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Monday, May 28, 2007

Baptist Blogging - The Whitsitt Journal


Below is my article from the Spring issue of The Whitsitt Journal, a semi-annual publication of the William Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society.
Founded in 1992, following 12 years of denominational infighting among Southern Baptists, the William Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society was birthed by moderate Baptist historians concerned that fundamentalism endangered much of traditional Baptist heritage. The Society publishes a Journal, meets annually during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, and presents the annual Courage Award.
Baptist Blogging
By
Aaron Weaver

Since the turn of the 21st century, internet blogs have become a major facet in American politics. Some blogs, such as Arianna Huffington's “Huffington Post,” report the breaking news of the day while others serve merely as online gossip hubs. Bloggers are often the first to report on seemingly obscure stories. Beginning in 2002, mainstream media outlets began covering stories made popular in the blogosphere. In early December 2002, Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), Majority Leader of the United States Senate, praised Strom Thurmond at a party in his honor by suggesting that the United States would have been better off had Thurmond been elected President in 1948. Prominent bloggers like Josh Marshall (talkingpointsmemo.com), Atrios (atrios.blogspot.com), Glenn Reynolds (instapundit.com), and their 200,000+ readers viewed Lott's comments as a tacit approval of racial segregation, a policy advocated by Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign. Ultimately, the efforts of these bloggers and their readers helped to create a political crisis that forced Lott to step down as Majority Leader. The role that blogging played in Lott's fall from grace gave greater credibility to blogs as a medium of news dissemination.

Since 2004, blogs have become increasingly mainstream as political consultants and candidates have begun using blogs as tools for outreach, fundraising, and opinion forming. Blog communities such as the Daily Kos (dailykos.com) have been quite successful in electing grassroots candidates at both the national and state levels. In fact, Howard Dean used his blog and other bloggers to help raise over $20 million in contributions via the Internet alone. Politicians such as Eliot Spitzer of New York even announced that he was running for Governor via his blog.

Blogs have also become an extremely popular and influential means of communication, especially as a medium of exchanging ideas, among Christians. Of the more than four million blogs in the constantly expanding blogosphere, thousands belong to Christians. Commonly referred to as “Godblogs”—blogs whose content is primarily of a religious nature—these bloggers actively seek to influence and impact the world around them. The power of the blogosphere lies in its interconnection. Admittedly, only a small percentage of the “Godblogs” generate thousands of visitors daily. However, through blog communities, group blogs, blogrings and other networks lies the power of less popular blogs to influence others.

Just last summer, Time Magazine wrote that bloggers contributed significantly to Frank Page's election as President of the Southern Baptist Convention in the first seriously contested presidential race since the Fundamentalist Takeover. Over the last two years, blogging among Southern Baptists has become increasingly popular, but not without controversy. Hundreds of Southern Baptists have become bloggers and many have dared to publicly challenge the decisions and motives of prominent fundamentalist leaders such as Paige Patterson and Roger Moran. The most influential and controversial Southern Baptist blogs belong to Wade Burleson (kerussocharis.blogspot.com), Oklahoma pastor and embattled trustee of the International Mission Board, Marty Duren (sbcoutpost.com), a Georgia pastor, and Ben Cole (baptistblog.wordpress.com), a young Texas pastor who quite frequently expresses strong disdain for his former boss Paige Patterson.

Unfortunately, most moderate Baptists have not chosen to jump into the cutting edge waters of the blogosphere to disseminate their views. Robert Parham of the Baptist Center of Ethics has described this condition, but also issued a challenge to moderates to make greater use of internet technology. In 2006 he wrote, "A few centrist Baptists are (blogging), however. They're a small tribe who apparently believe that moral opinions matter, that moderate avoidance of conflict is moral indifference, that candles shouldn't be hidden under bushels. They are young. They are outnumbered 10-1 by the fundamentalist bloggers."

Younger Baptists can be reached by blogging. They blog; they read blogs; they like blogs. They are exchanging ideas with each other, and they are willing to read blogs from other Baptists of all ages. Their blogging is of course not limited to Baptist or even religious subjects, but some bloggers are thinking and writing about topics of interests to moderate Baptists.

