After to my recent post about Giles Fraser brief article for the Church Times about how blogs can be bad for the soul I have been carrying on as normal and occasionally dabbling in the internet.  However, I have been noticing a lot of home truths emerge from what Giles Fraser said.  I also went to a seminar on non-internet based church communication that I think also applies in this situation.  The third thing that informs this post is that I went on the train to the football on Saturday and watched Boro get beaten by Man Utd.

Dave Walker made perhaps the most poignant blog on the topic of Christian blogging by giving up trying to comment upon it.  I’ll leave him to speak for himself:

I’ve spent a lot of time going through blogs and comments this afternoon and had planned to write about some of the responses to the article. But I’ve found the experience to be (as Giles describes it) “bad for (my) spiritual health” so I’m just posting some links to those sites that I had planned to link to. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

I think his links make Giles Fraser points quite well.

Over the last few days on the blogsphere I have been really disheartened by the uncharitable nature in which people discuss things with each other.  It seems that there are many easy targets out there for Christians to stick the knife into each other.  I went to one particularly harsh blog article criticising a local thriving cafe church because it wasn’t “a valid church” as it wasn’t a traditional looking mass.  In theological ‘debate’, everyone tends to get a raw deal.  As a man, I noticed that ‘men’ tend to get a raw deal as one giant stereotypical collective.  As though all men are wife beaters and sexual predators.  But then I realised that women also get a raw deal in the ‘debate’.  Then I noticed that it also applies to ‘conservatives’, ‘liberals’, ‘bishops’, ‘Catholics’, ‘protestants’, ‘homosexuals’, ‘straight people’, ‘fresh expressions’, ’emergents’, ‘traditional worshippers’, ‘traditionalists’, ‘foreigners’…. the list goes on forever.  People seem to be able to suspend reason when examining their own corner from which they come out fighting but are able to make ridiculous comparisons for those of a differing opinion.  I can’t count the number of times that I have seen people likened to one form of sex offender or another.  Things that people would never say face to face.

It strikes me that people are blogging from their own bedroom and as such feel like they are on “home territory”.  It is as if this gives a license to create or perpetuate wild stereotypes that are painted with broad brushes from the “home ground”.  It also allows a small group to appear quite big and gain momentum.  This is suspect is in much the same way that a football fan tends to be quite quiet in isolation whereas a football crowd tend to say some of the most outrageous things.  To illustrate, on the train to and from the football I was sat with Man Utd fans and we were getting on really well.  There was a bit of banter about the coming match and how we supported different teams.  This was contrasted as we walked to the ground where a big group of Man Utd ‘fans’ were chanting something horrific about the 96 dead at Hillsborough.

For Christians when we add the internet to the mix, a local issue can be circulated worldwide via email and blogs and a small group can arteficially inflate their numbers.  This petition for example started as a Church of Scotland matter and many Scottish people signed it.  If you scroll to the bottom you will see that it has become a hotbed of activity… for US, Brazilian, Chinese, Canadian and Australian petitioners.

The lecture on communication used the diagram I remember from teacher training to illustrate that what you say isn’t always what is heard.

As the transmitter makes the initial point, it is subject to the medium in which it is transmitted.  The music it is set to, the images used within or around the message, even the font used can convey part of the message.  Obviously for the feedback or reply, the message is subject to the exact same principles.

If the internet is the medium that is being used, it inevitably becomes part of the message.  I wonder if a more accurate internet version of the diagram would be:

 

Perhaps I need to take a break from virtuality for as Giles Fraser and Dave Walker have both pointed out it is becoming “bad for (my) spiritual health”.