Stormy SkyYikes, some time has passed since I wrote my last blog post. Perhaps as we begin the new year, I should explain this span of silence.

I decided to impose a momentary pause on my blog. The reason? My site was hacked into. The connection? I wrote an op-ed for The Seattle Times that some folks clearly did not like. But the problem was not that we disagreed on what was in the article. Rather, surprisingly, I received a barrage of internet thuggery on the blogsite itself, on my email and Twitter accounts, in the newspaper’s online comments. While I know this kind of thing is happening everywhere, I brushed up against something a little frightening. I got a taste of this accountability-free zone of the internet that threatens genuine conversation about things that matter.

In the newspaper article, I tried to tackle the topic of the disturbing decline of downtown Seattle. I have been horrified by the growing number of helpless people dumped on our streets. We have a crisis in our midst to which no one seems to have an answer. I am alarmed as well by the aggressive, sometimes violent hustle around drugs, by the profound disregard for clean sidewalks, by the fear for personal safety in our parks, by the defacing of prominent public property. Something is broken here. These are signals that community has snapped and splintered, and people get hurt when communities break apart. That’s what I am worried about.

While the response to the article was overall positive, I was promptly introduced to very different attitudes about how to discuss our common problems. What alarmed me most is that these voices were shrill, sometimes vile. Their vision for the city seems to relish disorder—in the name of individuals doing freely as they please. Some form of anarchy must feel good to some people. They didn’t like that I am a Christian, either. They didn’t like that I called for leaders to restore order and cleanliness. They don’t like the police.

In any case, I was overwhelmed for the moment by these voices. I needed to back away for a bit and collect myself. I feel like I brushed up against some swirling mass of sinister energy in our midst, assisted by the power of the internet. For a moment, I caught a glimpse of the dark underbelly of that same internet we rightly prize so much.

But, hey, it’s a new year. I turn my thoughts now to the signposts of God’s goodness shining out in our midst. Where are they? That’s my search at the moment. That’s the theme of my writing and thinking right now. And then I am asking this question: How can I be an instrument of God’s goodness? That’s what I want to focus on in the days ahead.

Stay tuned. We’ve got some good conversation out ahead.