First, I’d like to thank Tony Jones for giving me the opportunity to do some guest-blogging during his absence. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been thinking about starting my own blog for quite some time, but I never got around to doing anything about it. Now that I’ve blogged for a few days, maybe I’ll think about exploring the possibility that I might, one day, some time in the future, start my own blog. Maybe.
Second, I’d like to thank everyone for their comments and questions. I actually like engaging other people in debates and questions. Without respectful dialog, I’m afraid most of my ideas would come out half-baked. The comments often gave me the opportunity to clarify what I meant (and my ideas need a lot of clarifying). Maybe some of my thoughts are now more fully baked.
It seems to me that people read and respond to blogs for two main reasons (and I’ll just ignore spammers): they either tend to agree or to disagree with the blogger’s perspective. If you agree with a blogger, you look for confirmation of what you already believe. It’s comforting to know that you’re not the only person on the planet who thinks like you do. On the other hand, if you disagree with a blogger, I suppose you could be learning what the “opposition” is thinking, or you could comment to try to get the blogger to change her mind, or you could just publicly disagree with the blogger in order to testify to the truth (as you understand it). I suppose it’s comforting to know that you are the prophet announcing the truth to a people about to suffer judgment. I think Jonah felt the same way when he prophesied against Nineveh. (While these comments seem more appropriate to religious blogs, it’s pretty clear when partisans on political blogs act like prophets against their political opponents.)
It’s easy to dismiss the comments which merely disagree with a blogger’s perspective. After all, it’s pretty clear when someone attacks the blogger instead of what the blogger wrote. (I can certainly appreciate why some blogs monitor comments before they are posted.) These comments really amount to saying, “You don’t share my perspective and I don’t like it.” Such comments say much more about the person making the comment than anything enlightening about the topic of the blog. (By the way, for those of you who enjoy throwing bombs: you may not want to know what your comments say about you….)
On the other hand, some people raise serious, heart-felt objections, and try to explain why the blogger is mistaken. These comments give everyone the chance to clarify what they believe. It is unlikely that anyone’s minds will be changed, but I don’t really think that’s the point. (If I remember correctly, Robert Nozick pointed out that nothing can force someone to accept a “strong” or “powerful” or even “knock-down” argument. People ignore good arguments all the time. Alas, even the strongest, most powerful argument can’t set up reverberations in someone’s brain so that rejecting the argument would make that person’s head explode. But I digress….) The benefit of public discourse in blog comments occurs when somebody makes progress in clarifying her or his thinking. And that can’t be a bad thing.
So hooray for (most of) the comments. Vive la différence!