Blogging and Christian duty?

November 2, 2007 | Background, Daily Spirituality | 26 comments

I realized as I was catching up on Bloglines reading the other day that there are a few blogs that I really have a special place in my heart for, that I’ve been following for a little over two years now. The reason I have such fond feelings for these sites in particular is not just because they have nice content, but because they were my introduction to Christianity and Catholicism.

When I first became interested in exploring Christianity, I hardly knew any Christians, and the ones I did know weren’t actively practicing their faith at that time. When I started to be drawn to the Catholic Church, I was even more lost. We had a few Catholic friends but none of them lived close by, and I didn’t know any of them well enough to open up about the details of my potential conversion, which at the time I considered to be a very private matter.

So, in typical me fashion, I turned to the internet. I had no idea how one would go about finding blogs by practicing Catholics, so I just Googled stuff like “Catholic mom blog”, “Catholic blog”, “Christian mom blogs”, etc. It took me a while to find what I was looking for, but I finally found a few blogs written by Catholic and other Christian women. I added them to my bookmarks, sat back, and read. I almost never commented. I just quietly watched their lives unfold, like an anthropologist studying a new culture. Almost everything they did was so foreign to me — they casually mentioned praying about this or that, wrote about the goings on at their churches, discussed how they turned to God in tough times and disappointment, etc. I had never known anyone who did things like this (at least not that they shared with me), so I was fascinated.

I didn’t really realize it at the time, but as I would read these blogs, in the back of my mind I always though, “This is what it means to be a Christian” or, “This is what Catholic mothers are like.” I didn’t exactly intend to hold these authors up as the very definition of their religion, but since I didn’t know any other people from their religion they were all I had to go by.

And, though I doubt they would have ever guessed it at the time, they played a part in my conversion. Not because they wrote high apologetics or explained the details of their faith, but because they helped me feel a big more comfortable with what it means to be religious and what kind of people I could expect to meet if I got involved in a church, and because they all had a sense of peace that I yearned for in my own life.

I was thinking about all this the other day when I came across a blog I’d never heard of by a Christian. The post I found was a rant about a public figure, calling the person a stupid moron in addition to a few other insults. I actually found the post amusing and agreed with the author’s points. But then I had a thought that I was glad I didn’t come across this blog back when I was trying to learn more about Christianity. Though the author had plenty of good points and was kind of funny, the angry and vitriolic tone of many of the posts certainly wasn’t a good example of the whole “love your enemies” thing. The blog definitely did not exactly radiate the peace of Christ. 🙂

I was reminded again of something I’ve written about before: you never know who’s reading. Though the posts I mentioned above don’t really bother me now since I know plenty of Christians and have already formed my opinion about Christian culture (and am certainly guilty of writing posts like that myself), if I had read this person’s site a couple years ago, when I was totally unfamiliar with Christianity, I might have thought, “Man, these Christians sure are angry and hateful towards those who disagree with them.”

Since then I’ve been wondering: is there any sort of Christian duty when it comes to blogging?

It’s obviously not good to be fake or to represent yourself as some perfect, uber-holy person if you’re really not. Yet the fact is that, if you’re open about your religious beliefs on your blog, there are going to be people out there who don’t know many other people from your religion and therefore think of you as its de facto representative. Are we obliged to put our best foot forward when writing in the public forum of the internet? Or should we just relax and hope that people will evaluate Christianity on the truth of its claims and not the posts of its bloggers?

