Blamentations (pronounced: Blah-men-tay-shins; combining the words ‘blog’ and ‘lamentations’).
I’ve been blogging with atheists (among others!) for at least 2 years now (I first ‘met’ Ian and Ken over at Frank Ritchie’s blog on a provocative post he did back in June 07). Blogging is an interesting phenomenon. We put up words that we think are worth reading. I started my very first blog as a way of keeping in touch with family back home in the U.S., and have had various blogs since then. ‘By-default’ was a kind of ‘spiritual musings’ blog, which then changed title to ‘Fruitful Faith’, when I moved to wordpress.com. Then I was able to get my own domain and have been here at fruitfulfaith.net.
More and more over the last couple years, I’ve been posting more and more posts related to science and faith issues, due (no doubt) to the on-going interaction with atheist bloggers. I’ve seen this very much as a good thing, but often sense that it isn’t productive. Every now and then, I wonder if I should just blog about Jesus, faith and following Him. But then I consider the lack of helpful interaction there so often is between theist and atheist, and I think to myself (perhaps foolishly and/or arrogantly!?), “But Dale, you can help –in some small way– to make conversations more helpful and constructive, and less of a ranting shouting match.”
Now, I’ll just say that I reckon it’s a lot easier to see unproductive blogging when you’re not one of the bloggers involved. I’m quite sure I’ve engaged in conversations where I wasn’t listening or communicating as clearly as I could.
To add to this, I’m busy.
I work. I study. I have a family that needs my time and attention (which I love giving to them!). I’m in a band that practices and plays gigs (and is putting out an EP soon :) ). I’ve also joined the pastoral leadership track at Carey, so there’s that as well. Plus we’re moving to a cheaper and more-well-suited-for-family-with-a-6-month-old kind of house (Glenfield) this month… :)
I don’t have to blog (in general), and I don’t have to blog with atheists (in particular).
I honestly do think it’s a good and helpful thing. Putting your thoughts into words and organising them helps you immensely to shape your thinking and learn to communicate (please disregard this rambling post as an example!). And at times, there can even be somewhat fruitful interaction with atheists.
So in the interest of the most effective use of blogging-time that I have, I’m interested in arriving at a “theist+atheist blogging prolegomenon” (before-word or ‘foreword’) of sorts. A kind of “discussion about how to discuss”.
Many/most of the interactions I see and/or take part in can be characterised by what I’d call “speaking past eachother”. This can take the form of jargon or unsimplified technical terms, or just plain-old mockery and sarcasm.
(Note: if you find yourself calling another blogger names like ‘dork’, ‘stupid’ or ‘idiot’, then you need to chill and not blog for a month or so. And dangit, it sure would be nice to see theist correcting theist and/or atheist correcting atheist when such language bubbles to the surface!)
If there’s anything at all that’s needed, it’s patience. IF (and it’s a big if!) theist and atheist are to get anywhere in the conversations, they must realise that it won’t happen quickly.
The first goal for me is to strive toward ‘mutual understanding’.
This is not ‘mutual agreement’. This is not ‘winning’/’losing’. It’s an agreement on the nature of the disagreement. Only from here can a conversation really get anywhere.
This post is VERY rambling in nature. :)
I’m off to bed now, but two final thoughts about patience.
First, we have to be patient (and avoid sarcasm or name-calling or judging) about the use of words. It is not engaging to simply write-off the way the other person is using a word. If you don’t like the way someone is using a word, then ask them about it patiently. Don’t assume they are trying to evade the issue or cloud a conversation with mystery.
Second, we have to be able to be patient most of all when we are most tempted to lose control and get frustrated.
Anyway, it’s getting late. Just a few “blamentations” before bed.