Friday, 5 April 2013

Should I stay or should I go?

Yesterday I tweeted a comment from Gerard Kelly's evening talk at Spring Harvest Minehead. Gerard was speaking on Jesus as The Source of our faith. In the course of his talk he drew attention to the way in which Christians can contradict the Good News they seek to proclaim by their behaviour. Gerard mentioned how he observed the way some Christians spoke about each other on-line, including Christian bloggers. I thought this a fair point and tweeted a quote as follows:
@philritchie: Gerard Kelly laying into Christian bloggers 'saying things to each other we'd never dream of saying if we were in the same room'. #sh2013
Gerard also referred to the way some interacted on Twitter and Facebook and wondered how good friends he knew could end up at the point where they even questioned if the other was a Christian anymore. Some people were surprised and annoyed by this and wanted to challenge the assertion. I must admit this surprised me because I have been dismayed again and again at the way some Christians have attacked one another on-line. I think of some of the comments and posts flying around on-line following the General Synod vote on Women and the Episcopacy; the tone of discussions over equal marriage and more recently responses to George Carey's comments over Easter about Christians and persecution. Let me be clear, my dismay has not been about the merits of people's position but the tone and language of some of the discourse. This of course is not limited to blogging and social media interaction but let's not pretend it doesn't go on.

Gerard was not attacking Blogging, Twitter and Facebook. He is a blogger, uses Facebook and is one of the most imaginative writers on Twitter as the author of @twitturgies. He was simply pointing out what I took to be blindingly obvious. I did wonder why some were so defensive about the comment and its questioning of on-line behaviour. It is not unreasonable to ask people to step back and reflect on the way they interact with others on-line and to question why they feel free to say things to others via digital communication that they would not say face to face. Again this is not about avoiding argument and disagreement, it is about how we engage in these controversies.

As the discussion on Twitter developed some of us switched to discussing the merits of blogging as Christians. I mentioned that I was ambivalent about continuing to blog and had 'sort of lost heart'. In part this is because of what I have mentioned earlier in this post. I recognise in myself the danger of firing off self righteous and intemperate posts which do neither myself and those I am writing about much good. I shudder to think about some of what I have written and then deleted before hitting the publish button.

As it happens I have only published one post on my blog since Christmas and to be honest I haven't missed it as much as I thought I would. However, I have been surprised and encouraged by some of my blogging colleagues' comments and challenged to think again about chopping down the Treehouse. I want to thank them both for this debate and for their blogging which I continue to value and frequently link to via Twitter and Facebook.

For Doug Chaplin's reflection on the same discussion check out Is blogging worth it?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Anonymous said...

Thanks for filling out the context. I will also confess that I was one of those who was sharp (but I hope not abusive) about George Carey's inability to let his successors lead the church without his interruptions. But I still hope the best answer to negative and nasty commenting will be thoughtful and positive commenting.

Sheena said...

Keep blogging Phil! Including the music videos :)

Philip Ritchie said...

Thanks Doug, I didn't think your comments in response to George Carey's stuff were inappropriate. Nor do I think we shouldn't comment on these things and I agree the best response is to engage in a positive rather than negative way way - tough as it is at times.


Part of the issue with being sharp on twitter is the length of tweets. It's sometimes impossible to couch tweets as politely as they should be couched because being nice uses up too many precious characters. No excuse I know but I do think it is why points of view sometimes seem like rants.

David Keen said...

Is it just blogging? I've seen 2 well-known liberal Anglicans use the printed media to lay into charismatic evangelicals in the last couple of weeks. As a church we need to raise the bar on what constitutes gracious communication between us. The world is listening and watching.