On the Promise and Peril of Blogs

WHEREAS, the Internet has spawned a phenomenon—the Web Log (“Blog”)—virtually unimaginable to Southern Baptists a generation ago, not to mention our 19th-century founders with their the limited technical horizon; and 

WHEREAS, as with any advance in communications technology, from the printing press to radio and beyond, there is, in play, a dazzling array of truth and falsehood, righteousness and evil, proof and speculation, transparency and cloaked manipulation, charity and viciousness, skill and incompetence, winsomeness and repulsiveness, wisdom and foolishness—with every gradation along the scale; and

WHEREAS, every communications channel (institutional or individual) appropriated by Christians (save Scripture) is admittedly subject to error and malpractice; and

WHEREAS, Baptists have long championed the free marketplace of ideas, defending the rights of saints and fools (including foolish saints and saintly fools) to have their say, convinced that truth is better served by freedom than suppression, a freedom granted not only to the defamers, but also to the defamers of the defamers as well as the applauders of the applauders, and so on; and 

WHEREAS, the nation has been both blessed and bedeviled by the proliferation of alternative media outlets, rivals to the legacy networks, untrammeled by the gatekeepers, whose record of discernment and fair play is checkered; and

WHEREAS, Christians across the communications spectrum have not only risen to heights of wisdom, courage, and grace, but have also sunk to the depths of sophistry, mendacity, sloppiness, and dismissive arrogance; and

WHEREAS, prickly and troublesome “bloggers” of their day (typically using low-cost printed materials and improvised networks not funded by denominational dollars) were essential to the conservative resurgence, with these outliers’ not knowing if their efforts would be fruitful, yet convinced, like the prophets of old, that they should still sound the alarm; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED that, as best we can, we honor with careful attention the deliverances of those who presume to offer pertinent information and insight for our Christian walk and service; and be it further

RESOLVED that we sympathize with leaders and commentators who dare to address controversial matters, mindful that they may be subject, through social media, to widespread, unwarranted, and unaccountable savagery and adulation (both debilitating), heretofore unseen on earth; and be it further

RESOLVED, that even “nobodies” can offer solid observations that “somebodies” may be missing or suppressing—speaking as children, if you will, who venture the observation that the emperor on parade is short on clothes; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we implore all parties involved to shun the knee-jerk “cancel culture,” aware that fallibility is a human condition, and that glee at the discovery of misstatements and missteps violates the command to love; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that, whatever legal rights the Christian blogger may enjoy, he or she has no right to violate the canons of truth and decency in communication.

Mark Coppenger is a former professor of Christian Apologetics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, senior pastor of Evanston Baptist Church in Illinois, director of Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Chicago’s Northwestern University, and managing editor of Kairos Journal. He holds degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Vanderbilt University (Ph.D.).
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