed down to later generations. Do the great-grandchildren know about it and care about it?

        My anecdotal impressions of the Constantine/Venizelos tension (at least here among the diaspora) is that the parents, for better or worse, did not discuss it much with their children.

        I recall a highly educated Greek American who was raised here in the 1930s; he said his immigrant parents never talked about it.

        My maternal grandmother suffered more than most Greeks in the 1916-1917 division, as she endured the starvation blockade imposed on southern Greece by the British and French in their campaign to topple the Constantine government. Yet she never talked about it until I worked to draw it out of her about a year before she died.

        • George Michalopulos says

          That must have been horrible. Your grandmother was of a generation of people who did not dwell on suffering. I remember her. Admirable woman.

          • George Michalopulos says

            I will say this regarding the Con/Ven controversy in my house, my grandfather would tear up when he spoke about Venizelos. My father (his son-in-law) would not challenge him, so great was his respect for my grandpa.

            In the garage downstairs (we lived on a bluff), whenever my dad and I would be there repairing things, he’d give me his opinion about Venizelos. He wasn’t hateful but he wasn’t complimentary.

            Your point however is well-taken. Time does heal wounds.

  4. Did you tell Gail this? She makes everything personal and calls people names. If you tell me George that you are saying this same thing to Gail, then I’ll back off, otherwise, you’re no different from the MSM and big tech and their double standards in censorship.

    • Gail Sheppard says


      For whatever reason, you didn’t get the memo that I’m George’s wife and I own this blog. Feel free to exit stage left.

  5. Ah, edit me as you will. I try to avoid gratuitous barbs. War zone and all.

  6. Michael Bauman says

    Being in love with geopolitics is a bit like being the Knight in Bergman’s Seventh Seal…

    • George Michalopulos says

      Point taken, Mike. We should all keep our eyes heavenward and realize that in this world we have no abiding home.

      That said, I do get delicious pleasures from some of the world’s delights. Truth be told, I’d rather worry more about the latest bond issue or zoning change but given the fact that I’m an Orthodox Christian the world leaves me little choice but to defend the Church however and whenever I can. And because I’m a Greek, I now have to worry about what the State Dept/Neocons/Globalists are about to do in Serbia.

      I realize that this may sound contradictory but if one is up to the fight, one must be ready to relish it.

      • Michael Bauman says

        George, that is part of it for sure but I find the real battle is within against my own passions and sins AND how they interconnect with others. We do not even fight by our sins alone. Even the Greeks are not exempt from that. I get reliable help there when I repent. Even beyond help–actual healing. His mercy is beyond this world even as it interpenetrates all that is and all of us.

        Even the Greeks.

        But “Shall we laugh… for the sake of laughter. I mean would you have thought of it. Making man, stuffing him full of such hopping greeds and passions that he has to blow himself to pieces as often as he can conveniently can manage it? The phenomenon of cachination is an irrelevancy that almost amounts to a revelation. ” Thomas in The Lady’s Not For Burning

        The Greeks are often similar IMO. Saying “I’m a Greek” is meant to explain every idiosyncratic behavior possible but unless the idiosyncratic behavior is for God alone(which Greeks often do BTW) it is just crazy.

        This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

        • I am a Scot.
          Like all Scots, I have a self-destruct button;
          which I push constantly to see what happens next.

          I expect it is in the [fire] water…

  7. I remember telling someone (on this blog) ounce that they were ‘daft’ because they stated that nobody recognized the OCAs autocephaly. And, I felt bad about it afterwards, even though I proved otherwise.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Alex, don’t be too hard on yourself. Some local churches (and they’re growing by the day) do recognize the OCA’s autocephaly.

      • Thanks, George. By my recollection, the Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Polish, Serbian, and Czech and Slovak churches recognize the OCA. (You can also throw in the Autonomous Japanese Orthodox Church, as well.)

    • I expect that to the Primus Sans Paribus
      (First Without Equals) everybody else is nobody.

  8. Deacon John says

    If I have offended anyone, please forgive me.

  9. Wayne Matthew Syvinski says

    > Nobody in authority is above critique

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, George! I have had this argument far more times than I have wanted. I know Orthodox Christians who think questioning anyone in a black robe, particularly a bishop, is akin to heresy. I told a nun once that “even bishops are subject to fraternal correction” and her eyes opened about as wide as I’ve ever seen on someone.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Wayne, thank you as well. It behooves us to read the Old Testament every now and then. The Prophets did not hesitate to “critique” the priesthood or the kings of Israel/Judah, men who were placed above them and to whom they owed allegiance. Same with John the Baptist, who criticized Herod Antipas.

      • Wayne Matthew Syvinski says

        What is, overwhelmingly, the moral lesson of the Old Testament? (Not the message or prophecy, which is about Christ.)

        I maintain it is the following: If you don’t clean up your own moral mess, God will do it for you, and it will be ugly.

        • I would say that it is:
          We can’t clean up our moral mess on our own;
          which is why we have a New Testament.

    • “even bishops are subject to fraternal correction”

      Ditto Apostles:

      Galatians 2:11 [KJV]
      But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood
      him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

  10. Anonymous II says

    Joe Biden: Republican Bans on Transgender Surgeries for Children Connected to Anti-Semitism

    President Joe Biden said Tuesday at the White House that Republican bans on transgender surgeries were transphobic and connected to anti-semitism.

    “Folks, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia — they’re all connected,” he said.

    ** Because they still offer children as sacrifices to Moloch

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Might as well throw that word in there, I guess.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Good Lord in Heaven! Will these people never stop with their search for new victims?

      It’s bad enough they all sang “True Colors” at the signing ceremony. Future generations (if there are future generations) will wonder how insane we were. We’ll be called the Dumb Ages.

      • Wayne Matthew Syvinski says

        > We’ll be called the Dumb Ages.

        Idiocracy is a movie that is becoming a prophecy…

    • Deacon John says


  11. Steve Turley: DeSantis Just Dropped a BOMBSHELL!!!

    DeSantis petitions Florida Supreme Court for a Statewide
    Grand Jury to investigate COVID wrongdoings.

    So, what does Trump do now?