Writing Out Loud: Blogging as Worship
Living in the second decade of the 21st century, it is easy to forget that the technologies that characterize our every day lives were, at best, a far-fetched dream not that long ago. The web log, or blog, as it has come to be known, is no exception. For, as Andrew Sullivan writes, “Every writer since the printing press has longed for a means to publish himself and reach—instantly—any reader on Earth.” The invention of the blog nearly two decades ago made such a thing possible, and the developments of recent years have made the technology even more accessible. It does not matter how much money you make, how well you write, where you live, or what you want to write—you can write, and people around the globe can read it and interact with you, the writer, making blogging a unique form of social media.
As it goes with technological advancements and their resulting media, Christians have responded to blogging in many different ways. Some have deemed it (and social media in general), either in ignorance or experience, as something to be avoided. Others have utilized blogs as a megaphone to shout at a fallen world or a platform to glorify their piety and religiosity—both of which are easy traps to fall into. However, while often understood as a way to promote one’s self or criticize culture, blogging can be an act of worship by means of reflection, retrospection, and potentially, ministry through the vulnerable expression of one’s unfolding life story.
Blogs, as Andrew Sullivan aptly defines them, are a sort of publicized (and it could be added, interactive) diary of old, referring to the act of blogging (as many have) as “writing out loud,” and therefore, the telling of one’s story. As believers, stories should be important to us, for the Bible—God’s story of the redemption of mankind—is bursting with smaller stories that point to something and Someone beyond themselves (Joseph, David, Ruth, just to name a few; see Art and Soul, pp. 177, 179-180). And in a world that claims truth is relative, there is still a deep craving for story. As Brand and Chopin write in Art and Soul:
It is acceptable to say, ‘This is my story,’ but not this is the story… Grand stories may be treated with the utmost suspicion, but people will listen to any number of stories on a human scale, especially those that come from the depth of human experience. (7, 15)
Before diving in to how blogging can be an act of worship, however, we must address potential objections and explore the common traps that prevent it from being worship.
Addressing Potential Objections
Despite blogging’s widespread popularity, there are bound to be those who object to the use of the medium, or at least those who miss its potential. For example, some might say that there is too much noise in the world already—that we are overwhelmed with things to read and we would be better off to stop talking and start listening. Yet, while there is a place for silence, there is also a place for words, and spiritual discernment should be utilized to know which is appropriate at a given time. Furthermore, if we are writing simply to be read (see: “Getting it Wrong,” below), then we might very well be contributing more noise to our already-noisy world. But if we are writing because we find joy in writing, if we are writing because we want to or need to write, if we are writing as worship, does this objection still stand?
On the other hand, others might claim that the blog is a cousin to or a grandchild of the television and thus worthy of Postman’s criticism on the transmission of context-less information. But each blog post is a part of an unfolding series of posts and each blog contains an “about” page where the author (or blogger) can provide basic information about who they are. Both of these things create a context for an individual post, allowing prospective readers to understand why, for example, a blogger is saying what he or she is saying, thus helping the reader know how he or she should process and/or respond to the post.
Still, others may object to blogging because it allows almost anyone, regardless of education or skill, to instantly publish what they write. To some, this free-for-all runs the risk of diminishing the value of proper grammar and language or even extinguishing the necessity of traditional publishing. It is important to note, however, that some blog sites, such as WordPress, provide an excellent community for writers to develop as writers, even going so far as to provide opportunities for peer review and writing checks that extend far beyond spelling and grammar. And as for traditional publishing, the sheer contrast between traditional publishing and instantaneous blogging provides a safe bet that neither will lead to the extinction of the other. While traditional publishing leads to well thought-out, professionally edited works of art, blogging results in short, often unpolished overflows of the heart and mind.
Getting It Wrong: The Megaphone, the Platform, and the Pulpit
Getting blogging wrong is easy to do, for to get blogging wrong requires little or no thought about the medium. In other words, if we fail to critically think through how to use a particular medium, we are bound to use it wrong. Often, Christians will use blogging (and social media in general) as a megaphone for criticizing culture or unbelievers. It becomes, so to speak, the street preaching of the Internet. For like street preaching, there is, perhaps, a time and a place for the blogging megaphone of criticism (and God can certainly use it, as He can use anything He chooses), but we are called to something more. As Paul Anderson writes:
Our access to a million different viewpoints, images, and snippets of information threatens to turn us all into quasi-critics of everything and creators of nothing. And while there is a place for critics (see: Prophets), the last thing the Kingdom needs is a million not-so-good ones.
We are called to create. We are called to love and to tell our story. We are called to build relationships, and social media (including blogging) can and should be utilized to do just that.
On the other hand, we get blogging wrong when we, enraptured by our pride, see blogging as a platform for promoting ourselves, a place to revel in our piety and appear as if we have everything together, when we in reality, we do not. Sometimes blogging is deliberately executed in this way, but often the pride that manifests itself in “platform blogging” is far more subtle. If blogging is to be executed rightly, it must be carried out in the humility that flows forth from a sinner saved by grace (see Phil. 2). This is not to say that in order for one to blog he or she must be free from pride, but rather that he or she must be aware of pride, acknowledge the struggle, and fight against it in light of the cross.
