Jeff Sharlet, editor of The Revealer, writes:
I'll be moderating a discussion session on religion, spirituality, and God blogs at Bloggercon, a conference about weblogs at Harvard Law School on April 17th. I'm pulling together a brief essay that'll serve as a starting point for the discussion right now. And I need your help.
below is most of what I posted in his comments box. If you make a comment here, please also let Jeff know.
The Catholic church has a long history of what are called 'ecclesial movements' within the framework and structure of the church. They are kind of like little beta test sites for movements, and if they bear fruit and show signs of Divine inspiration, they get folded back into the church as a whole. Some of these movements include Charismatic Renewal, the Christian Family Movement, Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, the Catholic Evidence Guild, and many others. I see the Catholic weblog phenomenon as being part of this chain of renewal.
Many people see the Catholic Church as being unwieldy, monolithic, and rigidly hierarchical. Any institution as old (~2000 years) and large as the Catholic church will have a lot of inertia, but once moved, there is also tremendous momentum. Therefore, it behooves us to be very cautious about setting things in motion - yet we also need to be able to respond quickly to the Holy Spirit when it moves authentically.
I see the Catholic weblog as being one way that individuals are able to respond to the Spirit, and yet also have the support (both encouragement and chastisement) of a community of believers.
Q: what does it all add up to? Where did belief blogs come from and where are they going?
I don't think we know yet - it is still growing and changing too rapidly.
Q:How do belief blogs relate to the real world -- as lay ministry, as rebellion, as outsider critique?
A: I think that all of the above are true - and sometimes even in the same blog! I see myself as ministering by providing a perspective of Catholicism to my profession (midwifery) and by also recognizing the family dimensions of both my profession and my faith. I am sometimes in rebellion against the world (as when I rail against prevailing values of the culture of death) or against elements in my church (when I complain about the music I am forced to endure, not just as a pew-sitter but as a member of the choir). As a convert (albeit it one of long-standing - 30 years) I also sometimes have an outsider's perspective.
Q: Do the different Godblogospheres, such as St. Blog's and jBlog, have anything in common -- and anything to learn from each other?
A: I am not familiar with jBlog, but I do read a few Protestant and Orthodox Christian blogs. I think what we all have in common is a desire that our faith informs the totality of our lives, and that includes blogging and other communications.
Q: Why does online belief tend toward greater political conservatism than the religious print press (or am I wrong in thinking that it does)?
A: I posted that to my blog a while back - you might want to check out the answers my readers sent. I think that those with strong opinions are more likely to speak out.
Q: Do blogs do a better job of noticing religion in the news than the mainstream press?
A; I think they have a more focused view. My local newspaper dedicates one page on Saturdays - and often the 'news' included is nowhere near local. I think that bloggers of religious persuasions are more likely to see the religious, moral, and ethical issues in even 'straight news' and to comment on it.
Q: Are they a force for change within religious institutions? Journalistic institutions?
A: I haven't the foggiest idea. My daughter and my husband both work (for pay) in the mainstream media (radio)and they both have relayed that their respective institutions seem to be totally clueless about blogging in any context.