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The Collective
Sunday, June 18, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Regardless of one’s interest level in the Southern Baptist Convention, there are some interesting issues for blogging and the way bloggers are often viewed by non-bloggers within this story.

First, there is the general fact that the situation with the SBC underscores that the blogging/non-blogging division is (as one would expect) one of also of age/generation.

Second, and I think quite fascinating, is that the SBC situation reveals what appears to be an emerging standard argument against blogging. The argument is, in short, that blogging is a waste of time that could be put to better use. We have seen this argument before as applied to academic blogging. Back when we were all discussing Dan Drezner’s denial of tenure at Chicago, Ann Althouse noted that for some the following describes blogging:

If you didn’t blog so much, you would have [used all that time to do whatever I think you ought to have done

For academics it is assumed that if one wasn’t blogging, one would be doing something “useful” (i.e., publishable). I commented on this as well at the time here.

As if channeling that critique as aimed at academic bloggers, the outgoing President of the Southern Baptist Convention (Bobby Welch) made the following statement in his outgoing address (via BP News):

Welch said he’d been wondering about Southern Baptists and that if “we’d spend less time on these websites that we’d be able to spend more time witnessing?

“Do you think if we spent less time blogging we might have more time to do some baptizing?

“Do you think if we spent less time fumbling around with those computers we might have more converts?”

Welch advised the crowd not to gloat that he’s chiding “them bloggin’ boys. Why, you run around with that wireless telephone up in your ear all day long like a pacifier.

“You think if we’d spend less time with those wireless telephones and more time on the street we wouldn’t win more people to Jesus?”

The key assumption is clearly that whatever the main output for the given profession is (whether it be academic writing or winning converts) would be increased if people didn’t waste all their time blogging. Of course, this assumption can be made about blogging because it is a public undertaking (with timestamps and everything), as oppossed to many other actions that people might be engaging in, but that we aren’t made privy to on the internet. One cannot critique what one does not know about, and as such, blogging makes itself an instant object of critique because it is done in public.

The response to such criticisms in both the academic and the religious spheres have similar responses. For me, blogging helps keep me focused on a panoply of political happenings, as well as stimulating a great deal of thought, much of which translates into the classroom or into more academic writing. And given that I am part of a small faculty that is required to teach a wide array of classes, blogging intersects well with my need to be a generalists as well as as specialist.

In like fashion two Baptist bloggers respond to Welch’s words with a similar argument.

First is the SBC Outpost where Marty Duren wrote:

I can’t speak for anyone else, but since my time in the blogosphere, I have become more aware of the lost, not less; have been more effective at building relationships with the lost, not less; more prayerful and intentional in demonstrating the love of Christ, not less.

That sounds wholly plausible to me. Blogging tends to focus your attention on that which one is writing, rather than detracting.

Similarly, blogger Kiki Cherry, writing at Sojourner, responds thusly:

His words were unfair and untrue. We are not spending all of our time blogging, and many of us have a deep passion for evangelism and compassion for the lost. If he had actually taken the time to read any of our blogs, then he would know that.

Much of what we write is iron-sharpening-iron stuff about church planting, discipleship, evangelism, or simply testimonies of celebration about what God has done. Many of the bloggers are missionaries.

We also have built a practical network of support and encouragement as ministers who feel alone and isolated much of the time in our ministries. We have not found solutions to meet those needs within the traditional avenues of the SBC. So we adapted and got together to be that resource for each other.

Of course, Welch’s also bespeak of a profound misunderstanding of the role and power of technology in the discussion and dissemination of ideas (not to mention some likely sour grapes over the fact that his faction within the Convention lost, and lost to all those time-wasting bloggers…).

Sphere: Related Content

Filed under: General, Blogging, Academia, Religion | |


  1. Beltway Traffic Jam

    The daily linkfest. Today, with actual links!

    Ross Douthat notes that the actors portraying Superman are getting continually younger.
    Eugene Volokh notes that surveys on gay marriage don’t necessarily show what either side says they show.

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway | OTB — Monday, June 19, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

  2. Thanks for the mention; very gracious and very appreciated.

    Comment by Marty Duren — Monday, June 19, 2006 @ 4:28 pm

  3. Pastor: James, shouldn’t you be witnessing?

    Member: Reverend, I am witnessing.

    Comment by Alan Kellogg — Tuesday, June 20, 2006 @ 4:24 am

  4. Some back story on Welch’s words might have to do with the spat that’s been going on with the IMB and one of their trustees who has basically been banned from certain meetings because he chooses to put stuff up on his weblog about the meetings.

    I think there’s a split that’s more than generational/age-based, however, and it’s sort of a split that’s seen in the clashes between open-source and traditional software, or between file-sharing proponents and copyright stalwarts. The SBC heirarchy is, after all, a heirarchy, and blogging subverts the heirarchy.

    Comment by bryan — Thursday, June 22, 2006 @ 11:53 am

  5. […] All the non-bloggers who simply don’t get it. (Also here). […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Happy Festivus! — Saturday, December 23, 2006 @ 10:50 am

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