Has the Christian Blogosphere Lost Its Collective Mind?

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Okay, so I go away for the weekend only to come back to what appears to be a collective nervous breakdown in the Christian Blogosphere.
Out of Control Midget Wrestling
Folks, I know that no one cares to read us out there in the secular world, but still. If we're going to act like imbeciles, then our witness is destroyed, toasted, racked on a spit, and baked to a crackly crunch. Is that what we're about? Does it lift up the name of Jesus for us to go postal on each other?

I understand that even now a horde of Slice of Laodicea commenters, brows knit in consternation, is marching up to the Great White North, torches in readiness, to roast Tim Challies' backbacon. Ingrid's already apologized for the unintentional outcome of the post that created this stir, but when you can't tell the trolls from the real commenters on your blog, you've got deep blogging issues.

James White is ranting that some Baptist Web site won't answer his e-mails from almost three years ago. The way things are going over at his blog, I expect to see him drop the term "semipelagian poopyhead" on some minor heretic any day now. Loved his take on KJV-only and his book The Forgotten Trinity, but anymore I leave his site feeling drained.

A number of Christian blogs (I'm not even going to name because I'm tired of it) are leveling the boom on Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church based on quotes from a secular newspaper. Do I have to remind the owners of those blogs of the last three years of MSM implosions based on lousy reporting? There's a little thing called "context" that can turn quotes 180 degrees. My advice? Go to his church and see for yourself—then you can desecrate him all you want (as long as you follow this advice first.) I knew Rob from Wheaton College, and yes, he was "unique." But I can't tell you anything about him based on a sound bite. Before we publicly lambaste someone who claims to be a brother in Christ, we better have our facts straight. A couple quotes from a secular newspaper doth not a lynching make.

I feel sad writing this post. About four times I nearly threw the whole thing away because I don't want to be accused of perpetuating the same problem I'm complaining about.

I've long contended that the Internet is not real life. It's a lousy community when you get right down to it. And for that reason I want to tell a story from my own life that I hope you all will read and consider.

When I was at Carnegie Mellon University studying AI & Robotics in the early 1980s, CMU was on the cutting edge of the pre-Internet world. Every dorm had networked computers, IBM was opening up a networking research center on campus, and there was so much stinking CPU horsepower at the school that they ran their HVAC systems through the mainframe cooling systems in order to heat their academic buildings. In short, only MIT was even close in computing power.

One of the cool things about the school was that it was on ARPANET. I could e-mail a friend at MIT. Back then that was something. We also had a college online community that existed only in cyberspace. We talked about every subject imaginable. Everyone had cool handles, so it was easy to hide behind our anonymity and be "free."

I liked to hang out in an area discussing Christianity. Needless to say, it got contentious considering that the (self-identified) "heathen" to Christian ratio was about 500:1. One day a "heathen" posted something really sick and the worst flame war I've ever seen in my life erupted. I tried with all my might to keep it civil, but things got out of control. I've never seen such hateful things said in my life from people with handles like Blasphemer, Bot, Mr. Wizard, and Grue.

Yet behind each of those handles was a person—someone I could be sitting next to in class and not even know it. So I proposed something radical. I asked that the most vocal people—about forty altogether—meet up at a local Italian restaurant for dinner. We could talk face-to-face, drop the anonymity, and be real people. Maybe then we could come to a better understanding. Everyone in the flame war agreed, all forty.

I reserved a room at the Italian place, set up carpools with the forty, arranged a rendezous on campus so we could drive down in the carpools, and had the whole thing worked out. I was really looking forward to this.

Day comes, my watch shows 4:30 PM. I'm in the meeting spot for the carpools and no one shows. Around 4:40, my laid-back, barefoot Christian buddy, Tom (AKA "Captain Zodiac"), arrives and says, "Hey, where is everybody?" Tom and I sat there until 5:15 before we finally called the restaurant, canceled, and went upstairs to grab a burger in the lounge cafeteria.

Two days later, most everyone was at it again on the BBS system, flaming away. When I asked where everyone had been, there was a vast silence. I never got a response. As for me, I gradually bowed out of the "conversation" having learned a great lesson about human nature.

Folks, a name and a postage stamp-sized pic on the Web is not a person. You don't know me and I really don't know you, either. It's easy to tear out someone's heart on the Web through our pseudo-anonymity. It is far harder to tear out someone's heart in person. But when we get right down to it, the Lord would not have us savage each other on the Web anymore than He would condone us savaging each other in person.

Can we all just take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds? Can we count to ten before we post the latest flame bait or character assassination. I'm tired of the hunt for heretics. Cerulean Sanctum gets more combined hits from people looking for heretics than any other kind of Google search. That's really sad.

Is this all we are about? I've blogged many times about this, but it's getting stupid now and I'm questioning why we Christians even blog if this is all we can do.

