It is fashionable to disrespect blogging. State conventions have passed resolutions focused on the evils of our pursuit. The new NAMB president showed utter disdain for those of us who write online, saying that we all wear housecoats and live with our mothers. Several prominent bloggers have for various reasons either left blogging behind or cut back dramatically.
I have no doubts that blogging sometimes takes more of my time than I should probably give it. And there are certainly times when blogs get out of hand. Wild and unsubstantiated rumors sometimes fly, and people can dig their teeth into something and not let go (witness the White/Caner imbroglio). We sometimes give ourselves black eyes.
But in spite of all this, I love blogging. I think it has a lot of positive possibilities that blossom among the thorns and thistles. I’d like to spell out a few of the reasons I like to blog.
1) Blogging provides an audience for our ideas.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I have been writing stories since I was in high school. It is unbelievably hard to get books published. Maybe my books just aren’t good enough. I don’t know. But I have been writing all my life. For the most part, my books remain on my computer.
Blogging gave me the one thing that publishers have not yet provided – an audience. I write something, publish it, and people read it. Sometimes they like it. Sometimes they don’t. But people are reading and responding to what I write. And that is really cool.
I was at the convention in Orlando and was introduced to a man I had admired for quite a while. When he heard my name, he smiled and say, “I read your blog and I really like it.” A man I respected was reading my blog. That is an awesome privilege and I am deeply grateful for a forum. Each of us should take that privilege seriously.
2) Blogging is the most democratic of forums.
Why am I a blogger today? Because when a brouhaha broke out at IMB, I started reading blogs. Then, one day I went to Blogger and set up an account. It took maybe 10 minutes and voila, I was a blogger. I didn’t have to apply, I didn’t have to get approval. There was no committee that met to determine my qualifications. If you want to be a blogger, you can be a blogger.
In blogging, its not who you know, its how you write. I did not know a single person in the blog world five years ago when I got into this world. I just started commenting. Then I started blogging, interacting with people. I didn’t have to be part of the in-crowd or get a password that only the insiders could get. Even a nobody from Northwest Iowa could put his ideas out there for all to read.
There are few things in life more accessible, more democratic, than blogging.
3) Blogging taught me to deal with criticism
My first foray into online communication was an email devotional I used to send out a couple of times a week, called “Word Processing.” I started by sending it to family and friends and gradually added people as they requested to be on the email list. Several of the devotionals I wrote got picked up by other email journals and I began to get comments from around the world.
The vast majority of comments I got were positive. But I got a couple of negative comments and that just devastated me. I started to obsess about the handful of negative comments instead of the messages of support. I had a really good thing going, but the few criticisms I received cratered me and I stopped writing. I let a few negative words lead me to waste an opportunity God gave me.
Then, I found blogging and I had a new chance. If you blog at all you know that someone is not going to like something you write. If you blog, you are going to be told you are an idiot. I’ve gotten plenty of that.
I hope I never come to the point where I blithely ignore others opinions, but blogging has helped me realize that I can live through the pain of being criticized! One blogger, a man whom I have never met and never even talked to, diagnosed me with a mental disorder. He’s probably right. But a few years ago, his critique would have put me into a fetal position for a couple of weeks. Now, I laugh about it.
Okay, I still don’t like to be criticized. I think it would be a much better world if everyone agreed with me. But I’ve learned to live with the fact that there are people who don’t like me, who think I’m a jerk, or who think my ideas stink.
Blogging has helped me learn that lesson.
4) Blogging is educational.
Some folks won’t admit that. Yes, many comment streams descend into name-calling and stupidity. It happens. But there is a lot of substantive, educational discussion that can be found on blogs.
I got into blogging because of my opposition to what is often called the Baptist Identity movement. I spent a lot of time arguing with people from that side (and along the way, came to think of several of them as friends). Along the way, I sharpened my views of ecclesiology (still trying to convince CB of the city-church idea) and came to a better understanding of baptism. I wrote an article at sbcIMPACT explaining why I believe that divorced men should be allowed to serve in leadership in the church. There was some petty arguing, but Bart Barber came along and made some really powerful points that made me have to rethink my positions. I learned from his challenging my views.
Yes, there are some sites that specialize in the Baptist version of yellow journalism, or get bogged down in petty “gotcha” exchanges over silly issues. But there are substantive blogs where real issues are discussed in depth. “Between the Times” comes to mind. I could list several of my favorites here.
I’ve learned a lot from blogging.
5) Blogging makes friends.
Yes, blogging has made me a couple of enemies along the way. But I’ve made some friends as well – more than I have made enemies. At the convention, I hung out with David Rogers and Chris Johnson. I would not have ever met either of them if not for the blogosphere. I shared a meal with some fella named CB Scott. I went to Tony Roma’s with several of the guys from SBC Today and several other bloggers. I had a great time. Matt Svoboda and I became friends through the blogging process. I’m still trying to straighten out his eschatology, but that won’t be a quick fix.
I’m not trying to drop names here. I’m just saying that I would have never met any of these guys if it were not for blogging.
6) Blogging makes a difference.
This is the dirty secret that some in power do not want to admit. The SBC is different today because of the blogging phenomenon. In 2006, there were a couple of prominent names put forward for SBC president. Frank Page was also a candidate. Information was distributed in blogs that let everyone know that the two most prominent candidates had less than spectacular records of Cooperative Program support. I’m sure there were many reasons why Frank Page was elected in Greensboro, but I think bloggers has something to do with that. Would Frank Page be EC President today if not for bloggers? Who knows? But I doubt it.
The powers-that-be often want to treat us as irrelevant, as “bloggers in housecoats” who should simply be ignored. But what we do does make a difference sometimes.
7) Bloggers are, in a sense, the real “Baptist Press”
BP is essentially a public relations arm of the Executive Committee and the various entities. Articles about IMB are written by IMB PR staff. Articles about NAMB are written by NAMB staff. And when there is anything controversial or potentially negative, you have to go to ABP or elsewhere to read about it.
But we are providing, as bloggers, some of the independent analysis and debate that Baptist Press should provide. Yes, of course, that is sometimes mixed with wild rumors and slander – the downside of the blogging phenomenon. But we are providing a real service in getting information and analysis to those who want to read more than the sanitized official press releases of our entities.
I understand that blogging has its downsides. I think there is a tendency toward relentless negativity among some bloggers. Certainly, some among us seem more interested in tearing down than in building up. And blogging attracts more than its share of blathering bloviators. We are an imperfect forum with lots of room for improvement. There are no blog police to reign us in when we get lose our self-control. All of these are genuine problems.
But I love blogging and I am glad its here. I think the SBC is going to be a better place because there is a way for the people who are not in power to have a voice.
Next time you tell someone you are a blogger, don’t hang your head!