Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Talmudic Wisdom on the Apologetics Industry

"I didn't charge for the classes, because the Talmud says 'don't make of the Torah a pickaxe to dig with . . . ,'" quotes The New Beginning, who explains that "mean[s] don't make Jewish teaching a source of income if you can help it" — An interesting comment at Alternative Right. Our colleague's comments in toto:
    I tend to agree with the spirit of the above. I have heard that Confucians make the distinction between being paid to "teach" and receiving a stipend from one's students. St. Paul thought he should make tents to support himself. Similarly, priests and bishops do not charge for their services, but receive a stipend from the community to support them. But what of Catholic apologists? Receiving a commission to teach or work in some sort of lay ministry might be more legitimate. Many receive donations to support them in their work (as opposed to receiving payment for specific services). But I still think there is something questionable about making a living off of being some sort of self-appointed authority on Catholic teaching. (Being qualified and appointed by the bishop to perform a specific work seems to be better.)

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24 Comments:

Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

The work of the Gospel should never been reduced to the pray trade.

4:44 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Tread carefully, Joshua! Some people have really long toes . . .

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True. It gets complicated, though. Say you are employed by the Church in some way - teaching, in a diocese - and then you see a gap in the resources that you think you can fill. So you write a book. Should you give the book away? Might be nice, but who's going to pay for publishing the book? then what if a group reads your book and asks you come talk about it? You could always say no, and maybe you should, but if you say yes - should you be paid? Again, maybe not, but...

(I think the discussion should extend beyond lay people too. Lots of clergy make lots of extra money on their speaking and publishing - Corapi, Triglio, Jim Martin..McBrien!!!..Pacwa...some, I'm sure turn that money over to their orders. But who knows. Priests who do missions do collections during the mission that far exceed their travel expenses. Should they?)

2:06 AM  
Anonymous m.z. said...

As I've aged, I have found less and less respect for intellectual property. Allegedly IP is to protect the inventor, but in practice it seems to be just a way to for some 3rd party who isn't the inventor to extract high rents.

I don't know what to make of Saint Paul. Yes, we know he made tents, but let's not think he was in charge of some manufacturing concern. While I don't agree with everything in this commentary, I think this is a little closer to the truth: http://cust.idl.com.au/fold/teach/JesusMoney/The%20Tentmaking%20Myth.html I think Paul was closer to a pure grafter.

As this relates to apologetics, I guess in the end I do take issue with people building personal fortunes off the gospel. I think intellectual pursuits are properly termed leisure and should be available to all. Call me a communist.

2:11 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

"Call me a communist."

Or an Austro-libertarian. has written extensively on the subject:

IP: It's a Market Failure Argument
Authors: Beware of Copyright
Does Innovation Require Property in Ideas?
IP Crimes and Vices
Seen and Unseen Cost of Patents
If You Believe in IP, How Do You Teach Others?
The Evils of Intellectual Property

9:32 AM  
Anonymous m.z. said...

Those opposed to IP tend to be a quite varied crew. Communists are about the only ones consistent in their opposition to it. There are libertarian defenses of IP. I'm not sure which side makes one an ideologically pure libertarian though, Austrian or otherwise.

11:29 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

Are professional Catholics on the internet intrinsically different than their betters who teach at the college level?

No. But those who teach at the college level are due their wages, so why would those on the internet likewise not be due their wages?

A priest can take a vow of poverty, but a man supporting a family cannot, no more than he can take a vow of pacifism, because to do so would be to abrogate a prior duty. But yet a married man can teach, theology as well as philosophy.

___________________



Enbrethiliel writes : "Tread carefully, Joshua! Some people have really long toes . . ."

To stumble over? or To step on?

11:39 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I thought better of my previous comment and deleted it.

* * *

LTG: To step on, I guess. The context of the "long toes" statement is a comment by one of my readers, who observes that no matter how careful one is to avoid stepping on toes when speaking one's mind, there are some people who just seem to have really long toes.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When it comes to being publicly Catholic (or Christian, period), I always wonder if there is really such a big difference between making money off of selling your opinions/expertise and getting, seeking attention for your opinions/expertise, even if you don't get paid.

If I think I have something to say, Catholic-wise, that no one else is saying, and I bop around the internet trying to get people to come to my site to read it, maybe even stirring up controversy to get more attention...how is that different than asking for money?

The bottom line - isn't someone who puts their writing on the internet and and tries to build up their blog and get readers by almost any means possible who then trashes another writer who makes money from their writing - a pot calling the kettle black?

I'm not saying both are equally good. I'm saying both could be seen as equally bad and self-serving.

1:05 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

My last comment seems to have disappeared. With my luck, it'll probably post itself after I get this one up.

