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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blogs -- Can't Live With 'Em, Can't Stop Reading 'Em

I am fairly new to the world of blogs, relatively speaking. It's probably only been about six months at the most since I first started reading blogs. After reading for a few weeks, I hesitantly put my toe in the water and began actually submitting comments to some blogs. Then I took the plunge and started my own, which you are reading at this very moment.

I'm by no means well-known among Christian bloggers -- I generally only get about 10 hits per day, or so. But I have interacted on some of the better-known, more widely-read blogs, and I have noticed some disturbing things.

Actually, this isn't limited to blogs at all. I remember the "good ol' days" of AOL's Christian chat rooms (anyone remember "Fellowship Hall"??) and the amount of junk that filled our screens back then by "Christians" judging, throwing mud, slandering, gossiping...you get the picture. But for some reason, the extended nature of blog posts (and the comments that accompany them) seems to lend itself to even more difficulties when it comes to Christian interaction.

In the interest of Christian "protocol" here, I'm not going to point fingers at specific blogs or people, because that's not really the point. But I am concerned about how we all come across online. In a recent post, I engaged Mike Russell (I mention him specifically, only because it's already public here on my blog and his) in response to one of his posts, and we actually were able to comment in a civil manner back and forth. I didn't necessarily get my questions answered, but at least I feel like Mike and I were able to leave the conversation as brothers and not enemies. That was a relief. I hope Mike feels the same way.

Other blogs, however, have not turned out so nicely for me. The other day, I read a post on a blog whose author claims to write "all from a Christian worldview." I found the post to be anything but Christian in its tone. In it, he referred to certain types of people as "idiots", "morons", "dolts", and in many other ways spoke in derogatory terms. Without trying to jump all over the guy, I simply posed the question "How does a 'Christian worldview' influence this post?" or something to that effect. His response? "I'm sorry. I forgot that since I'm a Christian, there are no idiots in the world." Tongue-in-cheek? Perhaps. Sarcastic? Probably. Appropriate? Hardly. Then another commenter jumped in with even more scathing "semi-sarcastic" (per his words) remarks about me. Today, I noticed that he (the additional commenter) even ridiculed me further in a completely unrelated thread on the same site, asking the author in a mocking tone how he could attend a baseball game while claiming to have a "Christian worldview".

My question to that particular brother was a sincere one, and it remains unanswered in relation to a lot of what is put forth as "Christian blogging". A greater writer than I once posed the question "How should we then live?" I would like to pose the question: "How should we then blog?" I'm not sure I have the answer completely, but I have an idea that we're not really anywhere close yet. Nor am I the first person to pose this question.

Cold, hard, black-on-white (or whatever colors a particular blog uses) text can be pretty harsh. And yet, I am reminded that this is exactly how the New Testament was written. Consider the writings of Paul. Some of his letters included in our Bible are actually responses to letters that were written to him. For example, in 1 Corinthians, he mentions things that they wrote to him in a letter that is lost to our 21st-century world. There were some very tough things written to him, apparently, and he wrote some very tough answers. Not all of 1 Corinthians is complimentary to the readers. And yet, somehow, it's very hard to miss the deep love Paul felt for these believers, and his passion for them to become more Christlike.

So, I don't think we can simply blame the medium, as many wish to do. I, myself, have often complained that it is so hard to carry on these types of conversations online because of the lack of facial expressions, tone of voice, and other body language. But I realize that is merely an excuse for the poor treatment of each other that takes place. We are responsible for how we communicate, whether we like it or not.

Does that mean that feelings won't get hurt? Nope. Not at all. I'm sure some were hurt by Paul's reprimands in 1 Corinthians. We can't stop people's feelings from getting hurt. But there is responsibility on both sides to make sure that the communication honors Christ, if we both claim to be brothers and sisters in the Lord.

For my part, I need to develop a bit more thick skin, I'm afraid. I take things personally way too often. I will admit that it hurt to see my comments ridiculed by someone, and brought up again in a different (unrelated) post with no merit but to continue the ridicule. But more than anything, the whole exchange left me sad. Sad that this kind of ridicule is actually tacitly accepted by many who claim to be Christians. There were many things that I would have liked to have said in response, but felt that it was better to just walk away and not engage any more in that particular situation. The Bible warns us against engaging in futile debates, and I felt this one fell into that category. What could have been a beneficial discussion about "Christian worldviews" (can anyone even define what that buzzword means?!) got trashed by mockery and sarcasm.

