Friday, October 3, 2008

Confessions of a fed up former watchblogger

It's hard to believe it's actually been this long ago now, but in the spring of 2005 after researching for several months, I started Emergent No. A blog dedicated to sharing joint research and resources on the emerging church movement by myself and two other contributors. That blog stayed VERY active until I became entirely fed up with it all, about 18 months later. The material posted there is still accessable through this link, if you're at all interested. While much of what you'll find there is still valuable insight, a lot of it has also changed because the movement itself has drastically changed over the past several years. I still have access to all 266 pages of comments, and if you're ever having a great day and want a way to completely ruin it, reading a few of those pages of comments will certainly do it. Suffice it to say there was a lot of ugliness there, and that's part of the reason I finally shut it all down.

What I didn't know at the time I began that blog, was that I'd immediately be labelled a "watchblogger" and lumped in with various other bloggers and website owners that primarily dedicated their online presence to exposing false doctrines and movements within the evangelical church. Say whatever it is you need to say about such folks, but they have in many cases provided a very helpful resource for those with questions seeking understanding.

Fast forwarding two years after I closed the doors at ENo, and now we have what has been coined ODM (Online Discernment Ministries) and no shortage of seriously annoyed bloggers who can't stand them, and spend their days refuting all they write, making fun of them, and being rather creepy in general. The sad thing is, is that in some (some) of the critique of "watchbloggers" or ODMs, I can see the truth in it.

The kind of critique that I see that sometimes rings true, is the accusation of the lack of grace or mercy, lack of compassion toward folks, and overly harsh attitudes in general. Sometimes this rings true of some of the folks I have read that offer critique. It doesn't define them, nor does it mean anything other than this is how some folks come across, sometimes. In a most bizarre twist however, the folks who complain about those they call watchbloggers or ODMs, are quite often 10 times meaner, 10 times more insulting, degrading, and ugly, than anything the first person wrote to begin with. Yet... somehow this is perfectly okay?

Just recently I was accused of having the compassion of a rattlesnake. Of course this was said by someone who doesn't know me and wouldn't have a clue what I'm really like, but it stung all the same. It was that comment that got me to thinking about all this again. I suppose that in some cases I might actually come across as someone who is overly harsh, but that isn't the real me at all, even though I can come off that way, at times (like today at the dvd rental store when I said "just PICK a movie already and let's go!"). While my passion is for sound doctrine and sound teachers, sometimes I fall really really short of expressing myself in a way that extends any mercy or grace. I don't set out to do that, but it does happen.

In the writings of those who are labelled "watchbloggers", I read and sometimes cringe at the lines I think they cross in their critique - just the same as I cringe at the lines the watchbloggers of the watchbloggers cross, when they skewer them for saying what they've said. It gets intensely personal, and it's purposely designed to hurt the person it's being said about. Even if the thing said is true in some way or some aspect, sometimes it just doesn't need to be said publicly, and it never needs to be said in a biting, hurtful, hateful way. In case you're wondering, yes, I have been guilty of this myself, and I'm not proud of it. Just being "authentic". (Someone slap me for using that word, please?)

So as I sat here writing this, yet another shimmering example of this kind of hateful, insulting, degrading type of post came through on my bloglines. I read a description of a person I know quite well, and just felt so angry to read such mean, inaccurate, ugly words. Just last night I had the opportunity to discuss this a little bit with this dear-wonderful-sister-friend-lady, and it occured to me that part of the reason it bothers me so much to read this kind of cutting, demeaning junk, is because it's often aimed at people who have had a profound impact on my life in some way. So it's quite likely the mama-bear in me coming out, wanting to protect "my own".

I have no magic wand or earth-shattering insight. The only solution to all this is for people who profess to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and are thankful for God's grace and mercy in their lives, to try at least a little harder to extend some of that grace to others, even when they disagree with what they say or how they say it. Yes, this applies to me too.

Maybe if we all did that a little more, there'd be less junk in the Christian blogging community. Or, maybe I'm completely delusional and have a silly, utopian idea of what Christian people are supposed to act like. Frankly, I'm tired of seeing so much junk, and some days just feel like disappearing (from the blogging community) for good. I've already pared my blog reading down to only five blogs a day, but even there, its unavoidable.

Color me weary, I guess.

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