Last week I wrote an entry called Bill O’Reilly Doesn’t Quite Get It. My post drew quite a bit of comment and even stirred up a bit of debate about the existence of God. But the most fascinating response had nothing to do with what I wrote but with the fact that I wrote it at all. Someone sent an email objecting to my entry because, he said, I should have discussed the matter with Bill O’Reilly privately. Here is part of what he wrote: "I did not see the  program, however I am a bit angry at your electronic report.  If you need to correct Mr. O’Reilly, then you should have done it privately between you and him.  The public forum is not a place to correct another Christian.  If you have listened to Bill over the years, you know he is not a relativist on the issue of Jesus, resurrection, God, the Bible, et al. 
 
"I believe that his response, could have been STATED better or in more absolute terms. BUT I would not take you, him or anyone else to the editorial woodshed in a public forum without first speaking with originator of the statement.
 
"I think you owe Mr Bill a public apology  for violating the Biblical principle of FIRST confronting the individual one on one when something wrong or perceived wrong with another’s conduct or speech.
 
I also you should ask for forgiveness for backbiting."

To which my response is... hmmmm. I am not entirely certain how to respond to this comment because I am sure he is not entirely wrong. And I am not entirely sure that my own thoughts on the matter are correct. Here is how I see it, subject to further enlightenment from my readers:

1) There is a huge difference between public and private communications. Bill O’Reilly is a public figure, speaking publicly, seeking public comment and interaction, and even giving his email address so that people can write him with their feedback. It seems reasonable to me that people should be able to comment on the public statements of public figures.

2) Private disagreements ought to be handled privately where possible. This seems to be in the spirit of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15-18.

3) Christian charity should guide all our public comments. To me this means applying the Golden Rule. I should evaluate the words and deeds of others in the same spirit that I wish my own words and deeds to be scrutinized.

4) Disagreement is not the same thing as a personal offense. I don’t even know Bill O’Reilly and will likely never meet him or speak with him. He didn’t offend me personally. For that matter, I like him and watch his show several times a week. But that’s not the issue, really, is it?

I watch Larry King and Katie Couric and Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah and American Idol and I listen to Rush Limbaugh and the other night I listened to a guy on the radio who claimed that aliens had landed on the earth and I heard some other guy who said he could talk to the dead and I used to listen to Don Imus sometimes and I occasionally watch Jay Leno and Chris Matthews and Neil Cavuto and I used to watch Judge Wapner on the People’s Court and I surf the net and read everyone from Andrew Sullivan to Pat Buchanan and I have watched Martha Stewart and I like to listen to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and Hannity and Colmes and I mostly try not to watch people running for president because I’m not ready for that yet but I do like Fred Thompson and I listen to Keith Olbermann sometimes too.

So there. I even listen to NPR occasionally. I disagree with people all the time. Do I have to write them or talk to them before I can write about what they say? If so, I’ll never write anything about anything anyone says – unless I happen to agree with it.