Two days to Bloggercon, the open conference on weblogs convened by Dave Winer, a blog innovator and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.The Revealer‘s publisher, Jay Rosen, will be hosting a panel on journalism; and The Revealer‘s editor, Jeff Sharlet, will be hosting one on religion. A week ago, we asked for Revealer readers to add to the comments already posted in response to earlier discussionson what religion blogging is all about.
Since then, a Pew study on “Faith Online” has been released, and Tim Bednar of E-Church has published a preliminary draft of his massive study of Protestant blogs. Meanwhile,Michelle at Mikao’s World also recently published a survey of (mostly) Christian blogs. And late last year, Bene Diction published a terrific array of demographic research on religion blogs.
Next week we’ll try to draw some conclusions, but in the countdown to Bloggercon, we’ll focus on adding more questions. Some that have come up in comments and email:
1. What is a God blog? Is God blogging a religious practice? If so, does it displace other practices? Is it a meditation? Prayer?
2. What about nonbelievers, secularists, and regular journalists who blog about religion? If God blogging is a form of spiritual practice — and many God bloggers insist that it is — what’s the significance of a nonbeliever performing what might be considered a spiritual ritual?
3. Some prominent bloggers argue that blogging isn’t journalism. Bloggers, they say, comment rather than report. But aren’t religion bloggers reporting on matters of faith? Isn’t a deeper understanding of faith as it’s lived what’s missing from most mainstream religion reportage?
4. Do blogs restore pre-modern theological thinking, in the sense of encouraging worldly, mundane responses? Is that kind of theology specifically Christian (as opposed to Jewish & Muslim, in which theology often resides with authority figures who can take their time responding)? Or does it favor, culturally speaking, Jews and Catholics, who are more accustomed to the idea that religious questions can be answered communally? Or does it favor the individualism of Protestantism?
5. Do religion blogs actually make mainstream religion coverage worse, by favoring and amplifying the kind of simplistic stories that can easily be summed up in a few sentences or two?
6. The Pew study reveals that those who use the internet for religious purposes tend to be devout. And a stroll through any of the religious blogospheres will further suggest that religion bloggers tend to be traditional. And yet they’re engaged in a practice that inherently challenges established hierarchies. Or are they? Does blogging give everyone the potential power of the pulpit, just as it does of the press? Does that potential change the way faith and community are experienced even for those who don’t blog (but could)?
7. Last, definitely not least: What makes a good religion blog? What is the craft of religion blogging? Are there certain elements common to religion blogs across faiths? What do journalists have to learn from religion bloggers? What do other bloggers — particularly those concerned with culture and politics — have to learn from religion blogs? Bloggercon is about advancing the art and science of blogging, generally. How can religion blogs contribute to that mission?
Add your questions below, and meet me at Bloggercon.
UPDATE: Dave Winer, the organizer of Bloggercon, posts a reminder in the comments that’s important enough to added here, with response:
“I know the language is strange, but it’s important. You are not doing a panel, you are leading a discussion, as is Jay. There’s no hierarchy, no audience, no panel. You’re working for them by helping string together ideas to make a story.”
To which I respond with apologies. The language is indeed important, and perhaps nowhere more relevant than in a discussion of religion and blogs. It is, as I’ve written before, an open discussion. No one is the boss. There are no experts. It is, intellectually speaking, a collective endeavor.
Sound familiar? It’s a Quaker meeting! Seriously, though, it does bring to mind Martin Luther’s “priesthood of the believers.” And that IS worth thinking about. Let’s not get carried away and declare blogging Protestant. But is it worth thinking about the parallels of form to theology? The medium is the message; is it also the messiah? Do the form of blogs shape the God (or gods) they depict?
Broadly speaking: What does the blog God look like?