Cleansing the Bloggernacle Vessel

My first introduction to the bloggernacle–before it was even called that–was several years ago when Jeff Lindsay started his Mormanity blog.  I’ve always followed that and have branched out to many other blogs since then.  I’ve seen many interesting, faith-promoting, stimulating, and Christ-centered things online.  I’ve been kindly invited to write at two of the big group blogs (though I have yet to decently follow up on the more recent invitation).  My spiritual life has definitely been enriched by blogs.

But I haven’t seen much good for a long while.  Though it keeps growing in size, readership, and prominence, the overall spiritual worth of the bloggernacle has taken a sharp nose dive recently. 

I’ve been thinking about this all year.  Both in quality and quantity, the parts of the bloggernacle which I frequent have been increasingly disappointing.  New posts come up less often, the material that does get published is less spiritual and less faithful, and more of the links are to things that are practically anti-Mormon.  Comments from people who aren’t regulars tend to be received with quick rudeness and little grace.  Authors who I used to look forward to seem to have disappeared.  I see a drastically growing trend to implicitly impugn our leaders online, and that just isn’t acceptable. 

I admit, my thinking here is heavily influenced by Adam Greenwood’s leaving Times & Seasons earlier this year.  I completely understand his position, and time is only making me more sure that such an exodus from the mainstream bloggernacle is a good idea.  Adam’s important post about this is highly recommended. 

A note here about judging others: it seems that whenever someone criticizes the level of orthodox faithfulness on Mormon blogs, the majority quickly descends to denounce the critic as a heartless, uncharitable anti-Christ.  If it seems that any one ever condemns someone else’s personal worth or worthiness online, then I agree that that’s totally inappropriate.  But I will not apologize for screening what I read–especially things that are ostensibly faithful in nature–to determine if it fits my standard for faithfulness.  We do this with movies and music, and there’s nothing wrong with an individual deciding that something on their screen just isn’t good enough, faithfully, as they see it. 

All written work is subject to such scrutiny, and only those who lack the courage of their convictions shy away from it.  It’s not a personal condemnation, but all writers must be ready to have their work judged and found wanting by part of the audience.  If you think that makes your critics narrow-minded goody-two-shoes, then so be it.  Sure, there will always actually be people who condemn the purest, most saintly material as still not good enough, and if you think my criticisms are unwarranted, then reject them.  Ignore me.  But hysterically decrying honest criticism is insecure to the point that one must wonder if part of you actually knows we’re right. 

Listen, I haven’t always been active in the Church.  I’ve lived in the R-rated world, and I know it for a fraud, and I will not go back.  I will not flirt with it, I will not compromise with it, and I will not tolerate it on my screen.  I’m perfectly aware that there are unfortunate, embarrassing things in history, and that the actual operation of the Church at some times and in some areas has been (gasp!) less than perfect, but I don’t care.  Those things simply aren’t important.  That doesn’t mean I’m sticking my head in the sand; it means that I choose not to obsess over things that will magnify the trivial out of proportion to the essential, to the point that it obscures the truth.  I’ve seen that happen to people.  You probably have, too. 

I’m not denying the darker parts of reality, I’m just asserting that the light is stronger, larger, crucial, and true.  If anyone is still inclined to think that such views make people like me a bunch of Kool Aid drinking zombies, then go ahead and think that.  I’m not interested in arguing about what constitutes an appropriate degree of faithfulness, just in being as faithful as I can be.  There’s no lack of critical thinking going on here–to the contrary, it takes more mental effort to focus on the core of the gospel and dig into it than it does to look for excuses to be snarky.  Feel free to assume that I’m chugging Kool Aid by the gallon.  You can even picture me hooked up to a Kool Aid IV drip, if you want.

Tonight, I’m cleaning house on my own blogroll.  Some of the blogs, both by groups and individuals, that used to inspire and enlighten me, but which haven’t for some time now, aren’t going to make the cut.  This will always be a work in progress–what you see at any given time is not a final judgment on my part.  I’m always going to be looking for new, faithfully orthodox blogs to read in the scant spare time I have for this.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to send them my way.  If there’s a religiously conservative, pro-TBM only webring out there, I want to know about it; I want to be on it.  I’ll promise readers that there will never be anything on this blog that is out of line with the teachings and standards of the Church.  For now, I think I’ll go back to spending more time on Jeff Lindsay’s blog.

15 comments on “Cleansing the Bloggernacle Vessel

  1. “I’m perfectly aware that there are unfortunate, embarrassing things in history, and that the actual operation of the Church at some times and in some areas has been (gasp!) less than perfect, but I don’t care. Those things simply aren’t important. That doesn’t mean I’m sticking my head in the sand; it means that I choose not to obsess over things that will magnify the trivial out of proportion to the essential, to the point that it obscures the truth.”

    This is a wonderful line and a refreshing reminder.

  2. I agree with your much of your post. I especially appreciated your comments about the treatment of non regular commentors, and your defense of judging the spiritual benefit of blogs you visit. And your implication about the insecurities of some bloggers and blogs rings true as well. Good luck. I hope you don’t recieve any hate mail over your decision and explanations of it.

