Saturday, 2 April 2011

Danger Bloggers

I have in mind (I have mentioned this before) a time to stop blogging, or to have only an advert of updates for the website when rejuvenated. I am waiting to rejuvenate my website: friends are at some point going to circulate around computers thanks to a technical one and this should mean the end of my Windows 98 upgraded computer that has never been right since Windows 95 was removed, despite its extra functionality.

I am not certain about this: I thought I might see the Anglican Covenant through to its introduction or demise, and it is like a loose end.

The website and blog are not doing me any harm at present, but when I was in teacher training I was advised to give up my website (no blog then) or restrict access as pupils would use it to find out too much about me, my marriage, where I lived and biographical details. It would be turned against me. A teacher should be a neutral suit. I had built up my website from 1998 and I decided that no I would not do these things, but I did examine all the content and indeed all the written material and artwork became 'safe'. The fact that blogs become dangerous or negative isn't a reason to remove them, but attachment without sufficient reason isn't an argument to keep them either.

Blogs do come to an end, or limp on. I noticed that Alan Crawley's blog suddenly ended last year, to be given a little extension for his 'Okay' tiny radio station presentation. It might be a wise decision, from a point of view of employment. In June 2010 his blog was going to continue if less frequently - and then seemed to hit a wall.

The problem is how a blog, which consists largely of opinion on narrowcast news, clashes with contractual or other employment. Imagine if I am a school teacher and I blog about school affairs and go on negatively about educational practices. The bureaucracies that employ will become rather negative towards me: negative that I am opinionated (and cannot be moulded or be seen to have been moulded) and also there would be a question about identification of localities and people involved.

The only useful blog in these circumstances is one that is bland, goes with the bureaucratic grain, and explains policies. Otherwise, tell no one anything. Stop.

I am staggered that an ex-ordinand, whose blog made a difference to him in not being ordained, is now blogging on school life. No one is owed these nuggets of insight. When retired, he might write a book; Gervaise Finn did retire before passing on funny inspection incidents.

Mad Priest, Jonathan Hagger, has reached a full stop he says, in the ongoing painful story of his rejection by the Church of England, much of it because he has used an ex lorry driver's plain language with opinions in opposition to key stances held by the Church of England. He could do with a break: I'd say by getting out of the C of E and stopping the blogging. But if he really wants to be a minister then his blog might become his independent shop window. Again no one is owed his provision of entertainment from the narrowcast religion world. A blog for his ministry would look quite different. Mark Paris and the Benedictus Fellowship is doing much to build a ministry in Swindon simply via Facebook. He is doing a very good job given where the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church has come from in its extremely short history when its unable to settle main founders went off to form the Ecclesia Apostolica Divinorum Mysteriorum.

Aspects of Lesley Fellows's blog look like a car crash in slow motion: I actually look at it the first of them all on a kind of wide-eyed fascination "What is she going to say now?" basis. Lesley is a high flyer while still on the ground, and the blog must be a negative given her opposition to some key policies and the distinctive angle of her theology that goes against the grain of her Church bureaucracy. It matters that the liberal voice has contracted in the Church of England over the last thirty years, and obviously it is very indicative that the Anglican Communion Covenant is being presented on a There Is No Alternative basis.

Just to make the point. Being on the dole is no fun. Because then you really do have to obey the rules.

The fact that a Church bureaucracy is corrupt and corrupting is frustrating, however much you may also love it, but that corruption means there must be a price worth paying. You carry your cross.

If you criticise the Unitarians: well that's like kicking a lump of jelly. No one really gets hurt and it is quite capable of damaging itself. It does do publicity, and ends up compromising, but mainly tells the truth and is just an example of human failing under very difficult conditions. The Methodists and United Reformed ought to come to the Unitarians to find out how to manage decline via streamlining structural change to avoid bureaucratic collapse. Congregations don't mind blogger opinions but, again, if they are in danger of suggesting a church is 'wild' because a minister is 'wild', it will not help the minister. In general, Unitarian ministers tend not to be kicking against a bureaucracy and their blogs (with a more congregational focus) won't have obvious conflict built in. The danger is a blog could invade pastoral space; so some are little other than sermon outlets and publicity extensions by ideological and spiritual content (and against labelling!). Another aspect is Unitarian churches can't get the candidates; this situation is the opposite of that in the Church of England: having too many candidates works against blog life if you are a candidate.

But the Church of England is also in an awkward phase of late life, where the bureaucracy is responding to decline by centralising. There is an ongoing theological shift to the right where the 'Open Evangelicals' now think they have the centre, although actually they will be the cutting point between two wings, and some form of peculiar residual Catholicism (that is neither liberal nor traditionalist) is adding to the top-down mentality of self-protection. This works against both liberals even if loyal and fundy entryists.

So this is the 20 point order of safety in religious blogging for 'mainstream' bloggers - any blogger from point 6 on will cover one blue and one red:

  1. Don't blog
  2. Blog on pleasantries, occasionally
  3. Blog on pleasantries, more frequently
  4. