Adios until 2006!

by Joel on October 23, 2005

One of the many things I learned at GodBlogCon05 was of a strong concensus against blogging anonymously or using pseudonyms. That learning has stuck with and convicted me to the extent that I have decided to reveal that Joel Thomas, while my real name, isn’t my entire real name. Originally, at least until Richard asked me to guest blog, I had no intention of doing anything other than leaving comments at other blogs and it didn’t seem to be an unusual practice for people to comment without revealing their full identity. I have, though, always included a real e-mail address of However, at some point, I came to believe that I was engaging in a type of deception and that belief was pretty much cemented at Biola. I also became uncomfortable taking on people who were willing to put their full identity on the line knowing that for the times they wrote something ignorant, as we all do, that those words might stand in Google’s version of “eternal life.” So, I’m going to take a break from blogging and then return to post using my last name.

Why wait until 2006? I’m emotionally burned out, but not by the blogosphere. Rather, on September 15 a beloved 18-year-old nephew died from injuries received in a tragic auto accident the night before. I regarded him almost as if he were my son and I haven’t worked through my emotions to allow me to effectively be both a pastor and blog, even as a guest. Still, I don’t pretend that I have any clue as to the grieving process his parents and sister are going through. His family is, however, one of a tremendous and sustaining resurrection faith. I also take comfort that my nephew was an organ donor and his organs helped dozens of recipients to any life or even a better life.

So, on the one hand I want to switch to my full identity. On the other hand, I’m not currently ready to engage people at that level. I have temporarily lost my appetite for argument and for real dialogue to occur, argument is often unavoidable and I don’t seem to be up for even civil disagreement.

Thanks for reading my posts and engaging me on matters of faith and politics. By all means keep reading Richard’s and those of his other guest bloggers AND HIT THE PAY-PAL BUTTON! (Some things are worth shouting about.) See you after New Year’s!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }


Fp 10.24.05 at 1:42 am

Very sorry to hear of your loss, Joel. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Take time to heal and come back with fresh ideas and perspective.


As far as using names goes, please remember that some of us do not reveal their names for very good professional reasons. I don’t think my clients care to see their lawyer’s views splashed across the Web. I still try to do everything in an ethical manner, assuming that anyone who really wants to know my name could do so. I have revealed it to bloggers I trust, including Richard.


John 10.24.05 at 1:49 am

Joel, I am sorry to here about this loss. I hope that you are healing from this heavy blow.

I look forward to reading you when you return. Keep in touch.


Joel 10.24.05 at 2:52 am


I think there can be legitimate reasons for hiding one’s identity, but pastors may need to consider for themselves a different standard.

As well, those who post without revealing their identity in full have a high duty to keep all arguments to the level of reason. Now, even reason needs to be “sharp-tongued” or “sharp-witted” at times, but I also don’t doubt that now and then I’ve made comments that perhaps bordered on the ad hominem. I think people are more likely to do such or to speak with too loose a tongue if they know that their identity is hidden. Although I must say I’m also aware of a number of bloggers whose identity is fully known who are pretty loose with their tongues, too.

One of the reasons I accepted Richard’s invitation to guest blog is that he has a moderating effect on my tendency to pounce.


Olive Morgan 10.24.05 at 8:50 am

We will miss you, Joel, and meanwhile we will carry you and your family in our prayers.

One of the advantages of being an octogenarian, is that you have less need for anonymity.


Bene D 10.24.05 at 11:33 am

Joel: We know your name. It’s Joel, and I know you are grieving and and I am very sorry for your loss.

I don’t know the standard for US pastors and their names, but I have a real serious problem with them thinking that because they are up front with identity, others can or should be.

I’ve dealt with people online whose safety was is serious risk or who would be fired or dismissed. I know people that are being stalked.

These pastors need to talk to some security experts and stop and think about the rest of us before making these blanket statements.
I agree some of us may be the exception, but exceptions we are, and I don’t care if you are Dr. Billy Graham. your belief about screen names is not going to potentially jeapordize my life because you think I should be convicted - thank you.
Let them get targeted by a sociopathic cop and see how spiritual they get about online transparency.

And I won’t go off about believers in other countries that cannot use their full identity. To do so risks immediate and prolonged imprisonment.
What about missionaries? We use secure servers, but we have to be very careful about how we say things. They’d disappear as easily as anyone they serve.
The exception to the rule again.
If the GodBlogConners want to make that an issue of their credibility, fine.
If you and other ministers need to blog with full transparency and are able to do so, more power to you.

Your name is Joel and you have been a friend here.
I don’t think we humans who love our families ever heal from such terrible loss as the death of your nephew, I don’t believe in closure or that time heals all wounds. I cannot imagine your grief.
Take very good care of yourself.
You are very much in my prayers.


Ed Brayton 10.24.05 at 3:31 pm

I don’t know if you plan to stop commenting as well, but if so you will surely be missed at In the Agora. My deepest sympathies for your loss.


Jan 10.24.05 at 11:12 pm

my sympathies and prayers for you and your family.

Take your time grieving. I will miss your guest posts here, as will others, I feel sure.



Joel 10.25.05 at 4:46 am


Thanks for all the encouragement these past couple of years.

There is a difference, perhaps, in using a pseudonym that everyone knows isn’t their real name, such as “Bene Diction” and how I did it, where people came to assume that Thomas is my last name. I am not trying to impose my position on others.

I do believe that time and faith heal wounds, but such healing comes with some mighty big scars.


Thanks for your sentiments.


Thanks much for the prayers.


Thanks for your sympathies.


Mean Dean 10.25.05 at 10:08 am

I’m not a big fan of anonymous blogging - at least when it is used to launch irresponsible attacks.

Then there are those times, some feel the need to take on the shield of anonymity for their own safety. Of those, I’ve less a problem other than I suggest they may want to reconsider participating in any public forum such as the blogosphere as nothing is as private as they think.

What bugs me about some involved in the GodBlogCon is those who on one hand would rail against anonymous postings - then engage in a drive-by practice whose affect, in my opinion, is no different then the first category of anonymous bloggers.

More on this at:


Ivan the Crank 10.25.05 at 10:10 pm

Dear Joel:

Your presence in the many discussions will be missed, but please know that you and your family are in my prayers as well as you all go through the difficult task of grieving.


Joel 10.26.05 at 11:08 pm


I will probably still leave a few comments, particularly at ITA as well as here, but I’ve quit reading most blogs. My logical mind knows that my nephew is gone for this life, but my emotional mind really hasn’t yet accepted that he is dead. That emotional resistance just seems to result in me taking twice as long to do anything. However, Friday I am leaving with a friend for a vacation in Oregon and Washington and I think that trip will do me a lot of good.

Thanks for the kind sentiments. I’ve learned a lot from reading your posts. You are a valued part of ITA.


Thanks much for the prayers. Now get busy and write some more posts!

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>