loaded words

Surfing the web for an hour or so has awakened some thoughts in me, provoking me to blog, instead of migrating my website content into wiki, a slow manual process. So my website will have to wait. The latest update I’ve found about Emergent comes from a report by Jason Clark, “Where is Emergent going?” Great intel’, good insider commentary, and 2 thoughts were aroused:

(1) the progress that Emergent desires to acknowledge and celebrate is not stated in terms of numbers and metrix, so while there is progress, how much progress is there, actually? I think numbers would be helpful, not in the megachurch headcounting sense, but to help all of us see the same thing. While one perspective might be jubilant at 2 more women speakers at a general session, for example, another perspective might be sorely disappointed and frustrated at only 2 women speakers at a general session; and both are talking about 2 women. [full disclosure: I do attend Brian’s church]

(2) The blogosphere is largely misread, and thus, misunderstood. For those who “live online” (cf. jenlemen), we read blogs as formative thoughts and ideas and feelings in the category of just thinking out loud, spouting off tentative exploratory opinions, speaking freely and unedited and raw, sometimes with exaggeration and hyperbole. It is a text-based medium, and tone and intention and nuances are sometimes difficult to convey, and often not meant to be conveyed. That’s the beauty and the curse of it. As the reader-response thing goes, those of us bloggers who read blogs give one another the liberty to spout and rant and rave, and not take those words so seriously nor personally. The weight of “responsibility” is shifting away from the author and toward the reader, if you will. Let the reader beware! The context is a free form rant, and if the blogger (author) wants to convey a more serious tone and send out a more definitive manifesto level message, that can be done through word choice and disclaimers.

Having been a pastor for a handful of years myself, and still in conversation with many of them, (it seems to me that) pastors have been taught or put themselves into a mold, where they have to weigh their words more carefully and cautiously. Pastors do not have the freedom to speak freely as bloggers tend to do, because their words often have broader impact upon a wide range of people in their congregation and community, certainly when spoken from behind the pulpit, as well as in everyday life. Knowing that their words will impact different people differently, and there are those who are hypersensitive to certain ideas and feelings, pastors often speak in an edited and diplomatic manner, trying to navigate all of that morass. So I’ve do often hear that conversations and concerns have to be addressed privately and personally, behind closed doors, rather than in a public space. And Bible verses are quoted and/or exegeted to reinforce this concept.

The world is changing, and the Emergent conversationalists are privy to a large part of this. And the change is happening over the blogosphere, in part, and divergent semantics of word usage. Not just theologically, but corporately as well. Take the word racist, for instance. Recent thoughts perculating are simply exploratory, thinking out loud, and are not to be read as “negative criticism”, like: is the emerging church racist? (akingdomspace), is the emerging church racist? (urbanonramps), is the emerging church intentionally racist? (mosaiclife), and even radicalcongruency. If dialogue can’t happen around loaded words, how can those topics ever be breached and de-heated?

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  2. will says:

    Good for you for asking these important questions. I was just in a long conversation with several church leaders, and we must find ways to address racial issues, even in the emerging church.

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    Jason Clark from Emergent UK gives us the skinny. Here are the highlights, as I see them: “Many talented bloggers are spreading the conversation about the gospel in the post-al world (postmodern, post-enlightenment, post-secular, post-colonial, etc.), …

  4. stacey says:

    dj,
    you are right – blogging should be a place where we can rant and rave and form thoughts on the run. blogging IS thinking, i think. it fuels the creative process, which is why i still do it, even with lapses. and, you’re right, pastors are taught, trained to weigh words and their impact every time they open their mouths. i am a pastor and have intentionally not let too many people know about my blog. God forbid i should have to edit myself there too! thanks for the thoughts.

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