I just concluded a phone conversation with a young man that I deeply respect. He is a well-trained brother in New Testament studies with an advanced degree in the field, some years of pastoral experience and is now working in the marketplace. He gives me great insights and a lot of loving input as my friend and peer. I feel like he is my son, at times, and love him dearly. He is also a guy who thinks both biblically and outside the box of conservative/liberal Christian political correctness.
As we spoke on the phone I shared with my friend a growing doubt about the value and place of blogging, or at least the kind of blogging that I have done for nearly four years now. What I have done is similar, at least in form, to what almost everyone else is doing in this Internet medium. Here are the positives I see in such blogging:
1. I am a writer and thus want to use this medium to write and teach as widely as possible.
2. I value input and dialog highly. My blogs and responses to my blogs allow people to "know" me in some settings.
3. I also value community, correction and honest disagreement.
The negatives are also very apparent when you do this and start to think about it:
1. It is impersonal and thus allows people to respond and take the microphone and use it for just about anything they want to say and do. (I can delete their comments but I am inclined, in almost every case, not to do this at all since I invite it to happen.)
2. If stirring up debate is your goal then this medium works very well. At the same time some of the meanest and nastiest stuff I have read by Christians is on blog sites. I see this as very harmful to the church as a community. It can easily become the coward's way to throw attacks without responsibility and charity.
3. On my own site debates go back and forth, both with me and between my readers. Some of this is good and some of it is not helpful at all, at least from where I sit and think. I wonder, seriously, if blogging is counterproductive to my own goals of mission and unity in the Church.
4. If I post negative comments, which in fairness I choose to do in almost all cases, then there is also the potential that I am using the negative comments to "let people see" how virtuous I am in my response, or non-response. I am serious about this. One can truly use this means to promote their own piety. I fear that happens for me in ways that I do not like at all.
5. I am growing, thinking and changing. This invites various readers to attack my ideas and, to some extent, to attack me. I welcome correction but attacks, and suggestions that I am not an honest Christian, leave me in the place where I must counter-attack in some fashion or remain open to comments that are just wrong without my being able to defend myself.
Example: Some time ago I wrote extensively about a (mostly) Korean group called University Bible Fellowship (UBF). Except for some of my political blogs these comments got the most response of anything I ever wrote on the Internet. The reason was obvious to my readers. There is a lot of diverse opinion about this group and these blogs helped stir a lot of anger and emotion. I sought to explain my unique friendship with some UBF leaders and to show respect them for their character and good work as evangelists. I was seen by the enemies of UBF as a defender of a cult. I am still not sure what this all did in the end. I am happy to report that I have even more friends within UBF, people I love and regard highly. But I also allowed enemies of UBF a platform to use my site to attack my own friends. What I question is not the discussion but the context and method? Neither UBF nor ACT 3 is above question by well-intentioned Christians who disagree. But there is a right way and a wrong way to carry out expression of concern. This is really at the heart of my honest question in this blog.
One solution is to write blogs but never post comments, pro or con. This takes away some very good things people write while it also removes the negative and unhelpful stuff. If someone wants to write to me (privately) I can read their response and respond as I have time and strength to do so. But the whole world doesn't have access to a properly private conversation.
Example: Some who comment on my blog site know me personally and I know them quite well too. We simply do not agree on some things. They have every right to disagree with me and will quite likely keep doing so. The question here is simple: "Should I afford personal comments, which I and the writer know a lot more about than the average reader does, to be used publicly in this forum?"
There is a place for polemical dialog, I will grant. But I think the place is quite limited by what I read in the New Testament epistles. What I seriously wonder about is this: "Is the Internet the place to do this?" By these comments I am actually asking you to respond to this post:
1. Do you think my concerns are valid? Why or why not?
2. Would you read blogs without the freedom to respond to them publicly?
3. How valuable is the response of others, to you personally, if you are a reader of this/my blog?
4. What biblical principles come to bear on these questions? This question is the most important to me to hear what you think.
I would sincerely like to hear from anyone who has a comment to make that will edify and also help me and others in thinking about this subject. Nasty comments will not be posted, which is a given. Thoughtful ones that show love for the Church are very needed at this point. You can write me in private and I can read your comment and not post it if you tell me not to do so when you write your response. All posts must first be read by me anyway so write whatever you wish. I will read it and use it to help me in this thought process. I simply do not know the way to deal with biblical principles and protocol here and would love help.