Disadvantage of Blogs as Theological Discourse

Because I often write about the benefits of blogging and the great tool I see blogs to be I thought I’d look at it from the other side and investigate some of the disadvantages they come with.  There have a been a number of ongoing comments here and its led me to think further about blogging as “theological discourse.”  Taking my cue from Hauerwas I wrote that blogging has the advantage  of fitting into a local context within a community of believers. I said,

“For Hauerwas, Theology and ethics take place within the local context of a given faith community and is always on the move. Because this is one of his main focuses (the church as its own polis) he typically spends his time writing short essays about specific ethical and pastoral issues, including medical ethics, interpretation of scripture, war, abortion, homosexuality, and the church in the political world.”

Theologically oriented blogs work best when they deal with specific issues that the blogger faces within his or her own context – issues that we know about best and are dealing with make for meaningful posts not just to people in close proximity to us but also to people visiting the site.  This is because when we work out issues in dialogue we help others see some of the process we’ve gone through.  Not that people will necessarily agree with us, but it helps to model thinking and conversation.

I want conversation to take place on this site, I want to deal with issues that are meaningful, challenging and need to be talked about.  So we continue to invite more people in hoping that we as a community of people connected to this site will push our conversation forward – illuminating parts that have been overlooked.  This is one of the major advantages to blogs – people from all over and vastly different experiences, backgrounds and influences join together in dialogue (this is one of the only ways this happens).

Ethics Outside the Community Are Only A Mirror of Real-life

The disadvantage to blogging then, at least in terms of “theological discourse,” is at least three-fold.

1. Real Witness Must Happen In Person – Christian tracts, TV shows, radio and now websites and podcasts all attempt to reach out and make a witness to the reality of Jesus and the Gospel.  All of these methods are useful only insofar as they connect people to their real-life experience.  They can be only pointers to real transformation.  One can only share verbally or throw written words so much about Christ, the real foot work comes in when Christians meet others in person and their own lives point to the real work of Jesus.  Without this aspect, all the above methods are of little value in creating disciples of Jesus.  At best they can only help convince people of arguments for and against belief – they cannot in and of themselves help change practices and lifestyles – this is done in community.

2. Commenting on blogs is an Odd Form of Communicating – In normal everyday conversation we have the priveledge to see each other’s faces, hear inflections and tones, and tend to be more gentle in how we speak to each other.  Rarely do I experience someone who jumps into the middle of a conversation as an antagonist (whether politely or impolitely).  In all fairness I actually like the fact that people can come into conversations later down the road, this is a strength of the written word over the spoken word.  But even still this kind of jumping into conversations makes for odd communication and sometimes makes it tricky to remain consistent in a given topic.

3. It Creates a Hard to Define Community Where People Come And People Go – Blogs as  community formers lack boundaries for community life.  As a Quaker I find my home in low-church structures, I don’t like over-controlling meetings and clubs where people tend to be overbearing. In other words, I’m the last person you’d find in a cult meeting.  But the communities that blogs create are on the other very far end of these overbearing communities.

Interest and/or personal commitment in the blog’s topic, the commenters or the blog writer himself/herself that keeps people coming back.  There are no other boundaries I can think of that create and define a blog’s community.  These are acceptable reasons to have an online community, but when it comes to knowing one another more personally, questioning another’s behaviors, or benefiting from a person’s character and example blogs fall far short.  This makes it hard to create a lasting community concerned for one another’s real life needs.  People easily come and go – some drop one comment and never return, some stay for a while but never give their real names or hide behind a false identity.  When commenters comment and don’t have websites, their comments are often spoken out of the darkness – without a context – without a story.  This makes it difficult to have real stable friendship and community.

As you are all aware I thoroughly enjoy blogging, I enjoy even more the dialogue and learning that takes place here and I totally appreciate all the readers who visit.  So don’t take this as a disgruntled-blogger post, because I am not.  I’d like to think through the way we understand and operate in these online spaces – so that we make the best of them without expecting too much.  This website is only an unbalanced view of the Christian life – from one voice (mine), and disembodied from that one voice’s real life.  Transformation for all of us takes place first off the screen, in the day to day nitty gritty.  No amount of words, postulating, and waxing on will bring in the kingdom it is the life lived for Jesus that is the partial answer to the prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.”