Monday, March 26, 2007

Campolo, Pride and Blog Comments

The flurry of comments concerning my post on Tony Campolo’s appearance on The Hour has been very interesting to watch. In some ways, it has made me question the value of these forums since at least three things I stated were entirely misunderstood. I say, “misunderstood” and not “misrepresented” since I personally know almost everyone who has commented and I do not believe any of them purposefully twisted my words.

Communication Degeneration

Is this phenomenon the result of the degeneration of communication caused by all the kinds of things David Wells or Neil Postman would write about? Or does the medium itself work against careful and understandable communication? Is it just too easy to read your opponent quickly, assume you know what he means, then fire off your standard response to his “idiocy?!”

Surely both these things come into play, but the greater issue in my mind is the presuppositions we hold as we approach the conversation. And those presuppositions, in my experience and evaluation, are constantly being tweaked and altered by what informs them.

Now, that gets to at least one of the primary issues at stake.

Can a Proud Man Hear?

Pride is our enemy and we would be fools to think it does not effect how we blog. It takes a lot of humility to be publicly corrected... not so much to publicly disagree. That makes me think that most of us approach these “discussions” from a very defensive stance. Rather than carefully weigh an opponents observations (even if they are made in a rotten way), we tend to dig in our heels and concoct new arguments to defend our views. Like the proverbial husband who is preparing his next defense in his mind while he should be carefully listening to his wife.

Some might say this is just the nature of debate – and it might be – but that doesn’t make it right.

When I was a boy I went to the ocean and built a sand castle. I didn’t know anything about tides. As the waters got closer, I kept throwing more and more sand up on my “wall.” It was a losing battle and soon my castle was back to being beach. Paul versus the ocean – that, my friends, is pride.

Of course, nobody tends to think they are the castle! We believe we are ocean... and there are few things worse in the world than a smarty pants ocean!

What does all this mean? At the very least I think it means we should acknowledge blog comments really are an inherently weak form of communication. In the second place, it probably wouldn’t hurt us to listen to 2 or 3 critiques carefully before replying. In the third place, I think we should try to approach our “conversations” with an attitude that says, “You know, I may just be wrong.”

In the coming days I hope to write a little more on the whole idea of our presuppositions, but for now, I want to stop and think about my own humility (if there is any) and how I can be a better blogger.