I own several hundred books that I haven’t read, most of which I hope to read or reference at some point. New books are coming out at an amazing rate. I've found that I certainly can't keep up in my sub-discipline of Christian environmental ethics. Forget about actually reading the new books from the various Christian publishing houses that people around me and in my church are reading.
Even more than the available published books, the internet is awash in a sea of information. We are inundated with data, facts, descriptions, accounts, pictures, videos, opinions, artifacts, and various entertainments.
If your Facebook feeds and Twitter streams are anything like mine, you probably have the same overwhelmed feeling that I get when I think of all that there is to think about and read and process. There is no way I can keep up with the torrent of information that is sent my way on the internet, forget about the thousands of volumes in the local library that I haven’t read.
With this overflow of information, why do people–myself included–feel it necessary to chime in by creating more online content?
There are at least three reasons why bloggers write:
First, there is a theological reason for this. Humans are made in the image of God. It’s been that way since God created Adam and Eve. Part of the way we reflect the image of God is by creating. God is a creator, we are sub-creators that imitate his work. One way that some of us reflect God’s creative activity is by thinking and writing. Blogs are simple ways of doing that, though the writers may not be conscious of this motivation.
Second, practically speaking, writing for blogs is the easiest way to get published. Even if you are a good thinker and writer, there is no guarantee that a completed book will get published. However, for under $100 and a few hours of work, you can have a customized web address, some pretty pictures, and your own content displayed for hundreds–more likely dozens–to view. The desire to publish can have either positive or negative motivations.
Third, blogging provides a way to communicate to a broader audience. Ideally this is what blogging is good for. Blogging should be less focused on ranting, reacting, and misrepresenting than on communicating valuable perspectives on things that the writer is intimately familiar with or has at least carefully researched.
How does blogging advance the kingdom?
As a Christian, the most significant motivation for me should be to advance the Kingdom of God. This is done by verbally proclaiming the gospel as well as by working to bring the redemptive power of the gospel to bear on the world around us.
Blogging can help with both aspects of this.
In fact, Karen Swallow Prior makes the point that blogging is just the latest technological iteration of an older impetus. In her recent book, Fierce Convictions, Prior notes that the pamphlets that were used to good effect in the 18th and 19th centuries to make theological and social arguments broadly and inexpensively are the precursor to blogs. These pamphlets were cheap to print, could be mass produced, and broadcast widely. This sounds a lot like blogs to me.
Pamphlets helped to change the world, even though their messages were often brief and transient. Blogs can do the same, hopefully for the better.
Tony Merida notes the possibility of Kingdom service through blogging in his recent book Ordinary. When offering practical suggestions for speaking up and helping end injustice, Merida writes, “Consider writing a blog to your readers or encouraging someone else who blogs to highlight a particular issue of injustice.”
Merida recognizes the power of our modern means of communications. He also recognizes the danger of it.
He writes, “Be aware of the fact that it is easy, as well as dangerous, to speak with a false sense of authority, make sweeping generalizations, or perhaps even disclose information that can re-victimize or increase vulnerabilities for the very ones you seek to speak up for.”
There is raw power in blogging that must be managed carefully.
Being truthful should be the primary goal of every communicator. Communication that is misleading, intentionally or accidentally, does not advance the Kingdom. As a private citizen, I have a responsibility to present the facts as well as I can and be subject to correction when I fail at that.
Grace should pervade every post. The internet is a wilderness and there is great potential for doing good or evil by communicating on the web. If I slander someone or viciously attack every move someone makes, I could cause someone great harm. Even when a blogger writes to argue a point, she should seek to be gracious. There will be fewer clicks in the short term, but this is a gospel issue. Internet shaming is a tactic from the pit of hell and should be avoided at all costs.
A sense of purpose should drive the content of a site. There are too many media-lite parrots on the internet that slightly repackage yesterday’s news to gather a few clicks. My social media streams are overflowing with these sorts of links. A good rule of thumb is that unless you are providing something unique to the conversation, you shouldn't post it and share it. All you are doing is speaking from someone else’s authority and flooding the stream. You may be killing legitimate dialogue in the process.
Additionally, sometimes you just shouldn't post your opinion on the latest scandal in the news because you don’t have enough information about critical race theory, the justice system, internet hacking, or Middle Eastern politics. This doesn't mean you can’t learn about those things, but publishing something assumes a degree of expertise. Doing this improperly can be dangerous and misleading.
In the end, blogging and social media have potential to make contributions for the Kingdom, both by being evangelistic and by promoting justice. This is true only if we use the available tools well, covered in prayer, seasoned with the gospel, and focused on doing good instead of just self-promotion.
Note: If you find this interesting, you may also be interested in my previous post on Social Media and the Christian.