To Anonymous (aka Janice, aka Jblessing1991, aka Lisa Schroeder, aka EllenM, aka Robin, etc.):

If you have any doubt that there is a difference between making money and getting hits/comments, you can ask your beloved Mark Shea how well he could feed his family off the traffic he generates alone. He'll totally set you straight. I think your problem was always that you couldn't tell the difference between people seeking attention as a matter of livelihood and people getting attention because something they do as a hobby attracted some readers.

(And now that I've mentioned his name, you're going to go e-mail him, using one of your many anonymous accounts, to tattle that I'm being mean again, aren't you? So predictable . . .)

1:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huh?

I haven't read Mark Shea for years.

Well, whatever.

I really don't see the difference or how you tell. Why is Mark Shea evil (purely from his efforts to make a living, not taking his personality into account) and Dave Armstrong or Steve Kellmeyer not? Why is Scott Hahn (who actually has a teaching position in a Catholic university) a big sinner in this but Tim Staples not? Or maybe he is - who can keep up!

There's all kinds of sins out there. Making money from religion is probably one of them. But maybe spending hours on the internet, dropping comments on every possible blog out there, hoping others will link to you/visit your site so they'll read what...your opinions about who knows what...Ron Paul or some bishop or other bloggers...that's about ego too. Most bloggers grapple with that issue, so it's not news to anyone.

7:41 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

For the record, I'm a huge fan of Mark Shea, and have been reading his blog since 2003. He was one of the inspirations that got me blogging. I haven't read any of his books, because I tend to stick to things written more than fifty years ago that have stood the test of time.

Also, the Apologetics Industry helped me after my conversion in 2002.

But still, there are legitimate questions to be asked about earning money of the Faith, just as there are about seeking attention or "hits" to one's blog.

I used to work for a non-profit "fair-trade" organization. I made very little money, but I always questioned the legitimacy of earning my living off the poverty of others, even if I was trying to ameliorate it.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

* * * * *

Joshua: Bring on the legitimate questions! I love them! =D

PS--This is the third time I've had to submit the above comment today. It keeps publishing, showing up on the post page and on your sidebar, and then vanishing again. Suppose maybe God is trying to tell me something? =P

9:51 PM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Anonymous: Look--you and I are old friends. Stop pretending you don't know what I mean. That is, don't commit one sin (lying) in your crusade against another sin (online slander/detraction).

But it will delight you to know that last night, before I drifted off to sleep, I finally understood what you mean! You think that the people who critique other people online do it for the hits? That it's all "ego," as you say now? Well, that's interesting! And now I also know why you insist on being anonymous everywhere you go: it's your way of refusing to build yourself up at the expense of others. Which is very admirable of you--although it's also annoying. But I can live with annoying. (Heck, I can live with myself, can't I?)

Nevertheless, you were always off-base when it came to Betty Duffy, to Terry Nelson, to me, and now even to Joshua. Betty was never the kind of Catholic who took shots at other Catholics on her blog for personal profit (monetary or otherwise); you completely misread a single post of hers and accused her of being anonymous when she wasn't. And then you took a shot at her--anonymously yet--on Jen Fulweiler's blog. And you've been making that mistake ever since because you seem to think it's all about attention.

(Now I'm dividing the comment in half because it doesn't post when it's too long.)

9:52 PM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Continued . . .

Some people do seek attention online because it's part of their strategic marketing: yes, these include both the Catholic celebrities who need to sell books and the people who blog sensationally just for hits and for their egos. But other people are blogging because to find sympathetic readers whom they can bounce their experiences and ideas around with.

I'm thinking of mothers who homeschool and get no support from their own community but lots of support from the blogs of other homeschoolers . . . people who have been diagnosed with rare illnesses and have no one who really understands but other bloggers with the same symptoms . . . and well, people who aren't that crazy about certain religious trends but have no one to discuss things with in their own parishes. Occasionally, one of them will go viral and be accused of blogging just for attention. But it won't be true.

And before you accuse me of being anonymous now, take note that:

a) anyone who e-mails me will get a reply and learn my real name;
b) I have linked to freelance articles with my real name in the byline on both my blogs;
c) I have a YouTube channel with my own videos;
d) if you check my Book Blogs profile by googling "Enbrethiliel", you'll see a (very attractive) profile picture I occasionally like to use;
e) Mark Shea knows my address. (LOL!!!)

Pretty much anyone who wants to know who I am, where I live, what I do for a living, what I look like, and even what I sound like will have a very easy time doing it. Nobody can say the same for you.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Arturo Vasquez said...

The idea that certain bloggers are attention whores is a valid one, but to say that this is the SAME THING as literally selling yourself as an expert and Catholic celebrity is entirely a different thing. It sort of reminds me of that anecdote from the life of St. John Chrysostom where someone said that thinking about fornication had the exact same culpability as actually doing this. At this, the wise John invited the man to a lavish supper at the episcopal palace. He sat the man down in front of all the lavish food, but stalled actually starting to eat. The man was visibly very hungry, but John Chrysostom instructed everyone to depart without having taken a bite.

"But we didn't eat anything", the man protested.

