Thom Rainer, the president of LifeWay, has written a wonderful blogpost entitled, “Five Reasons I Avoid Writing Negative and Controversial Blogposts.” It is must reading for those of us who blog or comment. I identify with everything he said.
Take a minute, click the link and read the entire post.
Good, you are back! Now, let’s look at and examine each of Rainer’s points.
Rainer’s Excellent Points
The points here are copied directly from Rainer’s post. The comments are mine.
1) A controversial post often creates sides, dividing people who probably agree on most issues.
He is absolutely right here. I can think of people who were my sworn blog enemies who are now friends. Blogging magnified our differences and made me think of brothers in Christ as enemies of the faith. It is one of the besetting sins of bloggers.
We need to always keep in perspective that we are having family discussions, not contending for the faith against heretics and scoundrels.
2) As a Christian I see one of my primary roles to be the building up the body of Christ.
Again, I agree fully. Our duty is to build up the Body. However, and I think Rainer would agree, if the Body is sick, the sickness must be addressed. I had a small skin cancer on my forehead a couple of years ago. My doctor took a knife and cut into my forehead and dug that rascal out. When I have an infection, she gives me antibiotics to go in and kill the bacteria that is making me sick.
The Apostle Paul told us to make sure that every word we spoke was edifying and benefitted those who listened. Yet, he rebuked the Corinthians repeatedly and talked harshly in Galatians to those who would drive Christians back into slavery to the law.
There is a way to deal with controversial and negative topics and still be edifying. We cannot and should not ignore the problems in the body of Christ. That only leads to greater sickness.
I agree fully with Dr. Rainer that the way we have done this as bloggers has often not been edifying. We have got to find that balance to deal with issues and to do it in an edifying, God-honoring, Christ-exalting way.
3) Divided Christians are a poor witness for the watching world.
Amen. We have to remember that. I know that there are a number of non-believers, even atheists, who read this blog (from time to time at least). We need to remember that when we are locking horns over some theological issue and when our blood is boiling.
4) Negative and controversial blogposts can lead to more negative and controversial blogs.
That is so true. In fact, one of the things I’ve learned through the 737 years I’ve been blogging is that one of the best ways to diffuse a controversy is simply not to respond. When I post, someone posts back and then I respond, then someone else. If someone writes a substantive response to something I have written, it is good to respond substantively. But it is usually best not to respond when someone just seems to want to fight.
But I understand Dr. Rainer’s point. As I write articles, sometimes I will ask myself if the light that will be shed will be worth the heat generated by the article.
5) Negative blogging drains me emotionally and spiritually.
That is, again, so true. I love to read the Bible, get an idea and write on it. But battle-blogging (my term for what he calls negative blogging) is draining. God has given me a thicker hide through blogging than I used to have, but it is still draining and stress-inducing to be in the middle of a controversy.
But, if there is a fight worth fighting, then that stress is a good thing, not a bad thing. Every servant of God in scripture was battle-worn. Read Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 11. Serving God is always stressful and difficult.
I think Dr. Rainer’s point is that our fight should be against the powers of darkness, not against other servants of Christ.
I agree with everything that Dr. Rainer says. That is why posts like this bother me a little. If I could just dismiss it as worthless, it would be easier. This is a wise man saying wise things and we need to heed his wisdom.
Here’s my problem. I’m the editor of a “lively” Baptist blog. And, sometimes the things we post could certainly be defined as “negative and controversial.” And the comment sections often become slugfests.
But, I also believe that blogs have served an important function in the SBC. Since the original Baptist blog controversy of 2005, I believe that SBC leaders have actually become more open and more transparent. Some are even engaging bloggers!
There is a lot wrong with Baptist blogging, but it serves a purpose. It is often bloggers who give the unvarnished truth about convention workings and who raise issues that the leadership of the convention would rather not deal with.
We are (at our best) the free press that holds our leaders accountable. We need to be responsible and fair and honest and all of those things, and sometimes we are not. But I think that it is a good thing for us to have a forum where we can discuss what is going on in the SBC openly.
So, while I agree with Dr. Rainer, I also believe that blogging, and even, at times, negative and controversial blogging have a place.
I wish I had more answers on this issue. I’ve struggled with it for 7 years, trying to find that perfect balance, and have failed often. I appreciate Dr. Rainer’s words here and I think they are a helpful warning to those of us who blog. On the other hand, I also maintain that there is a benefit from blogs, even blogs that deal critically with SBC life.
I believe there is a balance there, even if I often fail to find it!