Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pastor Blogs

A month ago I wrote on a situation in which Vinny caused a Pastor to shut down all comments on his blog. Vinny managed to do it with just one comment!

Recently I have been observing another Pastor Vs atheist discussion that is equally amusing. Hold on to your seat…

Pastor Rob Singleton wrote a blog entry entitled Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby! and our friend, The Barefoot Bum posted a few comments. The Barefoot Bum then posted a blog entry Evolution and Chance responding to some of the comments in Rob Singleton’s blog. Rob Singleton also posted a few comments in The Barefoot Bum’s blog.

Rob Singleton then published We’ve Brought Sexy About Halfway Back! in which I posted a few comments. Rob Singleton suggested this particular blog was “also for discipleship, pastoring, shepherding, church chat etc.” and asked we retire to his new blog, rob’s rants in which to have believer/non-believer discussions.

rob’s rants is now posting new blog entries which consist of comments submitted to The Barefoot Bum’s blog called A Response to ‘Evolution and Chance,’ Let’s Just Give it Time, and Do as I say, not as I do.

If you ever watched the Television series SOAP--the show always started off with a rapid-fire cacophonic history between the numerous individuals and ended with “Confused? You won’t be after this episode of SOAP!” That is what I feel in trying to follow and recount the interaction occurring here.

However, these two instances have raised a question for me—what is the moral thing to do when it comes to Pastor Blogs?

Years ago, if you were looking for a new church, you had four sources. Word-of-Mouth, the newspaper, the Yellow pages, or driving by one. The problem with the last three is you never really knew what the church was like until you attended. Oh, titles like, “Our Lady of ___” gave away the Catholicism and “First ____ of Local Town” usually designated Baptist or Methodist. And years ago the various denominations were demarked both within the title and within the service. But there has been a blurring. Now “Baptist” may no longer mean conservative. And we have titles like “Grace Fellowship” or “Local Town Community” or even more non-descript like “Riverside Church.”

Luckily churches have discovered the internet, and we now have a fifth and far more valuable tool in which to find a church—its website. The church website has directions, and service times, and pastor names, and core beliefs, and programs offered and history and interesting tidbits. And many Pastors, in utilizing the new technology of the web, have started up…a blog.

Blogs are peculiar things. (You know this; you are reading one.) They can contain nude pictures, or pictures of one’s grandchildren. Recipes for guacamole or spell incantations. Some blogs are replete with expletives, and if I look hard enough, I imagine I could find a blog written in Olde English. Some moderate comments, some allow comments to fly free.

Anyone who has read me knows I respect a blog-creator’s desire to limit or expand their blog to whatever their little heart desires. If you want to start a blog in which you only talk about Salsa, and no comment can contain the letter “e”—you go right ahead.

But of course, one should think about the purpose of having a blog. Despite their differences, all blogs have a purpose. It may be to vent. It may be one line in order to post comments elsewhere. It may be to share family secrets. But it is something. Because a person has to actively take the time to create it at one point.

I wonder if many Pastors think through the purpose of their blog. Is it something to keep up with technology? Is it to continue their speaking/writing craving in a different forum? Who is it designed to reach? Who do they want to read it?

And if I come across a Pastor’s Blog, are they expecting or dreading my input? Look, I am not completely stupid—I get a blog which informs me is a place for parishioners to share prayer requests is most certainly not a place for me to come blazing in with some long comment about Textual Criticism. Or a daily devotional blog is not looking for an evolution/creation debate.

Yet what about a blog in which a pastor writes how they have studied science, and then displays the most uninformed or out-of-date position? Can I respond? Should I respond? How can I tell whether they want to just read themselves write as compared to actually interacting with non-believers?

Or when I read a Pastor’s Blog which says, “their hearts are malfunctioning” or “they insisted on being the boss over God” or “they are irrational and unthinking” or “they think they know better than God” and I realize the “they” the Pastor is talking about is ME!—is it moral for me to respond? Can I post a comment and say, “perhaps you might like to look at this from a different point of view.”

How can I tell if the Pastor is looking to preach to the choir? Or talk with the world?

So the question I ask you (and this is up for grabs): If you are a non-believer, when do you think it is appropriate to enter a Pastor’s Blog and say, “Wait a minute…”?

I think, if the comments are open, and the Pastor is discussing what non-believers say, do or think, it is appropriate for me to post a comment. One thing about truth—it can withstand the scrutiny. It may not persuade; it may not even prevail. But it is not afraid of discussing with the other side.

If the Pastor thinks they hold truth, there is no reason to fear postings by non-believers. I know the rhetoric—“Protect the flock,” “Many Christians are not mature enough to debate these issues,” “We focus on discipleship.” Hornswoggle. If you are leading these people, it is partly your responsibility to lead them in the right direction. It is up to YOU to research, study, discover and present your position to explain why the non-believer is incorrect. It is not very persuasive to avoid the topic. (And coincidentally, the very people who are mostly likely reading you are prone to believe you anyway! You have a ready, willing and able choir happy to sing out how right you are with but minimal response! And still you are worried?)

As for pastors, the question I wonder is this: Do they want to about us; or do they want to talk with us?


  1. A couple of additional points regarding my own situation.

    Rob Singleton actively sought me out and solicited my attention. I saw no problem whatsoever with commenting on his blog.

