This kind of thing saddens me and I have debated about whether or not to give it airtime. This weeks row has in my view not been the best blogging moments of several on both sides.
I am not planning on taking sides, but would like to take this opportunity to share some lessons that I have learnt the hard way by my own mistakes in the past. This time round I am sitting on the sidelines, but for sure I have regrets over the way I have approached things at times in my blogging over the years.
First off, we have to remember what the blogosphere is not. It isnt a church. It isnt a doctrinal exam. There is no official censorship. We cannot stop people saying whatever they want. If we cant stand the heat we should get out of the kitchen for no one is forcing us to blog, and if we blog we never know what response we will get.
The biggest rows seem to stem from misunderstanding one or more basic points about blogging and godblogging in particular:
- On the blogosphere (as in the real world outside of church actually!) people should be free to be as wrong as they want to.
- There is no doctrinal exam to enable someone to claim to be a christian blogger. As far as being in the conversation online goes, claiming to be a christian blogger and not posting anything illegal, immoral or blatantly opposed to everything that would claim to be Christian in the real world is enough for me- it will get you into the Blogdom of God anyway!
- Because we are surrounded in our churches by people who agree with us, we often forget to our cost that the people who seem to say different things to our deeply held beliefs are not somehow evil people- we may feel them misguided, in error, even dangerous to the church. But to respond to them in any way that smacks of or implies to them our hatred of them is not of our Lord.
- It is up to us at times to show other people that they are wrong but we MUST do so in a gracious and kind way. We must learn to speak the truth in love as the bible puts it
- It is very possible for people to misinterpret what we say. The lack of nuance or a mark “this is a joke” and the lack of tone of voice can make a snarky comment emerge from a sincere one. As such when reading what others have said about us we need to be careful to think the best of them and at least give them a chance to prove us wrong in the opinion we have jumped to. Equally when writing we do well to think of every possible wrong interpretation we could give by our words.
- A liberal use of the word “sorry” goes a long way. A simple “I am sorry that you thought I was insulting you and being mean. I honestly didnt realise my words would be taken in that way. Accordingly I apologise, I have gone back and added a note to the post and hope we can move on together” would go a long way in many arguments
- We should not use the blogosphere alone as our way of judging and assessing a person and their suitability to bear the name Christian or even “pastor”. Many of us have made big mistakes we are now embarrassed of blogging. We must learn to excercise grace and FORGIVE our brothers who stumble
- It worries me that the intensity of the response that can be mustered could one day tip someone over the edge to a breakdown or worse. I have even heard that it may have happened once before. We have to learn to be gracious.
- Bloggers have real lives, and those lives seem to spill over into the things they say much more commonly than into the sermons most preachers preach. Judging someone for things they are struggling with is as wrong as judging someone as being “inauthentic” if they say that they have never struggled with issues like that.
- Those of us who blog need also to realise that other peoples opinions of us are not as important as the opinion of the audience of One before whom we will all have to give an account one day for every idle word said and blogged.
Finally, and most importantly: When angry, by all means bang out a quick witted response, but before you hit SEND, save a draft, go have a cup or glass (one only!) of your favorite beverage (beer if necessary!) talk to your wife if you have one, and PRAY before sending it.
You will probably feel the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit to prove yourself to be more loving, to self sacrificially allow them to walk all over you making you look bad, to rather be wronged than wrong and yes to pray for the ones who seem to be your enemies.
So why not bin that post and then write another one that responds with grace where there is arrogance, humility where there is snarkiness, peace where their is rancour, and yet doesnt shy away from tackling the many difficult and important issues we can helpfully discuss online.
I do feel that it is vital for blogger to be accountable offline for the personna they have online. I am so glad that my pastor knows about my blog and reads it from time to time and whats more that bloggers could easily find his email and drop him a line if they felt I was out of line. Thats accountability. Some of the blogs that get into the biggest hot water dont have that level of offline accountability available to their readers because they are totally annonymous.
Lk 6:32-6 If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.…… But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”