Earlier this summer at the Annual Gathering of the Ekklesia Project, and in subsequent conversations I’ve had about the nature of theological blogging the question of patience has been raised a few times. Normally the objection/question is couched in terms of the proposition that blogging, by virtue of its relatively immediate, easy-access nature is fundamentally antithetical to patient and reflective theological discourse.
I’ve thought a bit about this question and I think that, fundamentally, this concern is ill-founded. More precisely it is ill-founded in that the way in which the question is formed tends to reflect too hasty a view of the sort of discourse that actually happens on blogs. Clearly if one were to just look at a given thread of comments one could make the case that there is regularly a lot of speaking too soon, emoting, and irresponsible speech — much like there is in countless normal face-to-face conversations. So if we were to judge blogging simply by this I suppose we could say that it does not foster patience.
But this would be just as short-sighted as deciding that personal conversation is too heated, immediate, and emotional to be a viable mode of communication on the basis overhearing one argument. Blogging, like any other mode of conversation must not be evaluated merely on a micro scale, but rather from the standpoint of an extended series of discourses that unfold over time as various people have conversation after conversation with one another.
Certainly blogging does not “foster patience” in the sense that participating in once comment thread will inculcate patience into its participants — any more than one argument between friends will immediately teach them how to communicate better to one another. Rather it is precisely by bearing with the impatience over numerous discussions that patience is fostered and mutual understanding is cultivated. Again, this is strikingly similar to how patience is learned in most other modes of interpersonal discussion. Couples learn to be patient with each other, not through one or two arguments, but over a long shared history of being impatient with each other.
To my mind the reaction to blogging that fears it to be incapable of patience reflects a misunderstanding of this fundamental point. Blogging is, in fact, a great way to learn about patience in that, if you wish to be in it in a sustained way, you must work, over the long haul through misunderstandings, disagreements, and flare-ups of inappropriateness. You learn patience by bearing with the impatience, remaining in dialogue and continuing to write, comment, and converse. Precisely as such blogging, far from being antithetical to patience is actually a superb venue for cultivating it.
UPDATE: Brad East’s latest post, Personal Reflections on Two Years of Blogging seems to me to make a similar, and supporting point to what I have tried to say in this post.