Here’s Why

Someone somewhere got the idea that blogs owed certain sorts of writing to particular topics. We’ve seen several sketches of “bloggers’ code[s] of ethics,” and I’ve heard various people opine that “_______ bloggers” (fill in the blank with the modifer of your choice, though recently the topic of “bibliobloggers” has been pressed on my attention) should write more about ______ (fill in the blank with the topic of your choice, presumably pertinent to the modifier you chose before). I’ve tried to opt out of these discussions (as the previous iteration, “What is a blog?”). They strike me as gravely misguided, conceptually confused (who appointed whom the High Commissioner of What Blogs Are And Ought To Be?), and antithetical to what I do here: namely, to converse semi-monologically with whatever readers happen by, on such topics as I suppose may be of some interest to some of them and to me. If they think I should write more about professional biblical studies, or less; or more about U. S. civil politics, or less; or more about technology, or less, that’s their lookout.

My exasperation factor has peaked, though, because somebody has decided that there’s something amiss with the fact that “Religious bloggers” or “Christian bloggers” haven’t devoted copious attention to the plight of the Christian Peacemaker Team hostages in Iraq. Now, let it be recognized right away that nobody mentioned this blog, much less singled me out for remonstrance. At the same time, since I’m arguably “religious” and almost undeniably “Christian,” the column implicates me by category anyway.

Some of the comments to the article point out that it’s better for the hostages that Christian groups not raise a hue and cry that might amplify hostility between Muslims and Christians. I suppose that’s right, although it wasn’t why I had not mentioned these peacemakers yet.

I hadn’t blogged about them because I hadn’t conceived that to be a topic on which I had something to say more than my readers might expect, nor does their captivity and jeopardy touch me so as to elicit from me a personal expostulation of fear and sorrow as it would have if the Peacemakers involved were Leah and Jonathan. I didn’t blog about the unfortunate family whose car was crushed at Midway airport the other day, killing their 6-year-old son; nor do I blog frequently about the thousands of U. S. troops killed in the Iraq conquest, or the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed in that same war.

Anything more that I say will sound tinnily defensive, and I can offer no defense to the accusation that I do not devote enough of my energies to the cause of peace. Nor is the point obliquely to elicit testimonials from people who think I’m not all that bad.

I’m writing about this now to foreground the question of whose expectations were going unfulfilled, and what claim readers’ expectations have on bloggers’ writing. Whatever one decides in answer to those questions, it shouldn’t be simple, and it may not be that bloggers stand under an obligation to write whatever readers expect them to. It’s more complicated than that.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Shouldn’t one of the first responsibilities of a blogger be that he or she actually have something to say about an issue? In view of the great mass of information out in the world, doesn’t there seem to be an obligation to take up space only when you have something to share?

    When I think of the people who I enjoy having extended conversations with, what strikes me is not the volume of their speech, but the quality. Just commenting on everything under the sun for the sake of commenting, only seems to drown out the really good, high-quality, writing someone else might offer.

    my $.02

  2. I read this post with a seriously peaked interest, AKMA, but the CPT hostages are people who elicit a special attention for me. I held a prayer vigil for them at my home last weekend, and we had one at school on thursday. I personally know most of the staff of CPT and several of the team members, although the hostages are not acquaintances or friends. Nonetheless, I had an email half typed out to you immediately after the hostage taking in which I was going to plead that you advertise their plight on your blog. I knew that this would be a significant imposition, but I consider you a very close friend, and serious impositions are often gifts between very close friends.

    In the end I decided not to for exactly the reasons you state in this post. While CPT, as a group, and many of its members, as individuals, are close to my heart; your blog is exactly that … your blog. I also didn’t feel a need for commentary by Friday since the story was in rotation on google news.

    I think I will write something about how their plight has elicited such strong support from such diverse points on many continua; how the success of their work is measured this way and not by however the hostage situation resolves. This post will be just as meaningful a month from now as it is now; since the urgency of it is not to plead with history but instead to discern God’s pattern of work in the world.

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