If the picture that some of us are presenting to the world at large looks like a bunch of fussbudget, life-haters on a perpetual witch hunt, well let me tell you we're excelling at that.

Can we stop for a while? Please? I'm pleading now. Let's stop slaying each other remotely via words. Just last week I proposed that we spend a month in prayer for anyone we disagree with before we write them up on our blogs as "Enemies of Christ." Is that an impossible request?

August is a new month. Yes, it's a hot hazy one in much of the nation, but we can bring down the temperature if we try. Can we attempt this month to write something better on our blogs than one spiritual smackdown after another?

I have an idea. Why don't we try to reach out to some secular blogs and see if we can reciprocate some blogrolling. Better yet, why don't we try to reach out to some secular bloggers who may never have had a good relationship with anyone who takes the name of Christ and show them the love of Jesus any way we can? Can we try to turn the "dog days" of August into the "God Days" of August?

Isn't that ultimately the heart of the Lord for all of us God-bloggers?

39 thoughts on “Has the Christian Blogosphere Lost Its Collective Mind?

  1. Gaddabout

    One of the biggest God bloggers on the web (no names, since we’re not playing that game) recently responded to someone by proclaiming something like this:

    “Better theology means better behavior.”

    At first I was reticient to assign any importance to the quote. It didn’t sound exactly right, but I wasn’t going to quiver with someone who definitely worked their entire lives to have all their ducks in a row.

    Later, I began to agree with the quote (because I can see countless examples of the apostles belief in this throughout the NT), but I had a hard time by the expression of it. What was really being said is “My theology means better behavior.”

    Now, I’m not an ecumenist, and I believe there is really bad theology out there. Anyone who professes to be a Christian but denies the cardinal truths of Christianity deserves a boot to the backside in my opinion. There’s a loving, graceful way to do that, but let’s call it what it is: God’s forceful correction of abherrent theology. Anyone who’s been delivered from Boston Church, The Door, or some other “one true church” hyperdiscipleship cult can appreciate the beauty of it.

    Beyond that, however, within agreeable orthodoxy of the faith, I find the lack of grace appalling. It is one thing to attack disagreeable ideas. It is entirely another thing to attack the people behind them. The assumption that we have somehow achieved a pure theology is beyond prideful! It is a sin! I really cannot believe we would intentially separate ourselves over things not relating to salvation, and yet we do, over and over again.

  2. lindaruth

    Amen and amen.

    I appreciate your calm, reasoned tone and responsible use of your blog space.

    Praying for people we disagree with is a very good start. When you pray for someone, they become more real to you. God opens your eyes and teaches you to see as He does. This applies to people we see on a daily basis and people we only know online.

    Thanks again.
    Linda

  3. John

    Wow! I was halfway through reading this before I realised I was holding my breath! Thankfuly I didn’t implode like the people you are referring too!

    What a breath of fresh air Dan, we need more of this than the other! Keep up the good work!

    GBYAY

  4. Rick Creech

    Let me just say a brief little something; AMEN!!!

    A month long prayerful pause before anything of value is little to ask.

    Thanks again Dan.

  5. Brian

    You are “perpetuating the same problem [you are] complaining about”. j/k

    talk(ytalk,ntalk), irc, bbs’s and newsgroups, oh my

    AMDG

  6. chris kottre

    well said…

    i read your post just five minutes after reading a christian royal rumble on a very prominent blog… you put words to the feelings i had in that moment… good stuff!

    cheers!

  7. andrew@stonepavement

    “Better yet, why don’t we try to reach out to some secular bloggers who may never have had a good relationship with anyone who takes the name of Christ and show them the love of Jesus any way we can?”

    Dan great idea…stick a few links on your blogroll and we can start a trend…I’m going to look into this for myself….

  8. Wow! How could I have missed all the flaming fun! 😀 Just kidding.

    Such a good post, Dan! Sometimes I feel like sighing, and removing the “Christian” from my Messy Christian title of my blog because I get fed up with all the political nonsense I see on Christian blogs, which usually runs along these lines: “Who believes the right-est? Those who don’t believe the right-est must be out-ed!”

    It does look silly when you put it in that perspective. 😛

  9. Philip

    Dan, I’m with you. I posted a thought on this yesterday, though without the links. I was only thinking of one of the things you linked to. Thanks for this message.

  10. Capt. Eucalyptus

    Preach it bro. It is so easy for us to tear at each other when we don’t really know these people. We all need to show one another more grace.

  11. Cultural Savage

    Here is a comment I posted in one of these battles. It is truly how I feel:

    When did the Enemy of our Souls become fellow humans?… even people we disagree with?

    Yes some people are leading the body into bad theology, but that is still a far cry from decrying someone as the enemy of your soul.

    Tread carefully, lest we fall to the temptation of the Pharisee:
    “God, thank you that I am not like ________ (insert name here)! I blog rightly; I have theology down pat; I am right and infallible!”