Perhaps contingent to the idea of pride-fueled blogging is the fallacy of writing solely to be read. While it is indeed important to be mindful of one’s potential audience, when it comes to blogging, it is important to write for the sake of writing–for the sake of getting our thoughts out where we can see them, for the sake of worship. When we blog only for the sake of being read, we may say things to garner the attention we crave or refrain from saying what is truly on our heart. Furthermore, what we write and publish online may never actually be read. If this is the case and if we are writing only to be read, what is the point of writing after all?
In another sense, we need to be cautious of seeing the medium solely as a means of evangelism. For, while it most assuredly can be used for evangelism, a blog is not a pulpit. It is not a medium for preaching at people. Instead, Blogging functions as a public journal of sorts, acting as a medium for dialogue with ourselves and with God, all the while inviting others into that conversation–to listen, to watch and to even join in (see the discussion of story, above, and “Getting it Right,” below).
Therefore, we get blogging wrong when we see it as a megaphone, a platform, and a pulpit. But before exploring how to get blogging right, we must realize that we will get blogging wrong if we blog because we think that is what we are supposed to do. For while all Christians are called to share what God is doing in their lives, we are not all called to write. God has equipped His children with a wide array of gifts and means of telling His story by telling the story He is writing in them (see 1 Cor. 12). To some, He has given the gift of writing—the ability to convey thoughts through the written (or typed) word and to find His joy in doing so. For those people, the blog is an excellent medium with which to engage. But one must do so rightly.
Getting It Right: Blogging as Worship
Many (i.e. Tozer, Giglio) have gone so far as to biblically declare every aspect of the human life as worship. Thus, it is no novel idea to understand human interaction with a medium, such as blogging, as worship. The questions are, then, whoare we worshiping and how? And while we must constantly ask ourselves these questions, the answer every Christian should desire is that we are worshiping God in all that we say and do and write by surrendering ourselves and bringing Him our best.I propose, therefore, that blogging is a means of worshiping God, specifically when we see blogging as a discipline in reflection, retrospection, and reconciliation—three aspects that the blogging medium lends itself too and three themes that permeate Scripture.
The accessibility (or ease) of blogging coupled with the idea that blogging can be as social as you prefer, as well as the opportunity to write more than other forms of social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) allow, makes the blog an excellent medium for the art and discipline of reflection. Blog posts should be built upon and flow forth from our honest reflections on day-to-day life–they should be our honest reflections on day-to-day life. It is important to note that by “day-to-day life,” I do not mean we should post daily, but rather that our posts should deal with the every day things—the ordinary—and that we should do so honestly. The wide range of emotions and themes in the book of Psalms (and the Bible as a whole) is an astounding example of how God’s people are called to honesty. If we are filled with joy, then we should express that joy, for time and time again throughout Scripture we are commended to tell of the marvelous things God has done (i.e. Ps. 9, 96, 105; Luke 8:39). If we are struggling with sin or its effects, we should not try to hide it (i.e. Ps. 6, 38; 1 Jn. 1:8-10). God is glorified through and, thus, there is great value in, introspection–in reflecting on what God is saying to you today, what you are learning right now, what you are feeling in this moment.
The idea of retrospection, as it is related to blogging, deals with looking back upon what you, the blogger, have written in your reflections on day-to-day life. Take, for example, this quotation from Andrew Sullivan as he explains the concept of a log in his treatment on the history of blogging:
As you read a log, you have the curious sense of moving backward in time as you move forward in pages—the opposite of a book. As you piece together a narrative that was never intended as one, it seems—and is—more truthful. Logs, in this sense, were a form of human self-correction. They amended for hindsight, for the ways in which human beings order and tidy and construct the story of their lives as they look back on them. Logs require a letting-go of narrative because they do not allow for a knowledge of the ending.
But for Christians, while we do not know what lies before us in whole, we do know how the story ends.
Retrospection, as noted earlier, permeates Scripture for throughout it God extols His people to remember what He has done in the past, to remember His faithfulness. He often begins speaking to Israel by saying, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt” (i.e. Ex. 20:2, Deut. 5:6). He ordained feasts in the Old Testament (i.e. Ex. 12:14, 13:3; Est. 9:28) and the Lord’s Supper (Communion) in the New Testament (i.e. Luke 22:19) so that Israel and the Church would remember His faithfulness and deliverance. Furthermore, Psalm 42 is a beautiful example of remembering God’s faithfulness.
Since a blog is a compilation of posts organized in a counter-chronological order, when a blog is a compilation of honest day-to-day reflections on life it allows us to look back and see God’s faithfulness. And as such, blogging can be an act of worship.
If blogging is seen as an act of reflection, providing an avenue for retrospection, the fact that such is made public (as opposed to a traditional journal) is inviting others into our lives. It is welcoming them into our conversation with God, as we celebrate, mourn, and wrestle through the things of life as one who has been redeemed and one who is being sanctified. Blogging provides Christians with a unique opportunity to worship God in this way, allowing us to exemplify life in Christ—life as a fallen and redeemed being who is being created anew in Christ.
For as Christians, we have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, as we ourselves have been reconciled to God. Our lives have been changed forevermore by the Author of the Great Story, and the same God who wrote the Story of reconciliation is the God that is at work in our every day lives. We must see that and we must give others the opportunity to see it too. No, we do not have to “have it all together,” but our lives can point to the One who holds it all together. It is in this that we can use blogging to participate in the ministry of reconciliation.