As a writer of a blog, I want to be very careful how I react to people. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. In fact, there are things I write about that I actually expect will be disagreed with by many. I write to get my own thoughts out, to see what others think, and to maybe challenge others to think outside their particular box. But when I do post with regard to someone else's blog, or respond to something here and link to the original, it is never meant to be judgmental or slanderous.

Until next time,

steve :)

4 comment(s):

Great blog...
Will look more closely at a later date..

churchconcepts.blogspot.com

It would be great if you commented on our class blog...
Blessings

By Anonymous sojourner, at Wednesday, October 12, 2005 8:26:00 PM  

Well, I beleive your latest blog can be summed up by: There is only 1 shade of Light, but uncountable shades of darkness.

How far from the Light would you need to be to willfully slander a fellow Christian? Sounds like a topic for another blog!

By Anonymous Tim, at Thursday, October 13, 2005 4:27:00 PM  

Steve,

Since mine is the blog to which you're referring, allow me to respond with a couple of points.

First, I'm sorry if you took offense. But from the minute you first visited my blog, the only comments you made were to contradict or to take exception to something I said. You even quarreled when I said fewer abortions were better than more abortions, and I'm still shaking my head over that.

I like serious discussion and debate as much as the next guy, but you came across as a troublemaker and a troll, and I don't need people like that hanging around. Maybe that wasn't your intention, but that's certainly the way you sounded to me. Let me give you some advice for the future -- if you want to participate in discussion at someone's blog, be a positive contributor some of the time, instead of just disagreeing with everything -- especially when you're new to the site. If you've actually contributed to the blog, you'll be taken much more seriously when you do have a bone to pick.

Secondly, the post in question was a rant, and an attempt to be somewhat humorous. I didn't insult anyone individually, and you're taking it WAY too seriously. Lighten up a little.

By Blogger Tim Ellsworth, at Tuesday, November 22, 2005 11:42:00 AM  

Tim Ellsworth, thank you for stopping by. Not sure how you found this (small internet, I guess), but since you "outed" yourself, I guess that kind of obligates me to respond to your comments.

I stopped reading and interacting on your blog after the above-referenced responses, so I find it interesting that you would respond to a month-old post on my blog about this topic. But at any rate, I went back to look at just how I had interacted on your blog to see if my memory served me correctly.

Besides grossly misrepresenting my comments on abortion on your article at http://www.timellsworth.com/?p=365, notice the tone and content of the first comment I posted on that thread (it was only the second time I had commented on your blog, I believe):

Maybe I’m the one being “naive” here, and I am definitely asking this question in a sincere way, but isn’t the idea of “except in cases of rape, incest, threat to the mother’s life” also wanting to have your cake and eat it, too? On the one hand, Tim and Alex are saying basically that if you believe abortion is wrong, you can’t morally allow others to do it (or can’t allow the gov’t to sit back and not act to protect the unborn), yet Tim has said that he supports allowing abortion in those oft-named “exception” cases. What’s the difference? And again, I’m asking this seriously, not just picking a fight. (I hope you haven’t already lost interest in this thread, too, Tim! hehe…just kidding)

I don't see how you can read that comment as anything but sincere dialogue. And I even threw in some humor at the end because your response to my first comment (on just a week-old post) was not to answer my questions, but to tell me that you had lost interest in the thread.

If anyone takes the time to read my responses in the abortion thread mentioned, they will see a much different tone in my comments than you imply here. A troublemaker and a troll? I don't see how you draw that conclusion. But, like I mentioned, I stopped responding when I saw how I was being perceived. Maybe that just confirmed in your mind the judgment you had passed.

Additionally, in the thread about abortion, you and I had actually reached a consensus (according to you) on the discussion, but you chose to imply here without giving the context of the discussion that I was arguing that more abortions was better than less abortions?

At any rate, thanks for stopping by. I'm not sure if this clears anything up between us or not, but I felt like I had to try since you chose to respond here.

I'm not asking you to like me, Tim. I'm not asking you to agree with me. To be honest, I'm not sure if I'm asking anything at all from you. But the links are there now for anyone to make their own judgment, if they care.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, November 23, 2005 11:24:00 AM  

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