This has been a good thing for me to think about. I was scanning my archives for something recently and wanted to bang my head against my keyboard that there might be some person out there who would read some of the uncharitable, unkind drivel I’ve written and think “this is what Christians are like”. It occurred to me that if I were to walk around wearing a t-shirt with my blogger bio printed on it, I would probably be conscious of the fact that I was representing my newfound religion to others, whether I liked it or not. Yet I hardly think about it when I go to write a blog post. Anyway, thinking about this (and reading my own archives) has given me a lot to add to my “spiritual growth” to-do list. 🙂

And in case anyone’s wondering, the blogs I referred to at the beginning of the post who made up the “Christian stuff” section of my old bookmark folder are: Happy Catholic, Barefoot Meandering, Catholic Soccer Mom, St. Francis Academy (formerly Barefoot and Pregnant), Knit Together In Love (formerly Another Catholic Mom), SFO Mom, DarwinCatholic and Adoro te Devote. I’ve since gone on to discover tons of other wonderful blogs written by Catholic and other Christian women and men, but I have a special place in my heart for these, that I stumbled across through random Google searches way back when I was a seeker who wanted to find God but didn’t know where to start. A big thanks to all of these bloggers from a former atheist lurker.

26 Comments

  1. Abigail

    This one hits a little close to home! I think we have a duty as a blogger to be honest, not perfect. Living up to our duties as Christians is always difficult. It’s a daily struggle and opens us up to the charge of “hypocrite.” I don’t think the goal should be to change our posts as much as to change our lives. Getting those hard truths like “love our enemies” into our hearts make it less & less worrisome about what comes out of our tongues and typing fingers.

    All that being said, I think that as a Christian commenter we can take seriously our spiritual duty to admonish sinners (always with the spirit of charity of course.) If you see a Christian’s post as being glaringly out of line, it’s alright to mention that this isn’t in line with Christ’s teachings and encourage them to temper their anger a little. Christianity is a community thing, rather than one person solely representing the faith. It’s good for us to help each other climb the difficult stairs of faith.

  2. will

    I think I can safely say that I’ve never written a truly snarky post that I haven’t later regretted.

  3. Adoro te Devote

    Wow, Jen, I had no idea! All I can say is, Thank you, Jesus. If there’s anyting I said that was helpful to you, the credit belongs to the Trinity, not to me.

    Because I’ve done my share of flaming blogs, too. Many have been removed.

    We do have a duty to put our best foot forward, but at the same time, we have to take care not to be “uber holy” because, really most of us are not.

    I’m a mess. Just ask Jesus…he’s bleeding because of me. If I was the only person in the world, he would have taken the same punishment.

    But in our “best foot forward” we still have the right to be firm, we have the right to righteous anger, which means attacking IDEAS and not PERSONS. People are damaged, wounded, broken souls, who happen to maybe be more lost than some of us who have managed by God’s grace to find our way. And some of those very damaged souls will outdo the rest of us in holiness one day, and we’ll be learning from THEM.

    So it is proper to have some posts that really draw the line; but we have to emulate the Saints in how they did some of this. Although not all of them really did it right, either. St. Bernard comes to mind…

    So we are human, we will err, but we have to do our best, always trying to remember the very dignity of the person we are trying to correct. We can’t control anyone. We won’t win souls by attacking them. And it is possible to attack an ideology and do so in a way similar to St. Thomas Aquinas, as opposed to blustering about it in a vitriolic manner.

    Hope that made sense. And no, I often haven’t lived up to what I just outlined.

  4. TwoSquareMeals

    Abigail gets it right. It’s about being honest, not perfect. That’s why my blog is not “Three Square Meals.” I wanted to hold myself accountable to being real, not creating a perfect, untrue image of myself.

    But I think your question is a good one. What are our responsibilities as Christian bloggers? I guess they are the same as our responsibilities as people in the “real” world. We are representing Christ, and we try to get better at that little by little by his grace. When we make a mistake, in a face-to-face interaction or in the blogosphere, we own up to.

    I think non-Christians are not fooled by “perfect” Christians. In fact, they may be discouraged if they think you have to be perfect to follow Christ. But a Christian who honestly confesses his/her mistakes? A person who lives a humble and teachable life? That is something that is attractive to people investigating the faith. In the blogosphere, where everyone has their chance to spout out their beliefs and justify themselves, a blogger with humility is counter-cultural.

