To those of you who post on Facebook, the following story serves as a warning. Screen your friends. There are loose cannons online. They can go off at any time.
The World Wide Web has revealed just how many loose cannons there are out there. Read the posts on any blog site. Loose cannons love to post on blog sites. They fire every which way. They give others a piece of their mind when they really cannot spare it.
This is why I killed the “comments” feature of Tea Party Economist as soon as I gained full control over marketing. I do not want to be reminded of just how vociferous some of these fringe people are: “flamers on the fringe.”
AN EMAIL FROM A POTTY MOUTH
I recently received an email from a self-designated Christian who is also a great fan of Ayn Rand. This degree of intellectual schizophrenia by itself would make him a worthy candidate for Fringe Personality of the Year — or even the decade.
He had read my article on the job vs. the calling. Lew Rockwell posted it on his site. In it, I described my work day: 3 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In his email, he described me in terms of a pair of physiological metaphors. Yet only one of them can be true at the same time.
You are a prick. And an asshole, to boot. Not once, in your great defense of how hard you work to follow your calling, not once did you mention your wife, and how she might feel about it all. Not once. I respect you, because of all you have written. But you are an asshole and a prick.
Here are my credentials.
[He supplied an Amazon link to his autobiography about growing up Amish, and why he left the movement.]
I wrote a NY Times bestseller. That was my calling.
It was an eBook best-seller. That is not the same as a printed best-seller. People have to pay a lot more money for printed books. Nevertheless, of all of my foul-mouthed email critics over the years, he has achieved more.
A conservative Protestant publishing firm published his book. It was a hatchet job on the Amish — people who are famed for their ability to guard their tongues and to live peaceable lives without giving affront or causing other people trouble. The fact that readers who were surveyed by New York Times bought a cheap eBook edition attacking them comes as no surprise.
This lone book — no firm has published another — was his calling, he says. That was four years ago. He has now had his 15 minutes of fame. I do not intend to give him any more here. Besides, I make it a policy never to refer by name to people who write me private letters. To do otherwise would be a violation of privacy. This lost soul deserves his privacy. But if he wants to post a link to my response on his Facebook page, I am happy to have him share this with his friends. One if them may be able to help him.
He clearly needs help.
He positioned himself as defending my wife. This is strange positioning. He knows nothing about her or her role in supporting both my calling and my job. She has been indispensable to both.
In many articles over the years, I have mentioned my wife’s part in both my job and my calling. We started our newsletter business in 1974. She and I would sit at a table and put stamps on letters. She ran the mailing and money side of the business until Remnant Review had over 2,000 subscribers and over 20,000 direct-response book sales. When the newsletter mailing list went to 22,000 in 1979, she bowed out. But at $45 per subscription — $147 in today’s money — she was happy. Her share of our net worth increased substantially. It has continued to increase.
She ran my Institute for Christian Economics from 1975 until 1979. After that, it got too big.
As for my calling – writing my economic commentary on the Bible – she gave me the idea in 1973.
She still writes the monthly royalty checks for the Ron Paul Curriculum.
I looked up my critic on his website. There I learned that his wife left him in 2007. She ran off with his best friend.
Mine has lived with me for 43 years.
His suggestion: I have treated my wife poorly. My suggestion: people who live in shattered glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
HIS CAREER CHOICES
On his website, he begins essay after essay with a different quotation from the works of the alcoholic novelist Thomas Wolfe. Wolfe wrote a posthumously published book, You Can’t Go Home Again (1940), a book that captivated my critic, as he has said in media interviews. This is clearly my critic’s problem: going home again.
Wolfe’s most important biographer, Harvard historian David Donald, offered this assessment: “Thomas Wolfe wrote more bad prose than any other major writer I can think of.” Donald won the Pulitzer Prize for this biography. He wrote a lot better than Wolfe ever did. Yet my critic has self-consciously imitated Wolfe’s prose style. It is all about himself, just as Wolfe’s prose was all about himself. A little goes a long way. I doubt that he will find another publisher.
I looked up his website on Alexa. It is ranked 11,714,465. Any site with a ranking lower than 1 million is invisible. A site must be in the top 100,000 for Alexa to evaluate it. He has been posting articles ever since 2007 — articles that only he and perhaps a dozen others have read.
His job: he used to be a lawyer, but now he makes pole barns. Even more bizarre, he sells them in a rural Pennsylvania county where the Amish live. He has tried to go home again.
On his website, he says there is an 80% chance that he will become a bartender. He says that he knows his alcohol.
So did Thomas Wolfe.
This is a truly lost soul.
So, why did he send me his note? It’s hard to say. One thing is sure: it wasn’t to correct me. It was to vent his pent-up rage. But why was I his target?
I suspect that he has a problem with defining the positive side of his calling. His calling, as he said, was to show how Amish life was not for him. Given his vocabulary, I can understand this. I do not think he would have fit in.
Frankly, I cannot imagine where he would fit in.
He can’t go home again. But he still tries.
LIVING IN MY SHADOW
He describes himself on his site as postmillennial. That is my view, too. There are not many of us. Of those still living, I am the best known. I go to church with the man who is second-best known, with whom I have jointly published for 30 years. I published the major books of the scholar who is third-best known. I published the books of David Chilton, who died two decades ago. My wife still owns the copyrights and publishes his books.
This man has been living in my theological shadow for years. Maybe he felt compelled to show me that he is in no way beholden to me intellectually. Given his career so far, this is surely to my advantage.
There are lost souls in every movement. This man has drifted from calling to calling, job to job, and town to town in search of a place to call home — spiritually, intellectually, and geographically.
In the meantime, he seethes with rage. He seeks revenge — against the Amish, against the man who stole his wife’s affections, and against me, a complete stranger. It is all futile. Revenge always is. It is not a meal best eaten cold. It is best not eaten at all, which is why I have not mentioned his name.
Those around him by now know that he is a loose cannon that may go off at any time. The behavioral pattern in his life is clear. He is a high-risk person to have on anyone’s list of Facebook friends.
My advice: screen your Facebook friends.
If I were this man’s pastor, I would be very concerned. Loose cannons with foul mouths and no self-control are high-risk members. At some point, this man is going to create a problem for the reputation of the congregation. If brought before a church court to defend his behavior, he may deal with the congregation just as he dealt with the Amish: an eBook book posted on amazon.
The pattern is clear. Forewarned is forearmed.
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P.S. At about 10 a.m., he informed me that he is not a church member. He is therefore a self-excommunicated man. His 15 minutes of fame really are over. He has no Christian group left to impugn, and so his usefulness has ended.