TJ Burdick is putting together an ebook and asks me the question “In your opinion, what are the ‘ten commandments’ that Catholic bloggers should keep in mind while pressing on in their digital mission?”
Well considering the name of my site a more humorous replay comes to me at first. In fact this is from a post written almost ten years ago on the blogging Ten Commandments.
- I am the LORD your God, you shall have no other blogs before me.
- You shall not blog the Name of the LORD your God in vain.
- Keep holy the blogosphere.
- Honor thy Father and Mother blogs (Mark Shea and Amy Welborn)
- You shall not kill thy users comments unless in self defense or to keep civil thy blog.
- You shall not commit blogdultery by spending more time on thy blog then thy spouse.
- You shall not steal thy neighbors links without given him credit.
- You shall not misrepresent thy fellow bloggers especially thou shall fully read their post before ranting.
- You shall not covet the quality of thy neighbors blog
- You shall not covet thy neighbor’s blog visits and page views.
Really though the ten commandments Catholic bloggers must keep in mind are of course the original ones and they also collapse into the same Catholic both/and of loving God and neighbor.
The different forms of media including new media all have their inherit temptations and difficulties when it comes to preaching and commenting on the faith. Specifically I will speak to though temptations of pundit bloggers such as myself.
For one is is quite easy to conflate a person with what they say and write and then end up attacking the person more than responding to what they say. I try to take up the example of G.K. Chesterton who could publicly take on the ideas of people who were his friends while remaining friends with them. He never compromised his opinion of their ideas, but his writing also never devolved into personal attacks. I am certain I have failed in this regard, but this is the example I try to adhere to.
The use of parody and sarcasm is also an area fraught with difficulties to keep from descending into callousness and mean-spiritness. You really have to evaluate what your trying to say and while doing parody. Parody can validly have an edge to, but that does not mean you have carte blanche permission to be uncharitable. Even being generally aware of this you can still fall into the problem by admiring what you see as the wit behind it and not its effects. If others take you to task for the way you have said something you really must give it some serious weight in evaluating if your really have transgressed. While I have not had to pull many posts over the last decade, I have pulled some upon reevaluating them. Pride can easily be a barrier in this regard as I well know.
Another inherit danger is our own bias in taking sides. Often we are only able to see the details of a story via the lens of a story from the media. Yet rarely knowing the people involved we jump to conclusions that may or may not be attached to the truth. Lots of Catholic red meat stories are not always as straight-forward as they appear. So a certain healthy skepticism needs to be developed in the way you respond to a story. This needs to ben taken in account since often there is a low certitude level involved. When a story does take such a turn you also need to post about it, especially when it goes against your initial diagnosis and the way you wanted a story to fit.
Blogging can be quite a humbling experience or just another way to feed your ego. Their are plenty of opportunities for that humbling experience if we are open to them as avenues of grace. To say the least bloggers are generally quite opinionated and not afraid to let loose those opinions on the internet public. We will concede that the Pope is only infallible within a narrow scope with specific conditions, but less willing to reduce the scope of our own infallibility when opining.
Like most things there is a spiritual battle involved and your really need to constantly verify your motives. For Catholic bloggers are we really motivated to spread the Good News and to help spread the faith along with giving encouragement to other Catholics? Or is it just an ego trip where you constantly check your site statistics to see if somebody is linking to you or approving of what your wrote. It is also easy to almost think the Catholic blogosphere exists to link to your own posts. To be annoyed when another blogger posts on a subject and gets linked to even though your own analysis was posted first. I know from experience how petty I can be and what imagined slights I can make in regards to whether a post gets linked to or not. It’s very funny to reflect on, but not so funny to look more closely at.
In other words blogging is prone to same problems of the spiritual life and require the same remedies. Prayer, fasting, examination of conscience, the sacramental life, spiritual reading and so forth. If prayer isn’t a serious part of your life than why are you involved in the Catholic blogosphere. This is a question I have certainly put to myself during these years as my prayer life has waxed and waned based on moods and the desire to rely on spiritual feelings instead of steadfastness in prayer despite not feeling spiritual “goodies.”
So do onto other bloggers as you would want them to do on to you. If you want to be linked by others, than be generous in linking to others and to give proper attributions to where you first noticed a story. If you want others not to jump to conclusions about what you write, make sure you are not doing the same.
Now hardly any of us have to be concerned that after we die a group is going to be looking over our blog posts in an investigation into our sanctity. Heroic punditry is currently not a category they look at. Though really if we worry that the first think Jesus says to us after we die is “..about your blog” or you ponder the years in purgatory based on blog entries – you just might need to reevaluate things. While we really don’t need to worry about that future investigation of our blog posts, really there are people investigating them right now and if some level of sanctity is not coming through – something is seriously wrong. This does not mean that a blog just say pious things and quote scripture and the Fathers of the Church, but it does mean that what is said is said with charity when a post takes a more serious turn. We know that they are Christians by their blogging – won’t be a slogan anytime soon, but it at least should be a possibility of one.