    So we don’t get hung up on our mistakes. We confess them. We apologize. We keep seeking to live more deeply in His truth.

  5. Jennifer F.

    These are great comments. Thank you!

    Also, I’m not sure if I was clear on this or not (I was writing pretty quickly), I would definitely never advocate for being fake or pretending to be someone you’re not.

    I think what I was feeling when I wrote this is that when I do something like, say, giving a dirty look to the person who cuts in front of me at the grocery store, the one nice thing is that at least they don’t know that I call myself a Christian — whereas in the blog world when I do the equivalent of shooting someone a dirty look, with one click they can go see my bio where I basically say “HEY Y’ALL I’M A CHRISTIAN!”

    As all of you have so rightly pointed out, it’s all offensive to God either way, and that is really what matters.

  6. will

    Jen, with regard to dirty looks at folks who cut in line and all the other little things that happen every day–the best, absolutely most useful prayer I have ever run across, courtesy of Julie at HappyCatholic, is “Lord have mercy on me–and bless Him.” I use it often, especially on the freeway. Makes a big difference.

  7. Catherine

    Great post.

    You said something like “hope people judge Christianity on the truth of its claims, not on the post of its bloggers.”

    The first thing that came to my mind is that Jesus and the Bible clearly state the you can’t separate the two. (Well, not blogging per se, but our lives, our actions, our words). The truth of Christianity hinges on our faithfulness to allowing its fruit to be shown in our lives. That’s huge, and we can’t separate it out from our blogs or anything we do.

    This is something I think about a lot on my blog. I’m a Christian, and I write about my faith. I also write about my studying of other faiths. And I try to do both in a way that won’t alienate Christians or people of other religions. I’d like to have everyone at the table, discussing together. But really, all I can do is be myself.

    I agree that all this does NOT mean we should write as though we were perfect, in perfect lives. That’s not the Christian life. That’s…I don’t even know what.

    Thanks for bringing this up!

    catherine

  8. The Wife of an Addict

    Jen,

    I *think* I know exactly what you’ve meant here, and I couldn’t agree more. But, I also agree with your commenters, and even make sure that a mild curse or two find their way into my blog on occasion. I will continue to do this unless and until I cease to use harsh language in my “real” life.

    I try to blog the way I would speak if my favorite Christian example, and a potential convert, were together in the room with me. I am very aware of the language I use when I blog. If this is me being fake, then shame on me! But I think writing this way comes from conviction, which is of God.

    Thank you so much for your blog! I recently let my agnostic little brother have the link to *my* blog. Now that I don’t have to worry about him finding me through you, I’m going to ask him to read yours. I think you are going to be an incredible blessing to him!

    Sarah

  9. Laurel

    As someone who found your blog recently and reads it almost daily, I have to share that I just pointed a friend to YOUR blog as one to read. She is in that “searching” mode, and I chose your blog as one that emulates both the scientific mindset and, more importantly, the faith.

    I guess you’ve come a long way!!

  10. Shakespeare's Cobbler

    If you don’t mind, I’m linking this over on the blog I share with a couple friends. You’ve really raised a good point (not to mention how cool it is that Catholic moms’ blogging helped you come to Catholicism)!

  11. John Seymour

    Another one over the fence. I agree with AtD on this – we have a duty to live our Christian faith – I don’t think that duty stops just because we’re on the internet. Maybe the absence of auditory and visual clues in our communication means we have an even greater duty to try to turn down the sarcasm in our posts and view others’ comments through a particularly charitable filter? I try to imagine the person I’m responding to sitting in my kitchen with a cup of coffee – real hot coffee. 😉

    I think there is a difference between being fake (e.g., putting forth a piety that you don’t actually live) and trying to put your best foot forward in your posts and comments.

    As for the fact that even the saints weren’t perfect and could be harsh – absolutely true. So who would we nominate to be the patron saint of Flamers? My vote is for St. Jerome.

