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3 Questionable Trends in Christian Blogging

bloggingI took up blogging because I love to write, and like many, I’d do it without an audience. The internet is strewn with blogs I’ve launched for awhile and let run aground.

This blog’s growing influence has allowed me the luxury of getting to know some other fantastic writers—and familiarize myself with many of the Christian blogosphere’s benefits—and blemishes.

At their best, blogs are a forum for anyone to inform, encourage, and engage others. My favorite blogs challenge me to look at myself, my theology, and others in a whole new light.

But I’ve noticed some less than stellar trends in the Christian blogging community, too. Here are the couple that come to mind:

1. Unproductive indignation

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely abuses that should be called out—sometimes by name. Abuses of authority, theology, and practice should not be ignored or treated with kid gloves.

But as your platform grows, so does your responsibility to be a peacemaker. I often agree with many blogging personalities and then watch their insight get turned into animosity as it’s picked up by their followers. What’s initially intended as a discussion about issues can quickly turn into the demonizing of individuals. Soon the issues get lost in focused, personalized rage.

I have watched Twitter discussions between bloggers devolve into Gangs-of-New-York-style battles as their followers dive in. It gets messy. It gets mean. It becomes a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal.

It’s not an easy issue. Like I said, sometimes individuals should be called out. Sometimes specific examples need to be named. Heck, Paul called out people by name in many of his epistles. But, in the end, we’re agents of reconciliation and have a responsibility to ensure we’re not diminishing anyone’s value, even if we’re standing against some aspect of their influence.

Please remember, you are never dealing with caricatures—you are dealing with people. People with long, often tragic, stories. People who are often more sensitive than you know.

2. Content “borrowing”

In January of 2013, I published a post called 3 Phrases Christians Should Quit Relying On. It was my first viral post, and it was pretty exciting. But one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the number of posts my friends discovered that were overt copies. Some borrowed the idea, while others honed in and elaborated on one aspect. I had one blogger use two-thirds of the post’s outline as their own. Guess how many of them credited their post’s inspiration? If you guessed zero, you’re right.

One person who did it right was Micah Murray of Redemption Pictures. Even though he thought I was full of crap in his Things Christians Should Stop Saying, he took the time to link to my post and give me credit. Yeah, you’re right . . . that one time I got partial inspirational credit was from someone who disagreed with me. *sigh*

(If you get a chance read the comments to his blog, do it. It was my first introduction to Micah and I’m happy we’re friends. It’s a pretty funny exchange.)

Since then, I have been a lot more aware of this kind of “borrowing” happening. I’ll see a blog go viral and then start seeing new versions of the post cropping up. They’re not plagiarized, per se, they might be completely rewritten, but the inspiration (and sometimes even the title) is so familiar, it might as well be.

Blogs are monsters always demanding to be fed, and coming up with new content to feed them can be difficult. And while it’s impossible to always be entirely original, you need to be careful. Once you start getting the reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with other people’s content, it’s hard to shake.

Give the credit that’s due

There’s an amazing blogging community out there. Giving credit and linking back to blogs that inspire you baptizes you into that community. Whenever I see a blogger do this I think, “What a class act.” I never think less of them because their idea evolved from something they read.

3.  Setting yourself up as a role model

A blog can be a great way to share your personal stories and the lessons you’ve learned, but it can quickly become dangerous. People naturally trust you and will give you the benefit of the doubt. It becomes easy to set yourself up as an example of holiness, marital happiness, parental wisdom, or other Christian virtues.

But let’s be honest—no one vets bloggers. And any schmo can set up a blog and wax eloquently about Christianity in a way that sets them up as a hero of faith. Be wary of taking advantage of your reader’s trust. And be doubly wary about setting yourself up as a glittering image.

Sure, Paul tells the Corinthians to follow his example—but he had a relationship with them. They’d spent time with him, they’d seen him under duress, and they learned to trust him. As bloggers, we need to be careful not to create idealized examples of our life for others to exemplify. It might help grow your platform, but it creates an illusory, romanticized ideal that will eventually frustrate your readers.

