Last week’s post on New Testament social networks appeared on the front page of news site Digg over the weekend, giving us a month’s worth of traffic in a few days’ time. We want to reflect on what happens when a Christian blog experiences a fleeting burst of popularity from non-Christian or even anti-Christian sources.
Unlike some sites, this blog doesn’t focus on evangelism. It doesn’t overtly try to convert you to Christianity, largely because we assume that most of you are already Christian or at least sympathetic to Christianity. But every public Christian endeavor has an element of evangelism—you can’t help it: non-Christians watch your actions, hear your words, note your attitude.
Blogging magnifies this scrutiny. Anyone from anywhere in the world can come across any of your posts for any reason. What impression do you leave? Are your visitors, if Christian, encouraged or strengthened in their faith? If non-Christian, do they leave without thinking less of Christians, Christ, or the church?
Living a Christian life is a heavy burden (and, paradoxically, a freeing one). We’re not holding this blog up as a model by any means—but if you wonder why we don’t court controversy by getting involved in disputes or why we don’t respond forcefully to ESV critics, it’s because we do our best to cultivate our blogging around ethics of love, meekness, and generosity. (And we’re not saying that we always succeed.)
Tim Challies recently wrote about talking to the secular press about the church, a topic with parallels to blogging:
I don’t know of many people who would talk to the press about the problems in their families. If I found that a local reporter was attempting to write a negative story about my wife, and if she approached me asking me for stories about Aileen that she could use, I would never help her! I would explain that I love my wife and would never do anything to hurt her. Likewise, I love the church, for we are a family, and I would be very hesitant to air out her dirty laundry in front of the world.
Similar principles apply to blogging, but blogging is more direct, immediate, and raw than talking to the media. You don’t need to think about what you’re saying—you can simply write it up and press “Publish” for everyone to see. The long tail of the Christian blogosphere is full of comments that (we hope) people wouldn’t say to fellow Christians face-to-face. Something about digital communication suppresses the better angels of our nature.
We’re not arguing that you should avoid saying anything critical or controversial on your blog or stop discussing sin—sin is the human condition. You can’t have repentance and salvation without sin. Rather, we ask you to consider how your words will sound both to your regular audience and to random visitors. Your blog is a microphone to the world. If you could say one thing to thousands of people at a stroke, would it be your latest blog post?
Many of you read 1 Corinthians 13 in church this Sunday. It applies as much to blogging as it does to other areas of the Christian life. An excerpt:
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love is not arrogant or rude, but rejoices with the truth. If only we always lived up to our ideals.
We’re going on at length about this topic because of some of the reactions we got to our Dugg post as it made its way into the wider blogosphere. First, we want to make clear that we appreciate all the positive comments we received.
At times, however, the intrinsic Christianity of our post ran into the casual atheism prevalent in the tech blogosphere. What struck us was the offhand treatment of the New Testament as a work of fiction, typified by a comment (beware coarse language if you follow the link) on Digg that lumped the New Testament with “Dune and Galactica [science-fiction universes] and other popular tales of fiction.” Other commenters didn’t restrain their outright hostility to the Bible.
Our post didn’t address (and probably couldn’t have adequately addressed) the concerns that these people had, yet we hope that God has used and will use the post to his glory. We wish you well if you feel called to minister to the tech blogosphere; you have your work cut out for you.
Even if you don’t consider your blog a ministry, it serves as one. And, as we found out, you never know when one of your posts will become popular or how people will interpret you. We try to keep James 3 in mind as we blog:
Not many of you should become teachers [or bloggers], my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body… but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so….
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom…. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
We ask your forgiveness when we don’t live up to these principles. We’re constantly amazed (and grateful) at how God uses sinful human beings for his glory. We praise God for whatever small contribution we make to his kingdom; at the same time, we’re thankful for each one of you and for the parts that you play, whatever they may be.
This is a great post from the ESV blog about the dangers and responsibilities of Christians of blog. I am re-posting it in it's entirety. The bold parts are the things I found most important.