In the Beginning…
Let there be light. – Genesis 1:3
On January 17, 1998, a 31-year-old CBS Studios gift shop manager in Hollywood, California, broke the biggest story of the decade. The president of the United States had been having an affair with a 23-year-old White House intern, and Newsweek, ready to run the story, spiked it at the last minute.
The gift shop manager was Matt Drudge. An ordinary citizen with a 486 computer had scooped a major news magazine, and journalism hasn’t been the same since. His web site, the Drudge Report, gets over 11 million hits a day and is read by journalists and politicians alike.
“We have entered an era vibrating with the din of small voices,” he told an audience at the National Press Club a few months later. “Every citizen can be a reporter…The Net gives as much voice to a…computer geek like me as to a CEO or speaker of the House. We all become equal.”
Drudge uttered those prescient words before the advent of web sites called weblogs, or “blogs.” Blogs have ushered in a new era, and that sentiment can’t be overstated. Traditional media’s monopoly on what is newsworthy is eroding. Citizen journalists – ordinary people collecting, analyzing, reporting, and disseminating information – are bypassing the gatekeepers.
The blogging explosion is often compared to the Protestant Reformation. With the invention of the printing press, an individual suddenly had the power to communicate with the masses without interference from institutional elites. With the emergence of blogging, we’ve all become potential Martin Luthers in the midst of our own modern day reformation.
What is a blog?
A blog is a frequently updated web site with “posts” arranged in chronological order. Although blogs have certain common features, such as comments, trackbacks, and categories, what makes a web site a blog is the presence of a “permalink,” which is a link to an individual post.
The first blogs appeared around 1999, and the growth of the blog universe, called the “blogosphere,” has exploded since then. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 11 percent of Internet users read blogs in 2003. In February 2004, the figure was 17 percent. It jumped to 27 percent by November 2004. That is a growth of 58 percent. Less than five years old, the blogosphere has grown exponentially. Technorati, a real-time blog search engine, presently tracks over 21 million blogs.
For every imaginable political persuasion, religion, hobby, profession – and perversion – there are blogs. At least one child molester, currently behind bars, kept a blog. But what man uses to accomplish evil, God can and does use for good.
The Believing Blogger
Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. – Mark 16:15
God has given us many ways to evangelize the lost, and blogs are the latest tools. As more people go online and discover the blogosphere, there is no shortage of opportunities to fulfill the Great Commission.
Christian blogs come in a wide variety, including devotionals, online journals of mission trips, draft sermons and Sunday School lessons. Others are devoted to raising awareness of persecution around the world, while many focus on politics or doctrinal issues. I blog mostly on politics from a Christian perspective, but I never realized how much I actually knew about the Bible until recently. Thanks to a certain Democratic politician’s penchant for attending black churches during the election season, I’ve had ample opportunities to blog about the Bible.
Last year, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry implied that if George Bush were a good Christian, he’d spend more money on social programs as a show of “good works.”
“The scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion,” Kerry preached.
Any Christian worth his salt knows Kerry was misinterpreting, misapplying, and politicizing James 2:14-17. The apostle was giving guidance to individual believers, not governments, on how to evaluate their faith to determine whether it is living or dead. A believing political leader does not demonstrate his personal faith by taking more money from taxpayers to give to the “poor.” Giving his own money to feed and clothe the less fortunate may be a work of faith.
Correcting misinterpretation of Scripture is a given, but should Christians entangle themselves in political debates?
Christians and Politics
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16
America is bitterly divided politically, and partisan bickering has reached a new level. The most popular Christian bloggers tend to focus on politics and often weave their faith into the discussion. Although I sometimes struggle with mixing faith and politics, I know my faith impacts every area of my life, including which party and policies I favor.
Some insist that Christians should not be involved in politics at all, but there is no biblical basis for this assertion. If our system is truly a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, Christians have an obligation to participate in the governing, whether they do so indirectly by voting or directly by campaigning or running for office.
Public policy shapes society, and Christians ought to be engaged in shaping public policy. For example, if Christians believe abortion is murder, they should try to protect the unborn by influencing the people who write the laws. Religious freedom is another public policy issue important to believers. We know religious oppression exists around the world, and if Christians in the United States don’t want to suffer the same fate, we should always be aware of what elected representatives are advocating. Christians must be informed voters.
Though we are not forbidden to be involved in politics, our involvement must be informed by our faith. Just as voting citizens hold political leaders accountable for their actions, Christians must hold each other biblically accountable and remember that we are one in Christ.
God Blog Convention
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:3
In mid-October, about 135 Christian bloggers gathered at the first God Blog Convention (“GodBlogCon”), a three-day conference held at Biola University in La Mirada, California. Topics included pastor blogging, business blogging, Christian philosophy, Intelligent Design, Christian bloggers with non-Christian readers, etc.
Christian bloggers from around the country who knew each only through blogs and e-mail had a chance to meet face-to-face and talk about issues in the Christian blogosphere. I led a session at GodBlogCon called Christian Blogging 101, and we talked about what it mean to be a Christian blogger. Simply being around other bloggers who go through similar trials was edifying.
Dealing with unbelievers can be daunting. One session at GodBlogCon that I didn’t have the chance to attend was called, “When Non-Christians Read Your Blog,” led by Biola University professor Timothy Muehlhoff. He discussed how to blog about faith without alienating nonbelievers.
“We need to write in such a way that people can see themselves presented as…complex people who aren’t monsters,” Muehlhoff said. “As Christians today, we are embroiled in the argument culture and we have forgotten this one thing: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’” he said. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say we brought a level of civility back to the conversation?”
Yes, it would be nice. Otherwise, we’re only clanging cymbals.
In, But Not Of…
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15
There is nothing new under the sun. Although blogs are a new medium, their purpose is as old as time: to communicate. The ultimate purpose of the Christian blogger is to communicate the message of the cross, and we must do so in truth and love. It is difficult at times, but we can find comfort in each other. The Bible tells us to confess our sins and pray for one another and be salt and light in a corrupt world as Christ’s witnesses.
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ has set us free from the penalty of sin, and we must stay focused on sharing this message. We have a Savior who knows our struggles. Just before he was arrested, Jesus prayed for himself and all believers. His words still bring comfort:
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:14-19)
Originally published in Biblical Worldview Magazine, December 2005