    We all should acknowledge the truth that we all need to pray: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Also, we must remember the parable of the unforgiving servant… if we have been forgiven, what animosity should we hold against anyone, even those whom we seek to correct with the word.

    If Jesus came to love, who are we to do anything less?

  12. Thanks for reminding us that our battle is not against flesh and blood!

    Thanks for reminding us the Internet is a gift of God for good to those who believe!

    Thanks for reminding us of the Grace we’ve received and the price paid for it!

    Oh how hard it is to see the railroad tie in my own eye while I’m busy pointing out the splinter in my brother’s eye.

    HE ALONE IS WORTHY

  13. Gina

    Dan,

    I think you are absolutely right. I posted on a similar topic this week on my own blog after coming across a rather disturbing website/blog in which the guy basically asserted that he is the only minister/teacher since the close of the the NT to walk in truth. He claims that all who don’t believe exactly as he believes are hell-bound heretics. He even goes so far as to list them by name. Now, obviously this guy is out in left-field, but it did illuminate the larger issue very well in my mind.

    Yes, we are to stand up for the truth and speak out against false doctrine. But, we are also called to love our neighbors as ourselves. I think we can do a much better job of how we present ourselves. I know that the majority of negative comments people make online would never be said to someone face to face. I don’t know what it is about the anonymity of the internet that causes us to think that gives them a license to be rude and uncharitable.

    I think that we need to prayerfully consider our motives before we blast others that we disagree with. Do we really want to help them see the truth, or do we just want to be right?

    Thank you for a much needed reality check.

  14. I found this post by linking from another site (although I stop by now and then). Ironically, I posted about this too on Tuesday, 8-2. I took a little bit of a different perspective however, since no one seems to be bothering me on my blog.
    http://www.xanga.com/praise117
    I’m sorry that you even needed to do this, but you have done it well.

    I don’t believe that we aren’t read by secular audiences. I’ve had traffic on my blog from other than Christian sites. The ratio is not what we would like, but we can’t take chances. Besides, our first audience is God.

  15. SheekChic

    Wow, I just found this and what an amazing brave thing you asked of your “blogger buds” to do. It’s just too bad we all hide behind identities even IN PERSON. Authenticity is so rare, so hard, and such a sacrifice . . .

    Thanks for the post!

  16. Prince of Perksia

    I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts. More and more I find the Lord dealing with me on issues of judgment and holding my peace and trying to maintain civility and unity, and to speak the truth in love.

    Grace and peace to you.

  17. rustoleum

    Dan,

    Thank you for your timely post.

    I have no problem with vigorous debate, or even disagreement, if done in a civil and respectful manner. Such discussions can result in the positive fruit from “iron sharpening iron.”

    Unfortunately, civility and respect have gone AWOL at some Christian sites. Yesterday I read an entry by a blogger who was devastated at having been attacked by a fellow Christian blogger.

    I went to the other blogger’s site and found that the post had indeed crossed the line. To make matters worse, this blogger posted a subsequent entry defending her attack and sarcastically referred to those who criticized her tone as “the Christian nice patrol.”

    I can’t help but wonder why so many Christian bloggers and comment writers seem intent on proving the old saying about the Christian army being the only one that shoots its own wounded.

    Sorry about the length of this post. Keep up the good work, Dan!

  18. Barbara

    Paula said: “I don’t believe that we aren’t read by secular audiences. I’ve had traffic on my blog from other than Christian sites. The ratio is not what we would like, but we can’t take chances. Besides, our first audience is God.”

    TRUTH! God is our first audience, and we shouldn’t lose track of that thought, when we begin to blog. It might not hurt the one we talk about, but it sure hurts our testimony, when we sit in judgement of a person. And, most of the people judging don’t even know anything about the other person, other than what they’ve heard somewhere else – sort of like the newspaper article that gave a guy the reason to flame a pastor. God isn’t happy with us, when we take these matters into our own hands. We need to be building up, not tearing down.

  19. ROTFLOL!

    No, no, seriously. One has only to watch people drive to know what they would do in the anonymity of the blogosphere. But, (un)fortunately, (depending on one’s beliefs) God sees the heart and keyboard of everyone, regardless of “handle” and so judges the fruit accordingly. Perhaps we should all stand back and ask ourselves: WWJB?

  20. Great post. I would only add that as well as watching how and what we write, that we also apply the same standards to what we read. Everyone seems so much more attracted to the bad stuff while much of the good and helpful are not seen as interesting. If everyone stops frequenting blogs that regularly take on negative or judgemental tones, perhaps that would go a long way toward helping the problem.

  21. I am a bit late to the post myself but I appreciated your thoughts and can resonate with your feelings here. It’s kind of sad when you get nervous to check your own comments for fear of what nasty thing you will be called next.

  22. Pingback: Sliced Laodicea » Has the Christian Blogosphere Lost Its Collective Mind?

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