More on the religion session from bloggercon2 (part 1 is here)
I still haven't recovered my notes, nor have any transcripts been published yet. Still, I think that I have a few more insights and comments that I hope you find of interest.
There was a lot of discussion about what the role of the blog should be. (This was actually throughout all the sessions at the conference, and was a pretty interesting thread). Is a blog primarily informative (journalistic model), is it community building (akin to BBS and listserv phenomena), is it persuasive, is it referential (like a prayer book or missal), - just what is the raison d'etre of a blog and how does a soi-disant godblog fit into the picture?
Like any good discussion/seminar, there were more questions than answers in the room. We could have spent the whole session just chewing on the concept of what is a religion and what then is a religiously oriented blog? Given that the room included everything from atheists to zen buddhists, it went all over the field and nothing was really answered.
A predominant paradigm in the room seemed to be that Internet communication is basically non-authoritarian in that every blogger is his or her own authority. To many in the room, this model was very similar to Protestant Christianity, with its roots in the rebellion against hierarchical knowledge and authority. I think I commented on that in my earlier post as well.
Jeff Sharlet introduced me early in the session and asked me for my input - I pointed out that I was hardly an expert but as the only person there from St Blogs I tried to at least get a few basics out. I mentioned that St Blogs is international, with bloggers from the USA, Canada, Britain, and other places - primarily Anglophones but that we do have a blogger from Madrid Spain and at one time there was one from Buenos Aires. I forgot to mention the young lady from the Phillipines who is attending school in (I think AU or NZ). Anyhow, the Catholic weblog community is pretty international.
I mentioned that, in my opinion, most St Blog's people are NOT in dissent from the church nor are we opposed to authority. In fact, I said, we seek to have the Church exert its authority appropriately in areas such as public morals and liturgy.
I pointed out that we tend to be in agreement on matters of core theology, while disagreeing (sometimes wildly) on areas of prudential judgement. I also pointed out that many blogs in the Parish are not politically oriented but are rather focused on how to live out our faith in day to day life (and here I was thinking of our mommy blogs, as well as blogs like flos carmeli and apologia). I also pointed out that we have blogs that talk about cooking and art and music and that these are no less religious, no less spiritual, than the political or theological blogs.
What I wanted to say, but didn't, was that I see reflected in blogs a core difference between Catholicism and other religions - I don't exactly know how to phrase this but it has to do with having our religion infuse every aspect of our being for better or worse. The only other religion that I know of that has that kind of infusion into self is Orthodox Judaism, which also has a lot of authoritarian aspects. Catholics try to baptize the culture in which we live as far as possible, and yet also try to eschew the sins of the culture. It seems to be to be a dynamic that borders on paradox. But I digress.
There was a little digression in the session about religious vs spiritual, and concerns that blogging might become a spiritual practice that would supplant more traditional practices such as individual or communal prayers. Some one mentioned using blogs as a forum for dissemination of the 'prayer list' that has been a tradition in many churches.
We talked a bit about why people blog. Are the godblogs a vehicle for proselytizing? (sometimes, but not often) Are they good sources for reliable basic information about the various religions? (probably not as good as the public library). I stated my idea that many (if not most) religion bloggers believe that they have Truth and want to share it with readers - some one else wondered if rather than calling them godblogs they should be called conviction blogs? I later realized that many of the political blogs probably also think they have Truth with a capital T - and they may be even more vigorous about proselytizing their truth.
There was quite a bit of discussion about the generally polite tone of most religious blogs even when the discussion got heated. The exceptions seemed to be more in the area of politics than theology. Blogs and email are both asynchronous communication, but the structure of blogging seems to lead to a different dynamic. I wish we could have spent more time on this concept.
There was some discussion about a tension among the various concepts of time. I was reminded of the difference between Kairos and Chronos, between sequential time and the eternal Now. Blogs have aspects of both - and how do religion and faith and blogging intersect with time and eternity? I blog in real time, but the entries stay there and can be commented on and amended essentially forever. Is this a model of how God works with us? Around the time this discussion started I had a flashback to 1970 and my friends who were tripping on hallucinogenic drugs and kind of lost the thread of the discussion.
All in all it was an interesting couple of hours and I wish that I had my notes!