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FIRST-PERSON: Weblogs and the Ninth Commandment

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–I am in my mid-20s, and like many people in my generation, my life is tied to the Internet.

I do not watch many television news programs, nor do I read the newspaper very often. Instead, I get most of my news from the Internet, often from the same news outlets that produce television news programs and publish print newspapers. Every day, at least three different religious and secular news agencies automatically e-mail me the day’s headlines, and my friends and family regularly e-mail me links to other headlines of interest.

The Internet has also revolutionized the way I follow my favorite sports teams. I have watched baseball games live on the internet, streamed the radio play-by-play of college basketball games, and followed minute-by-minute updates of college football games. During this time of year, I even receive an e-mail game summary and box score of every Atlanta Braves baseball game.

Like many people, I also read several weblogs with regularity. It seems like everybody is talking about weblogs these days. They have revolutionized the rapidity with which people receive news. Many good weblogs basically are Internet-based, continuously updating op-ed pieces. There are many outstanding Christian weblogs being operated by intelligent, godly, articulate Southern Baptists, some of whom are regular contributors to Baptist Press.

I have seen politics discussed, devotions distributed, theology debated, worldviews dissected, and loads of information disseminated through Christian weblogs. One of the best things about blogging is that you learn that there are some really smart folks out there, most of whom are not famous. Anyone with a blog can share their opinion with whoever is interested, and there is something very Baptist about that. Weblogs are very useful.

But opportunities for usefulness also bring opportunity for abuse, and unfortunately I have read many abusive Christian blogs. One common abuse of a weblog is turning it into a rumor mill. All the dirt you used to call the resident church gossiper to get (every church has one) is now available at the click of a button. The Internet is filled with weblogs that fashion themselves as the real source for the information everyone wants to know, and much of the “information” is really just old-fashioned gossip.

Another common abuse I have seen is slander, often posted either pseudonymously or anonymously. Accusations are thrown around all the time on weblogs, normally amounting to little more the innuendo and half-truths (and very often non-truths). I have witnessed many a character assassination on weblogs, and most of them smack of sour grapes, envy, or both.

A final abuse I regularly observe is the blatant distortion, the outright lie. One weblog I read is published by a moderate Baptist who regularly accuses Southern Baptists of wanting to use secular politics to impose Christianity on all Americans. In other words, he lies. This blog allows readers to comment, but only if they agree with the lies being purported. I know this because I tried commenting a couple of times, but to no avail; no differing opinions are allowed.

All Christian bloggers, regardless of what they focus their blog on, should be diligent to keep the Ninth Commandment before them at all times. Bearing false witness against one’s neighbor is as sinful as it gets, and in this age of information and globalism, everyone is your neighbor, including the denominations, leaders, and institutions you disagree with. A journalist with any integrity tries to be as fair and truthful as possible. Christian bloggers are still relatively new at this, but the same truth and balance especially should characterize their weblogs.

I really do thank God for weblogs, and I hope that more and more intelligent, godly Christians will use this media to communicate truth to the Internet world. There is no doubt that blogging provides many people with a greater degree of influence, and with influence comes responsibility. My prayer is that Christian bloggers will recognize that one responsibility is to obey the Ninth Commandment, and that their blogs will be mighty instruments of truth-telling in a fallen, truth-hating world.
Nathan Finn is associate archivist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and a Ph.D. student in church history.

    About the Author

  • Nathan Finn

    Nathan A. Finn is professor of faith and culture and executive director of the Institute for Transformational Leadership at North Greenville University. He is also the Recording Secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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