  3. Max, you’re absolutely right. A gross oversight on my part, as I have seen that collection before. I’m proud to be featured on there, and I should do myself a favor and check out more of those blogs more often–I’ve never visited some of them.

    Clean Cut, Truth4all, Morgan, and Michaela, thanks for your support. I know that I’m far from being the only one who feels this way.

    Dave and Steve, thank you for your kind approach. Your charity is an example to me. I have great respect for both of you.

    Adam, you’d be surprised how often I get that comment. First my mom, then my parole officer, now you!

    [The person to whom the material below was originally directed asked that his comments be removed. I’m happy to oblige, and have modified my remarks below to remove references to him and his blog.]

    I said nothing in my post about anybody’s righteousness or politics. In fact, I avoided naming names at all, and only a careful, regular reader would have noticed some of the specific changes I’ve started making to my blogroll.

    ….hostile reactions rather bear out my point about how the mainstream bloggernacle treats people….

    ….This isn’t about being politically liberal–I have never suggested that Latter-day Saints on the left have inherent spiritual problems, although while they’re a minority of Church members, they do monopolize the presence of Church members online, a fact that has serious implications, but one which the big boys don’t seem to want to talk about–however, it is about being socially and even religiously liberal (as Adam showed in his infamous post).

    There is an analogy with the larger society here: the national media is controlled by the socially progressive, despite most Americans being center-right on most issues, and seems consciously to avoid reconciling the fact.

    Likewise, the bloggernacle (or MBM–mainstream bloggernacle media–as I’ve started thinking of it) has a preponderance of not just politically liberal views, but seems wildly out of touch with average Church membership. Most Mormons are NOT like those who run the amateur show online, but our elite bloggers don’t seem to care that there must be a massive sense of alienation out here. Dismiss me as a wingnut crackpot, if you will, but are all the enthusiastic supporters of this post deranged haters, also? Or the hundreds and thousands of other bloggernacle readers they represent? (Perhaps the best illustration of this is the often fractious interplay between the only major, religiously conservative big blog of which I know–Millennial Star [sorry if I slighted anyone with whose work I’m not familiar!]–and the other big blogs.)

    Big blogs might say that they merely represent a wide spectrum of topics and views from Mormons, but I seem to remember once hearing something about “the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.” As I recall, it wasn’t a compliment.

    ….You keep doing what you’re doing, if you want. I’ll blog my way. We can be friendly, but I stand by my prerogative to call out the growing trend online, as I see it, to discuss the Church and present it to others in ways that are unfaithful and inappropriate.

  4. Huston,

    What Dave and Steve said.

    On a personal level, I do agree with you in particular that everyone (speaking as a person who writes for a big blog) could make a better effort to be courteous to those they disagree with. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. (Go ahead and delete, if you wish, this comment from a guy who is not talking about kool-aid but popcorn from the concession stand.)

    * * * <– (Three kernels!)

    And, for idle contemplation, we are presented, we're now presented, via Net surfing, three current events:

    Who is right? The investigative documentary producer who has a film project in the works about a sex life of a celebrity, who then tells that celebrity about the project, but agrees to call his film project off, in exchange for money? Or the celebrity, for setting the alleged extortionist up, with a phony check? The business tycoon who advises the POTUS, who may? (or may not?) be able to profit financially were an Olympic Games she is boostering for to be held in her home city? Or the muckraking TV pundit impugning her motives? Or you? Or the ByCommonConsent blog?

    None of these cases appear to be completely open and shut. (Well, maybe one more than the other.) But one thing I also notice is that, despite the merits of whosesoever’s case, it is the demeanor with which they conduct themselves that has much sway in the court of public opinion, too.

    *(…One further, idle observation: within this 2ndary category, the writer of this blog is succeeding in spades.)

  6. “Big blogs might say that they merely represent a wide spectrum of topics and views from Mormons, but I seem to remember once hearing something about “the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.” As I recall, it wasn’t a compliment.”

    I assume this means that from here on out, you’ll just be quoting scriptures verbatim, lest your personal philosophies creep in?

  7. Scott and Justme, thanks for your comments–they add to the good tenor of the discussion.

    Kristine, no, of course not, but if I write something that you honestly feel is over the line (as I feel about a large portion of the links, posts, and comments out there), feel free to call me on it or get your commentary elsewhere. The bloggernacle is, after all, a part of that larger marketplace of ideas.

  8. Reminds me of Paul’s advice to the Saints in 2 Thess 3.

    He states that when the Saints detect that there are those among them who spread contention, scandal, and stumbling blocks that we make it a point not to keep company with such. He reminds them that the Saints have been commanded that those who “will not work” (labor for the gospel cause) should not be allowed to “eat” (partake of the blessings of fellowship).

    Paul says not to view them as enemies, but to admonish them as brothers (or sisters) and “withdraw” ourselves and “have no company with them, that they might be ashamed” (and determine to repent and change).

    Looks like you followed gospel council accordingly.

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