Australian theologian and blogger Benjamin Myers (School of Theology, Charles Sturt University, New South Wales) reminds us that “since Plato’s Phaedrus, we’ve contemplated the effects of new technology on our way of being-in-the world”. With that long historical perspective in mind, Myers explores the idea of blogging as theological / religious discourse.
New technologies introduce new assumptions about knowledge and authority, human interaction, the nature of literacy, and ways we form community — all of this relevant to Anglicans who find themselves immersed in rapidly changing technological realities.
Myers believes that the phenomenon of blogging generates interactive communities of thought. In `blogdom` truth resides in community. Blogs are collective and self-correcting, inviting dialogue and discourse. At their worst, they become `painstaking accounts of the most insignificant details of daily life…a trivial narcissism`, Myers reminds us. Blogs can engage us, even in key matters of faith and as Anglicans, in trivializing, distorting, and bland or even destructive and misleading superficiality.
Those who follow Anglican blogs can identify the kinds of communities that can exist within the realm of Anglican Blogdom. There are the reflective blogs seeking to convey deep theological truths and spiritual disciplines; there are the spontaneous commentary blogs inviting engagement in a back-and-forth game of ideas; the imaginative, forward looking blogs urging us onward in our Anglican Christian journeys; the devotional blogs of encouragement; and the reactive axe-to-grind blogs that can descend to excoriation, misrepresentation and plain hurtful superficiality and generalization that seeks to discredit the `other` — that is, anyone who disagrees with a particular party line.
At their best, blogs blur the line between work and play as we engage in thoughtful building of a variety of communities of discourse – including Anglican communities of discourse. As a blogger, Benjamin Myers observes that he `has had the experience of proposing some new idea, then rethinking it in the light of the ensuing discussion, and then finally relinquishing the idea all together all within a single afternoon.` Thus is the immediacy of blogging who for Myers the theologian ` begins to mold theology into a more flexible, provisional kind of discourse.`
This process is what the best Anglican blogs engage in. And we as Anglicans can join diverse communities of Anglicans in a healthy and thought-provoking exchange of thought and feeling. James O`Donnell, author of Avatars of the World: From Papyrus to Cyberspace (Harvard, 1998) puts it this way: discourse can continue to grow around itself, ramify, and become more subtle and more true in its response to its readers and to its author`s continuing experience.`
While Blog Land can open us up to broadened discussion of a wider range of Anglican issues by a greater number of people, we need to remind ourselves that at their worst, Anglican blogs can exist for the sake of seeking affirmation by the like-minded growing out of the need to denigrate everyone `outside`. Such is the dark side of the Web 2.0 world of the `rapid and widespread cultivation of a new tribalism – the formation of niche groups organized by highly specified identity-markers` (Myers). Shades of `orthodox` versus `revisionists` blog battles which are antithetical to the Spirit-breathed diversity that characterizes Anglicanism at its best.
I`m not going to tell you where to find this latter kind of Anglican blog; this is the kind of Anglican blog not worth dignifying by naming. They are easy enough to find. But there are many Anglican blogs which function as `faithful communities` which can broaden our horizons and bring new kinds of appreciation for the thoughts of those outside our immediate circle. This is the kind of experience we seek here as members and friends of the Diocese of New Westminster as we journey through God`s mission together.
Please contribute. Respond to postings. Use this forum for postings of your own to which others can respond. Send your offerings as an attachment to steve_bailey(at)telus.net.
In the meantime, here are some Anglican blogs to enjoy:
episcopalcafe.com; inclusivechurch.blogspot.com; standfirminfaith.com; timescolumns.typepad.com(slash)gledhill (Ruth Gledhill of the London Times); thinkinganglicans.org.uk; frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com; anglicansonline.org;
For a list of Anglican blogs, see katiekind.wordpress.com(slash)anglican-blogs. Once you get started a whole new Anglican universe opens up. I look forward to hearing from you.
References: Benjamin Myers, Theology 2.0: `Blogging as Theological Discourse`
James O`Donnell, Avatars of the World: From Papyrus to Cyberspace
Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and invites your response.