    I personally have a very different style when making comments than I do when posting on my own blog. I do try hard (although I do fall short on rare occasion) on acting as a good guest when I'm posting on others' blogs: I try to respect, to the best of my ability, the theme, intention, and general tone of the blog author and the specific post on which I'm commenting.

    I do my best to be polite and socially respectful, and, on the rare occasions where I've been impolite, it's always been a "bite me, dumbass, I'm outta here" sort of comment.

    One of the things that irritated me about pastor Rob is not that he's writes scientifically clueless baloney on his own website, it's that he comes to my site, and is not only scientifically clueless but also comes on all mouth and trousers. "Christian humility" my hairy white atheist ass.

    I didn't start my blog to be tediously abused. If I want tedious abuse, I'll go to church.

  2. I imagine I could find a blog written in Olde English.

    Probably. There's a blog dedicated to the phrase all mouth and trousers.

  3. As for pastors, the question I wonder is this: Do they want to about us; or do they want to talk with us?

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that they always know themselves. My guess is that they all start out thinking they want to talk with us and they certainly want their congregation to think that they are willing to talk to us. However, when they actually try, they find it more challenging than they anticipated and they sometimes decide that they don’t want their congregation to see the difficulty they have responding to challenges. I think that’s what makes Lee Strobel so popular. He creates the illusion that he is engaging the skeptics and responding to their arguments, when all he is really doing is providing his experts a platform to talk about the skeptics.

    I have never seen a pastor blogging about apologetics who does not implicitly or explicitly embrace Josh McDowell’s claim that the only reasons for being a skeptic are ignorance of the facts, intellectual pride, or some moral problem. As long as they have an open comment policy, I have no qualms about responding. I try to be as civil as possible and I acknowledge their right to limit comments in any manner they please, however, as long as they are going to claim to know why I think the way I do, I intend to explain the actual basis for my positions.

  4. I imagine I could find a blog written in Olde English. Actually, here's one in middle english:

    House of Fame

    Dontchya love the internets?

    I agree with you, if they put their blog up there in public space with the COMMENTS TURNED ON, all comers are free to comment, and what I say will not be supporting their feel-good crap for the sheep. Most pastors are unequipped for a direct attack (and no matter how politely worded it may be, it IS an attack) on their largely unexamined beliefs and will quickly fold the blog or change their comments policy.

    I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to open people's eyes and minds to the truth. Or at least make them aware that there are other ways - naturalistic, materialistic - ways of viewing the universe.

    Pastors' and churches' blogs offer an opportunity to reach not only the "teachers" but also the flock. I would not intrude on one that seemed very private (church events, prayer requests, or what have you), but if they are discussing philosophy, theology, evolution, atheism, and other subjects that are open to discussion, then I'd certainly add my 2 cents.

  5. **So the question I ask you (and this is up for grabs): If you are a non-believer, when do you think it is appropriate to enter a Pastor’s Blog and say, “Wait a minute…”?**

    I'm not sure. While it is making a comment about you, the type of comment can probably indicate the willingness of the person to explore the other side. If someone claims to have studied all the facts and then makes a statement that demonstrates they don't even comprehend the basic facts. Wouldn't someone with a true open policy already have a decent understanding, since they would've done outside research first?

    As for when to step in ... that depends on the amount of time/patience you want to devout to it.

  6. I get the best comments. I really do…

    Vinny, I think you are dead on. They initially think, “How fascinating to talk to a skeptic” or “Gee, all they need to know is about Jesus” only to quickly discover the skeptic often knows more than they do. Retreat is the best (only) option.

    Sacred Slut, I would agree blogs are open conversations, and the Pastors are not quite as ready for the “openness” of a skeptic. Plus, how can they dare admit being wrong in front of their own congregation? Especially on some basic doctrinal point!

    OneSmallStep, I am constantly baffled at how little we all know. I find it interesting these Pastors feel the need to come across as experts in history, textual criticism, cosmology, biology, physics, anthropology, psychology, etc. Yet all they have done is read Christian material on the subject.

    The Barefoot Bum—I hope you didn’t get the impression I thought you did anything wrong. I thought you were fine. I just used this as a springboard for a passing idea.

  7. I hope you didn’t get the impression I thought you did anything wrong.

    Not in the least. Just adding additional information: When someone actively solicits your attention, it's a no-brainer to justify giving it to them. :-D

  8. DagoodS,

    I find that the more I learn, the more I develop a sense of moral relativism, and good/bad becomes dependent on the situation/people. Not with everything.

  9. DagoodS,

    Thanks for the comment on race vs. choice.

    If you like, I can start calling you Gollum. :)

  10. As I have said before—sometimes it is nice to know you are not banging your heard against the wall; you ARE using actual English words which DO make sense to somebody.

    If you will recall, it was Gollum who actually saved the day. *grin*

  11. DagoodS,

    It is very nice to know that. I do kind of despair sometimes in ever reaching a common ground. Not just in that arena, but any arena. If there's a lack of understanding as to the other side's argument, then how can anything ever be in common? How can anything ever get solved?

    **If you will recall, it was Gollum who actually saved the day.**

    So you bit off his finger? :)

  12. Not that you need my affirmation but, for the most part, you guys seem to be reasonable and rational people. I have enjoyed reading your comments and hearing your viewpoints. I believe I have said before, we probably have more in common than we think. IMHO social etiquette is what divides all of us and that is truly sad. : )