Blogs: A Terrible Place for Constructive Dialogue (Especially for the Church)

A group of friends sit in a living room chatting about the roles of husbands and wives. One uses the words submit, obey, and serve one too many times in reference to women, and eventually blunders into an insensitive statement.

Members of the group are offended. They react strongly and challenge his statement. The offender realizes what has happened and attempts to clarify his statement.

It’s a long, tense evening. Though 3 or 4 are the main participants, all present in the room follow the conversation closely and begin to understand where each side is coming from in the debate. Before they depart, the debate is concluded, the offense has been forgiven, and everyone finds something else to talk about.

That’s how most dialogues and debates go when conducted in person. The same does not go for blogs. Rose pointed this out after her recent meeting with Mark Driscoll.

Online “dialogues” quickly become heated and divisive in the following pattern:

Issue A

Insensitive remark 1. about issue A

Question about Issue A, ignores remark 1.

Angry response to insensitive remark 1.

Calm response to insensitive remark 1.

Insensitive remark 2. to maker of insensitive remark 1.

Mediating remark between insensitive remarks 1. and 2.

Angry remark about Issue A that brings up Issue B as well

Another angry reponse to insensitive remark 1.

Calm remark about Issue A

Insensitive remark 3. addressed at Issue B

Insensitive remark 4. addressed at maker of insensitive remark 3.

Makers of insensitive remarks 3. and 4. spar back and forth about Issue B, completely forgetting that this all started with Issue A.

That was actually an abbreviated form of what typically happens every day on the high-traffic blogs. Let’s face it, blogs are a great way to share information and they sometimes work for collaboration, but they simply do not work for large-scale, constructive dialogue about sensitive issues.

Think about this: Many long-distance relationships fail because letters and e-mails can be misinterpreted (my wife and I dated long distance the whole time and we made it though!!!). How can we expect to succeed in constructive communication when we hardly know all of the various people tossing comments into the pot, reacting, counterreacting, and introducing other topics.

I’m not saying that it cannot work. It has in the past. In the comment section of one person’s blog I had a conversation where I challenged the author on something, gently though, and I believe that God used me to save him from sin. That’s the exception.

It’s not to say we shouldn’t try. I’m more interested in lowering our expectations and calling all blog commenters on high-traffic sites to think twice before leaving comments. I never have those problems here, IMD’s readers are the best, but it gets to be a bit much on other sites that I frequent.

Let’s remember that love is our supreme goal. If our words do not bring about love for God and one another, we’d best stick our hands in our pockets and go for a walk.

Now I dare you to leave an angry comment below that completely misinterprets everything I just said . . . I LEAVE COMMENTS ALL OF THE TIME ON BLOGS YOU MORON AND NO ONE EVER GETS ANGRY!!!!