The “Metaphysics” of Blogging

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a link to a blog by Franky Schaeffer about the sickness of evangelicals (and evangelicalism).  He took aim specifically at Sarah Palin and Franklin Graham, but got in a few digs at father Billy as well. Purportedly, the blog was about larger, more substantive matters than just the personalities mentioned, but it came across as especially bitter and vituperative.

I commented on my friend’s fb page, as did a few others.  One commenter reminded us that blogs in general represent a particular type of writing.  He’s right: blogs are commonly expected to be edgy, raw, less-filtered, emotive, therefore provocative. Provocative of what?  Granting his point, I still was left pondering both the impact, therefore the nature of, blogging.

So, here I am, blogging about blogging.  Does it mean that I’m doing an exercise in “meta-blogging?”  Have I coined a new term?  (I didn’t think so.)  Perhaps I’m playing with the “metaphysics” of blogging.

For completely separate reasons, I have been re-reading C. John Sommerville’s book, The Decline of the Secular University, (Oxford Univ. Press, 2006), a slim, but meaty collection of essays on how the secularist university has become irrelevant to public discourse, and why.  One must read this book carefully.  Sommerville, a first rate historian, has been doing his homework for a long time and knows his stuff.  This is a compelling book.

In the chapter about post-secularism, Sommerville argues that the dailyness of daily newspapers has helped to create “a news consciousness, a fixation on daily trends and fashions instead of more comprehensive treatments of significant subjects,” (p. 138).  “News” content reflects what we want to hear and read about.

Which makes me think about blogging.  “Fashion,” rather than sustained and serious thought, pervades most of our public discourse.  The tone and structure of Franky Schaeffer’s blog about evangelicalism’s sickness demonstrates the “fashion” in blogging.

So, Professor Sommerville has provoked some self-doubt in me about blogging. Somewhat analogous to texting in one’s “vote” on some news item on a cable news network, blogging is ostensibly a form of empowerment, allowing people to opine about all manner of topics.  Since we’re putting our thoughts on the worldwide web, there’s a chance that someone besides our five or six friends might actually wander across our blog and discover our brilliance.

Now, I’ve added another question.  Is blogging merely a form of narcissistic self-expression?  That’s not all it is for people writing books and appearing on talk shows.  Blogging is marketing.  Well, what is blogging for blokes like me?

I enjoy and am edified by some people’s blogs, usually Christian thinker/leaders whose books I also read.  I like to read other blogs because the bloggers are my friends and it’s a way of keeping in touch.

But blogging, like other forms of communication, presents the wonderful possibility of stimulating thought and dialogue.  At their best, blogs accomplish this aim.  Therefore, we blog on.  But at their worst, they contribute to thoughtless, verbal violence.

Dare we check the balance?

About Stephen Rankin

Professionally I am an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I currently serve as University Chaplain at Southern Methodist University. Personally I am married to Joni and we have four grown children and four grandchildren. You can find my personal thoughts on this site, as well as on twitter at @stephenwrankin.

Comments

  1. adriennethewriter says:

    You blog because you have to BE the balance. I’m a journalist by trade. So I do what I do at work and then I come home and do the same.

  2. I would concur with adriennethewriter – for me blogging is a way to counter the banality of trivial RSS feeds by generating some content that hopefully is thoughtful and faith-provoking. Measuring the success of this out in the ether is another issue altogether!

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