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16 Comments Post a comment
  1. People of the Internet: if you read a post by any Christian blogger, copy its title and search Jayson’s site for it. There’s a chance you’ll find a better-written, better-thought-out, and just better-for-you version of it here.

    Jayson may not agree with my opinion on this, but he also doesn’t block comments from people with differing points of view.

    And yes, read those comments on Micah Murray’s post. They’re pretty neat.

    January 22, 2014
  2. This is such good advice. Thank you for sharing. I’m especially broken-hearted about all the criticism that comes to Christians FROM other Christians. The secular world has more reason to focus on negative things. They have no hope and no admonition to love others. But we Christians need to speak truth in love, not only to people outside the faith, but, even more so, to, and about, our fellow believers. Thanks for chiding us gently about this.

    January 22, 2014
  3. “Oh hey. I’ve seen a few people write posts about things shouldn’t say. I’ll google them all and then write one sweeping smartass rebuttal against them all whilst simultaneously being sanctimonious and tongue in cheek. Nothing can go wrong with that plan.”

    (my thought process)

    January 22, 2014
  4. I like your reminder that we’re still called to be peacemakers… even while blogging. Comments sections have become the go-to place for all-out wars on everything from theology to celebrity, and it’s getting gross. I love a healthy debate, but our quest to bring peace should apply to all areas of our lives — anonymous internet posts included.

    January 22, 2014
    • I love that part about being peacemakers, too – and agree with your further comments on the topic – our quest to bring peace really should apply to all areas of our lives. (And “anonymous internet posts” are for cowards.)

      January 22, 2014
  5. “Please remember, you are never dealing with caricatures—you are dealing with people. People with long, often tragic, stories. People who are often more sensitive than you know.”

    You mean even when referring to “fundies” who forget stuff about Jesus? 😉

    Loved the points in that article (about fundies and Jesus), by the way, and wholeheartedly agreed with them, but I’ve got to confess that I was a bit troubled by how easy it is to broadly lump people into groups and then bag on them . . . because I know I can too easily be guilty of it, too. Why does that “we/they” thing feel so temptingly right at times? (There’s a blog post in there somewhere that’s begging me to write it.)

    January 22, 2014
    • Yeah . . . I don’t know if I necessarily agree with your chastisement.

      I am specifically talking about individuals here. Are generalizations helpful, probably not but sometimes they’re unavoidable.

      As I said in that “fundie” post, I was a fundie. The nice thing about using a term like that is that most people don’t think it applies to them.

      January 22, 2014
      • I guess the use of the term struck a sensitive chord with me, both because I used to consider the term “fundamentalist” to be a compliment (having grown up in a highly fundamentalist environment, as it seems you did, as well) and because I know people who still do consider the term a compliment. (Though you’re probably right that most people these days probably don’t think the term applies to them.)

        And you very well may be right about generalizations being unavoidable, but I tend to bristle against them when I hear them (even though I confess I’m not beyond using them at times), because labels so often lead to “us vs. them” thinking and the posture that so easily grows out of “us vs. them” thinking can shut down dialogue and serve as a distraction from the truth in the message.

        That said, I’m comfortable with your disagreement because I trust the sincerity of the heart behind your writing, and I’m willing to own bringing my own sensitivities to bear on my inward response to the title of the article.

        Blessings and Peace. 🙂

        January 22, 2014
  6. Blogs are not the only place where people copy and do not give credit. Have you seen how many “mega church” pastors (and wannabes) copy each others sermons? Some guys even insert the same crummy jokes and pauses. Not everyone does this but a surprising number do.

    January 23, 2014
  7. alwilson158 #

    That is great. Many people have the ability to write but are afraid to get started. Just say what is on your mind.

    January 23, 2014
  8. as your platform grows, so does your responsibility to be a peacemaker

    Agreed. I’m already starting to learn this for myself. Good post!

    January 24, 2014

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