Deep thoughts or shallow medium?


It is often difficult to explain to people the shifts that are taking place in today’s culture. And, it is easy for people to completely discard things like blogging as a fad, or a vehicle for imprudent exhibitionists.

And yet, as I’ve been blogging for a while now, I realize that there is more to it than that. For instance, I was preparing for the God Complex show the other day, and I printed out my blog post on how we can’t afford an educated clergy. As the papers spewed out, I studied the posts that responded to it, and all the comments. I was surprised that it came up to well over 25 pages. And I mean, well-thought-out pages. Comments and replies coming from professionals of all sorts of denominations.

Perhaps it was just having the stack of paper in my hand that stunned me, but it felt like a magazine. Except that I knew that I would not have been able to get that kind of brain-power together if I had been an editor. I began to wonder if even I have been underestimating the power of the blog.

We have all heard the criticisms before—blogs are narcissistic ramblings of the self-important amateur. Sometimes it’s true. We’ve all ventured onto blogs where the comments are completely outrageous, vacuous, or tedious.

And yet… as I stood holding the pile of substantial and thoughtful conversation, I knew that it had the weight (physical and mental) of a publication. The comments were constructive, moving into different directions, leading people to different studies and streams of thought. There was a continuity to the discussion, that was more organic than an editor’s vision. It was fascinating, reading it in paper form.

Certainly there is an emotional intensity in blogging that people may (or may not) enjoy. There is a personal narrative that may (or may not) be so fascinating. But, I don’t think that I am going to buy the notion that blogging is a medium without depth any longer.

Without the restraints of an editorial board, we are beginning to learn some important things about our institutions and ourselves. We are beginning to hear from people who may have never gotten through the rigors of formal publication, or who may not have had the right connections for the mass-produced, printed word. A different sort of conversation is taking place, as the tired and cliche magazine subjects are being set aside and replaced by problems that people are dealing with on a regular basis. People are reading, and people are listening, and a different sort of thought is igniting.

Traditional publications are floundering right now. I don’t think that they will all go away, but they would be wise if they begin to use blogs as places to farm for new thought, ideas, and talent. It’s easy to tell how hot a topic is through looking at blogs. The comments start to pile up immediately. For publications that need a fresh, new readership, looking at what generates traffic and conversation is a good place to start.

I could even imagine a magazine that used a blog as it’s primary starting point, and invited the people who comment to write articles around the topic.

What do you think is the future of all of this? How comfortable is your church with blogging? Do you see it as a source of important thought, or just a distraction from your real work?


4 thoughts on “Deep thoughts or shallow medium?

  1. As somebody who spends a lot of time thinking about similar issues, I believe the key to the blog being an active source of valuable information is the initiating content. As some one who responded to the educated clergy question, I know I did so because it is something that I have strong feelings/passion about.

    Certainly there are many narcissistic blogs, but there are also those that truly attempt to add value to others. It is the place for open source ideas to be explored and conversation to happen.

    Thank you for your work

  2. One of the issues I often struggle with (actually, I hope lots of people, even the non-narcissists, do) is how much my blog-presence is worthwhile, or whether I myself am part of the “self-important amateur” mass that causes criticism of the medium.

    But, we don’t get the good stuff without allowing the… well, perhaps “bad” is too strong, but “less good,” at least….

  3. People are thirsting for knowledge, guidance, and wisdom. Blogs allow people from different positions in the church to speak their mind and express what’s on their heart.

    I see blogging as a new Renaissance which will rebirth our faith. Instead of being shaped by the world, the Church has a terrific opportunity to re-influence the planet. I know that I get readers from all over the world, just as you do. We live in amazing times.

  4. I think this blog is a wonderful way for people in all their differences, including age, to communicate about the critical issues facing our church.

    Blogging can be a creative new way to share ideas and hold discussions that would have been impossible before this medium was available.

    What makes a blog worthwhile is the content starter. In other words, the founder/manager/editor (or whatever word is correct) of the blog is critical as to whether the blog is narcistic and a waste of time, or if it forms a useful function for all participants.

    Some years ago, as we began using online discussion tools for our college classes (Blackboard in my case at the University of Cincinnati), my students studying the impact of this new tool noticed immediately that students for whom English was a second language and quiet reflective students who liked to think before speaking (instead of thinking by speaking) all benefited from the asynchronous aspect of online discussions. That is still true. Blogging allows one to be part of a discussion, but to have time to consider carefully others’ comments and one’s own thoughts before speaking.

    The biggest challenge is to convince those in my generation (I am 69) to try it and use it. This is a challenge Bruce Reyes-Chow has taken up in the PC(USA). I hope he has made some headway.

    For me personally, discussion online is great because I can blow the text up on my computer and see it easily (I have some macular degeneration in my eyes, which makes reading normal sized 12 point print harder than it used to be).

    I look forward to your posts Carol, so I hope you can keep them coming!

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