(Christian Courier column, Dec. 24th, 2012)
Did you know the proliferation of blogs on the Internet has spawned something called the blogosphere? Like the atmosphere, the blogosphere sustains life, a habitat for inquiring minds, where bloggers read, write, dream and argue. Christians are there, too, engaged in a myriad of conversations.
What I like about reading blogs
There are a million stories in the naked blogosphere, on any topic that might interest you, including frogs, dogs and hogs. For the sake of journalistic integrity, I read some of those. Admittedly, to me, they weren’t that interesting. But there are an intoxicating number of Christian blogs that do interest me. Proficient bloggers embed links right into their posts, instantaneous references to other blogs, news, art, music. Reading blogs is a digital high – endless mental stimulation, one addictive click after another.
I like the transparency of blogs, which pulse with personality and honesty. I like their interactive quality and the continuous access to vibrant discussions. If I want to chime in, I can.
What I don’t like about reading blogs
I worry, however, about how blogs affect reading and thinking. Sometimes it feels like I’m in the drive-through lane of a virtual library, consuming fast-food information without much reflection, my brain’s dial set at 99.9 Intellect-Lite – all opinion, all the time. Rachel Held Evans wrote a post on her blog called “A Week without Opinions: Can I do it? Could you?”
Allan Kleine Deters, who blogs at A Ragamuffin Voice, wrote a post called “R.I.P. Deep Thinking.” He quotes John Dyers (From the Garden to the City: the Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology): “As we cultivate the skill of scanning screens, many of us find it more difficult to read a book word by word and line by line. We seem to cultivate either the skill of deep reading or the skill of scanning . . . but it is difficult to maintain both skills.” Dyers quotes Google CEO Eric Schmidt (who apparently is worrying about the very same thing I am, but making more money at it): “‘I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information – is in fact affecting cognition. It is in fact affecting deeper thinking.’” And, by the way, this paragraph demonstrates the very thing I worry about! I haven’t read Dyers’ book and neither has Kleine Deters. He got the quote from Leadership Journal. Information snippets piled high on a cardboard tray?
The blogging world is insanely competitive. Blogs can be tediously self-promotional because they’re the new career scaffold for publishing. If your blog is going to garner popularity, it has to stand out, so language gets harnessed to marketability. Brief is better. Edgy is better. One-upmanship, anonymity and lack of accountability combine to create the perfect environment for noxious “flaming.” Yes, even among Christians. What happened with Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, is illustrative. Top-ranked Christian blogger Justin Taylor wrote a negative post about the book before it was actually out and, in response, Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell.” A hurricane of vituperation whipped around the blogosphere, not enough to permanently damage anyone’s credibility or popularity, but enough to prove that no one is immune from stormy weather.
Paul VanderKlay is a thoughtful culture-observer whose scriptural exegeses are creative (LeadingChurch.com). John Suk pushes me to think about my belief boundaries (faithisntwhatyouthink.blogspot.ca). Thinkchristian.net, produced by the CRC’s ReFrame Media, delivers a daily stream of topical posts to my Facebook news feed. Thinkchristian was ranked 72 on the top 200 church blogs by churchrelevance.com, a strong score for a relatively new blog ministry. Reformed blogs now dominate the 25 top spots, says Church Relevance, replacing Emergent Church blogs. One explanation is that Reformed bloggers collaborate more than other blogging communities. The Twelve (the12.squarespace.com) is another blog with various writers of the Reformed persuasion. Her.meneutics(blog.christianitytoday.com/women) is Christianity Today’s blog for women. While I might quibble that a blog specifically for women is necessary, the posts are well-written and insightful. Patheos (patheos.com) is worth perusing, a blog mall for all faiths.
The top ten church blogs as determined by churchrelevance.com are:
Between Two Worlds – Justin Taylor
Jesus Creed – Scot McKnight
Michael Hyatt – Michael Hyatt
Desiring God – Various
The Gospel Coalition Blog – Various
DeYoung, Restless and Reformed – Kevin DeYoung
Fr. Z’s Blog – John Zuhlsdorf
Dr. Albert Mohler – Albert Mohler
Tim Challies – Tim Challies
The Resurgence – Various
The Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that was God, is voicing salvation in the blogosphere. I’m grateful for Christian blogs that encourage my faith journey, for the gifted thinkers who share theirs. But sometimes the Word whispers to me: Close your laptop, visit your mom, go for a walk. Be still, and know that I am God.