  12. Kiwi Nomad 2006

    As a ‘lapsed’ Catholic, I would have to say I was quite shocked when I first encountered the “Catholic” blogosphere. It seemed to be full of hatred and put-downs. But I have since learned to ignore most of it, and just go where I find inspiration. I don’t expect that those who inspire me are going to be perfect, but I know they will treat me with respect if I actually come out of the shadows and comment.
    I actually have a second blog where I scribble about some of my ‘Catholic’ struggles. But my search is too fragile to expose myself to the Catholic blogosphere. So I don’t link to it.

  13. Julie D.

    Jen, like Adoro/Julie I had no idea. What a wonderful thing it was to see my blog mentioned at the end … both a compliment and humbling.

    I think the people who say that showing our life truthfully are right. Also, something I have found is that blogging makes me a more honest Christian in my own life, because if I am going to be honest on the blog I have to live it. So I guess it runs both ways.

    The wonderful thing is that your blog with all its honesty is one of my “must reads.” So thank you in return. 🙂

  14. amy

    Jen,

    i think it’s good to not always say “the right thing” on a blog — i know i certainly don’t on mine. i think a big part of it is the intention with which a person writes; if the intention is to learn, to grow, to explore, then that comes through in the writing. what has drawn me to your blog and others is your honesty and willingness to put yourself out there. as others’ blogs were a help to you in your conversion, yours is to me. so thank you.

  15. Elliot

    Good points, Jen. I think it’s important for *everyone* to be civil in blogland (I’m so Canadian), but someone who tries to follow Christ has an added obligation to be as charitable as possible. And it makes a big difference – like with dogs, who listen to your tone of voice and not what you’re saying – I think we humans are like that too.

  16. Khadija

    Hmmm excellent point.
    I would also like to bring up something else though. You said you were glad you didn’t come across the more “negative” blogs first. But should people let one experience or one rude blogger stop them?
    If I was blog surfing and saw soem negative thing about Christianity of Judaism or anything, which is easy to find these days when people seem to hate organized religion would that deter me?
    I would think that finding something ridiculously negative would make me curious to find something positive. Because when you find information things too unreal and positive or too evil and negative, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.
    just my 2 cents
    -Khadija
    tradicionalista.wordpress.com

  17. Christine the Soccer Mom

    Jen, I had no idea! I am really touched that you included my blog in that list.

    God bless!

  18. Jordana

    When my husband and I were going through our own conversion, your blog became one of my favorites on which to lurk and read about your struggles and thoughts. Now that we’re Catholic, I still love to come here and be inspired by you.

  19. KathyJo

    Wow. I’ll echo the others: I’m touched, and extremely humbled, to be included in that particular list.

    Of course, I’m also probably not getting rid of my “Stupid Fascist Bastards” category anytime soon. :}

    “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:25-27 (ESV)

    I guess that kind of says it for me. I do post about things that make me angry, and I often use rather strong words to express my anger. But, I try not to just spew hatred and bitterness. Sometimes, I’ll make non-Christians angry just for voicing a Truth that they don’t want to hear. And sometimes, I’ll fail and post something that’s just nasty. It’s that last that I want to not do.

    Thank you, Jen.

  20. Red Cardigan

    Jen, this is an interesting and thought-provoking post. I tend to think that as Christians we do have a duty to be Christian, in the blog world as much as at the grocery store. There’s a difference, though.

    That momentary glance of annoyance at the store, the strong word that slips out at a moment of frustration, those are sins of impulse and emotion, things over which we don’t have a lot of control, though most of us are working on gaining that control. But it’s a bit different on a blog.

    Just as in conversation our grammar can get sloppy, so in our daily interactions is it possible to let slip some uncharitable word or action. But when we write, we pay a little more attention to grammar, which means that it’s also possible to pay a little more attention to charity.

