3 Questionable Trends in Christian Blogging
I 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.