"Yes," he said, "but you saw the food and thought about it, so it is just as if you had eaten."

Internet fame whoring may be bad for you, but you aren't eating because of it. I don't get paid to write, and even my very occasional Inside Catholic gig is something I feel bad about sometimes. (Not because I get "paid" per se, but because I feel that I have to watch what I say on it, and many co-authors on that site are creeps.) There is a big difference between trying to get a few more hits on your blog for kicks, and having to protect your reputation by any means necessary as the reincarnation of St. Paul. If you are being successful at it, the question inevitably arises as to whether you are telling people what they want to hear, feeding off their fear, or pandering to their prejudices. It is one thing to make money producing a product or providing a service. It is another to put yourself in a situation where you are usurping teaching authority based solely on your charisma and gift of gab.

I don't know if anyone could accuse me of either. I usually put my URL on my comments, but if I wanted to increase my readership, I would stop posting essays on late Neoplatonism, Youtube videos of the 20th century musical avant-garde, and posts on the Church that channel the ghost of Michel Foucault. This is as alien to the spirit of contemporary Catholicism as voodoo drumming and the Bardo plain. If I am being an Internet fame whore, I am doing a pretty damn bad job of it.

Notice no link to my blog in this comment. But if you want to find me, google me. I am the first thing that comes up. And this is my real, legal name.

2:44 AM  
Anonymous Arturo Vasquez said...

The idea that certain bloggers are attention whores is a valid one, but to say that this is the SAME THING as literally selling yourself as an expert and Catholic celebrity is false. It sort of reminds me of that anecdote from the life of St. John Chrysostom where someone said that thinking about fornication had the exact same culpability as actually doing this. At this, the wise John invited the man to a lavish supper at the episcopal palace. He sat the man down in front of all the lavish food, but stalled actually starting to eat. The man was visibly very hungry, but John Chrysostom instructed everyone to depart without having taken a bite.

"But we didn't eat anything", the man protested.

"Yes," he said, "but you saw the food and thought about it, so it is just as if you had eaten."

(cont.)

3:02 AM  
Anonymous Arturo Vasquez said...

Internet fame whoring may be bad for you, but you aren't eating because of it. I don't get paid to write, and even my very occasional Inside Catholic gig is something I feel bad about sometimes. (Not because I get "paid" per se, but because I feel that I have to watch what I say on it, and many co-authors on that site are creeps.) There is a big difference between trying to get a few more hits on your blog for kicks, and having to protect your reputation by any means necessary as the reincarnation of St. Paul. If you are being successful at it, the question inevitably arises as to whether you are telling people what they want to hear, feeding off their fear, or pandering to their prejudices. It is one thing to make money producing a product or providing a service. It is another to put yourself in a situation where you are usurping teaching authority based solely on your charisma and gift of gab.

I don't know if anyone could accuse me of either. I usually put my URL on my comments, but if I wanted to increase my readership, I would stop posting essays on late Neoplatonism, Youtube videos of the 20th century musical avant-garde, and posts on the Church that channel the ghost of Michel Foucault. This is as alien to the spirit of contemporary Catholicism as voodoo drumming and the Bardo plain. If I am being an Internet fame whore, I am doing a pretty damn bad job of it.

Notice no link to my blog in this comment. But if you want to find me, google me. I am the first thing that comes up. And this is my real, legal name.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Mark P. Shea said...

Joshua:

Thanks. I'm honored. I enjoy your blog a lot.

My apologies to Cristina for trying to support my family and serve the Faith. God bless you. And please don't blame anonymous for my note. I read this blog. I haven't the foggiest who anonymous is. And they didn't, "e-mail [me], using one of your many anonymous accounts, to tattle that I'm being mean again". That little pre-emptive strike from your guilty conscience is attacking a civilian target.

2:05 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

Mark Shea writes : "My apologies to Cristina for trying to support my family and serve the Faith."

A typical Mark Shea comment where being an ass is his M. O..

4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how anyone who puts up a blog, for any reason, isn't in some way an attention whore. There's an element of ego in all of it. You think your opinion is worth the time it takes to create a blog and write blog posts? That's ego acting. Who gives a fuck what any of us think? To take the time to put your opinions out there and build up a community of readers who eagerly await your next blog post...why do it at all? Because you think what you have to say is important and different. You think other people should read it.

EGO. PRIDE.

It's not good or bad, it just is.

And Arturo, your schtick is just as publicity-seeking as the latest Pope-Lovin'-Orthodox-Catholic NewHound- Apologist. It's hysterical that you either deny it or don't see it.

Who are the creeps at Inside Catholic?

5:13 AM  
Anonymous Arturo Vasquez said...

I'm in it for the fame. And the glory. Not to mention the groupies.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Mark Shea: I accept your apology. Thanks. =)

Anonymous: Congratulations! You finally get it. "It's not good or bad, it just is." EXACTLY! =D

5:58 PM  

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