Since a number of my siblings and co-bloggers are involved in more exciting activities than I am (going on vacations, attending Sunstone without me!) or more exhausting activities than I am (packing and moving in the blistering heat), I’ll take it upon myself to keep the blog afloat.
A few months ago I was sitting in Relief Society paying minimal attention to a discussion of Adam and the Fall, when two or three statements were thrown out that made me sit up mentally and disagree, which in itself is nothing unusual. But what was unusual was that I caught myself thinking,”That claim would never fly on the Bloggernacle!” I realized that day that several years of Bloggernaccling have subtly altered my expectations of Mormonism. It’s not that discussions or comments on the Bloggernacle are, on the whole, more intelligent or thoughtful than those at church, nor that I agree with what’s said on here more frequently than I do with what’s said at church (on the whole, I find more to agree with at church than I do online). But the differences are stark nonetheless.
I count on the Bloggernacle to provide a kind of challenge–and at its best, a rigor–that just isn’t available at church. The Bloggernaccle’s sometimes wide-open wackiness and exhaustive rehashing of topics and debating points is part of its withering charm. Much of what we bloggers produce is undeniably dross, and repetitive dross at that. Much of it is worthwhile but doesn’t interest me personally. And of course there are the inevitable drawbacks to the big-tent model of Internet discourse: trolls, drive-bys, and endless fights. It’s just a lot easier to misunderstand one another, form rigid views of one another’s positions and personalities, and generally get all hot under the collar in the relative anonymity of cyberspace.
But now that my discourse has been irreversibly masculinized by online norms, it’s hard not to find church conversation insufficiently provocative. Too many statements just lie there, unchallenged; Relief Society in particular can start to feel bland and squishy and full of vague self- and other-affirmation, sentimentally empty of content. (We have no idea who the people we’re affirming are when well-meaning attempts to produce complete concord of view prevail, and people who don’t agree with whatever’s being propagated retreat into self-censorship and silence). But there are also very good reasons for this dynamic, chief among them that we all have to live with each other, and as the Bloggernacle and the Internet more generally so eloquently attest, disagreement often doesn’t lead to the communal connections that sustain us as a congregation.
One thing the Bloggernacle has done for me is increase my resolution to disagree well, in humility, meekness, and forbearance, instead of resorting to combativeness on the one hand or self-censorship on the other. It’s a difficult art, but one I think is desperately needed at church, if we’re ever to really know one another, and really love another.
How has the Bloggernacle changed church for you?
- 10 August 2008