I am learning to be selective about responding to comments in online discussion groups.

First, the easy one, I ignore all topics that simply don’t interest me. I affirm their interest to others. I just don’t want to waste my own time on issues that I find lifeless.

Second, I ignore comments that indicate a closed mind. Excessive quoting of Scripture, for example, or statements arising from utter certainty. I have no interest in “dueling Scriptures,” or in having my own way of thinking about life, ethics and God declared “un-Scriptural” and therefore bogus just because my first instinct isn’t to quote a passage in the Bible.

Nor do I have any interest in the escalating invective that tends to arise when flexible thinking crashes into rigid thinking.

Third, I ignore inquiries that seem to be searching for right-opinion. Better to share questions, musings, doubts, experiences and yearnings than to chase one correct view.

Fourth, I ignore all discussions that seem grounded in orthodoxy – political orthodoxy, religious orthodoxy or academic orthodoxy. Grounding today’s thinking in yesterday’s sacred documents seems lame. I recently tuned out of a discussion that had foundered on what Thomas Jefferson meant by “separation of church and state.” Even if we could discern his meaning, we would still need to think for ourselves.

Fortunately, this selectivity leaves plenty of discussions worth having, because there are many people with open minds, inquiring spirits, non-defensive attitudes and stimulating interests.

I also have no illusion that I am right in this approach. It just works for me.

Photo: Union Square, NYC, a longtime venue for political debates.