    When you’re writing a blog post, you have three “extra” chances to keep Christian notions of charitable behavior at the forefront: one, when composing the post, two, when reading it over before hitting the “post” button, and three, after what you’ve written has been posted, when you can edit or delete something that violates your own standards of charitable behavior.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could “delete” that dirty look at the grocery store? Wouldn’t our ability to be charitable be wonderful if we had to hit a conversational “post” button before letting a thoughtless word slip out?

  21. Mom

    Perfection doesn’t exist this side of the grave, thank goodness– very off-putting.

    I admire “Christians-in-progress”, people working to surrender themselves and their lives to Christ. I need the inspiration and the companionship.

    I’ve just discovered you guys. I’ll be reading “from the shadows” (perfect, kiwi nomad 2006).

    And Will, I’ve often felt better asking God to bless some witless driver after I’ve cut him off in traffic. I never thought of asking God to have mercy on me, but I will from now on. I think I need the mercy more than he needs the blessing…

  22. Anonymous

    I’m so glad you wrote this. As a convert, it pains me greatly when Catholic bloggers turn on other Catholics — especially Catholic bishops and priests — with holier-than-thou snipes and snarks.

    As a former Protestant, I find this disconcerting in light of how often Catholic apologists point to this kind of public infighting among Christian denominations as proof that the “invisible unity” among Protestants is in fact disunity.

    I worry that people who are looking with interest toward the Church will see some of these blasts of hot cyberair and say, “Heck, I can find this right where I am. I think I’ll stay put.”

    While we’re on the subject, one day when I get to heaven, I plan to ask Jesus if the “banal” lyrics of contemporary liturgies offend the ears of Jesus half as much as the smug diatribes of self-appointed liturgy police, who seem to believe that a heart cannot worship and derive consolation at the same time.

    I love my brothers and sisters in the faith. I just don’t understand them sometimes. It saddens me when people become so rigid in their opinions that there is no room for anyone who does not agree with them 100% If in defending the faith, they inflict more wounds with “friendly fire” than any other kind of assault, is that something to be commended?

    “By this will all men know you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “If you have love one for another.”

    ‘Nuff said.

  23. Amy Caroline

    I can’t thank you enough for honoring me in such a way. You have inspired me far more than you know. Your intellegence and faith are such a gift to all of us who read your blog and for the Catholic community.

  24. John Seymour

    Anonymous,

    Amen. Jesus told us to love. And he prayed that we would be united. But I must have a defective bible as it is missing the part where he said: “in the liturgy thou shalt only sing . . . .”

    Now I like good liturgy and I’m a sucker for smells and bells. Even more than that, I think good liturgy is critical, but above those concerns are what I think of as the prime directives: Love. Unity.

  25. Rich Luke

    Jennifer:

    You ask:

    Since then I’ve been wondering: is there any sort of Christian duty when it comes to blogging?

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers some guidance which while general may be helpful and may also point to other pertinent sections of the Catechism. ( See Part III, Section Two, Chapter Two, Article 8 V. – The Use of the Social Communications Media, http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a8.htm#V ).

    Off the top of my head I would say that a major concern of any public communicator is to not give an example of scandal – such as that provided by Sean Hannity in his public and oft repeated position on abortion contrary to the teachings of the Church – made while simultaneously publically professing to be a good Catholic. To add insult to injury he then when on to publically castigate Fr. Thomas Euteneuer who after attempting to privately counsel Sean as to his causing scandal, counseled him on air that he should cease airing his position on abortion.

    For the record, I would not anticipate any such concerns on your part. Your clear and eloquent writing betrays a purity of mind and heart that must please the Trinity much and would not bear easily an intentional and objectively offensive blog.

    Needless to say, I enjoy your insightful, honest, eloquent and moving writing; especially as I too am a convert albeit not from atheism. Beyond that all I can say is ,”Keep on Bloggin’.”

    God Bless,
    Rich Luke

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