Some moderate/progressive Baptists are already making an impact. A few of the more significant moderate Baptist bloggers are as follows:

  • Dr. Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, hosts the blog Mainstream Baptist (mainstreambaptist.blogspot.com) and is the “Father of the Baptist Blogosphere.” Blogging daily for three years, Prescott posts on a wide range of issues from the “New Baptist Covenant” to the need for a “Living Wage.” No friend of fundamentalists, Prescott frequently chides Southern Baptist leaders for their unwavering support of the Bush Administration. Prescott is also the founder of the “Mainstream Baptist Group Blog” (mainstreambaptists.blogspot.com) which features posts from a dozen "mainstream" Baptists who are committed to the separation of church and state, soul freedom, and compassionate justice.
  • Brian Kaylor, a Communications Specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri and doctoral student at the University of Missouri, hosts the blog “For God's Sake Shut Up!” (forgodsakeshutup.blogspot.com). Kaylor’s blog is designed to teach Christians how to communicate effectively, which includes knowing when to remain silent. All too often, Religious Right leaders make outrageous statements that damage the image and witness of Christians around the world. Kaylor confronts these harmful statements regularly on his blog.
  • Melissa Rogers, Visiting Professor of Religion and Public Policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School, hosts a widely-read blog (melissarogers.typepad.com) on religion's intersection with public affairs. Recognized on Capitol Hill as one of America's top church-state experts, Rogers’ blog offers daily insight into the happenings of religion and politics both inside and outside of the beltway in Washington, D.C.
  • Dr. Michael Westmoreland-White hosts “Levellers” (levellers.wordpress.com), a blog named after the religiously-inspired political movement for democracy, human rights, and peace led by Richard Overton. A former theologian (SBTS '95) turned peace activist/educator, Westmoreland-White focuses mostly on politics with a special emphasis on peace and justice related issues. Recently, Westmoreland-White started a “Christian Peace Bloggers’ blogring with over 50 active members.
  • “Blog from the Capital” (www.bjconline.org/cgi-bin), hosted by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, is another noteworthy blog. Run by Don Byrd, “Blog from the Capital” provides the most comprehensive coverage of religious liberty issues and church-state jurisprudence in the entire blogosphere.
  • Two more notable Baptist blogs are “Moral Contradictions” (moralcontradictions.org) hosted by Nathan White, a student at Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond, and “Texas in Africa” (texasinafrica.blogspot.com), hosted by Laura Seay, a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas and member of the First Baptist Church of Austin. Both bloggers regularly write on social justice related issues.

Baptist blogging: add the phrase to your vocabulary.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Melissa Rogers said...

Hey, thanks for the shout-out. Glad you wrote this piece. As you say, it's good to have a growing Baptist presence in the blogosphere.

6:42 AM

 
Blogger peter lumpkins said...

BDW,

I appreciate your post and your introduction of a couple of bloggers I have not read--Rogers & Seay.

With that, I am...

Peter

8:42 AM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

Great article, Aaron! Thanks for the shout-out!

9:12 AM

 
Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Aaron, I also thank-you for the "shout out." A small correction: When I started my blog 2 years ago, it was mostly about politics since I conceived it as "religious social criticism." But it has been gradually broadening to include other subjects, especially theology.

Some other Baptist blogs of note: Never Give Up (http://samiawad.wordpress.com/) by Sami Awad. Sami is a Palestinian Baptist and a leader of the nonviolent section of the Palestinian movement for justice--and his blog is dedicated to that.

Doing Theology from the Caribbean (http://haitianministries.blogspot.com/ )is the blog of Daniel Schweissing, an American Baptist missionary living and teaching in the Bahamas.

Exiled Preacher (http://exiledpreacher.blogspot.com/ )is the blog of Guy Davies. Guy is a Welsh Baptist preacher living and pastoring in England. He's a conservative Calvinist--but much friendlier and funnier than the conservative Calvinists in the SBC!

Finnish Baptist theology student Patrik Hagman blogs (in English!) at God in a Shrinking Universe
(http://shrinkinguni.blogspot.com/ ), a mostly theological blog.

Irish Baptist Sean the Baptist, a doctoral student in NT, blogs about British Baptists, New Testament matters, and other tidbits http://seanthebaptist.typepad.com/

Rev. Amy Butler, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. has a blog called "Talk with the Preacher." http://www.talkwiththepreacher.blogspot.com/

Centrist and Progressive Baptists are still outnumbered in the blogosphere (though not as much as in TV preachin'!), but good Baptist blogs from a wide range of viewpoints are now popping up all over the globe.

10:59 AM

 
Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Several of your links don't work.

2:07 PM

 
Anonymous Nathan Finn said...

Weave,

Just for clarification, did the good folks at the Whitsitt Journal give you permission to reprint this article? I only ask because I know you have a tense relationship with the journal's editor, and I would have for this post to contribute to your ongoing feud with him. :)

NAF

8:43 AM

 
Anonymous Nathan Finn said...

"hate", not "have"

8:43 AM

 
Blogger Kaylor said...

Thanks a lot for the mention. This is a good piece and I hope that it inspires more Baptists to start blogging!

6:16 PM

 

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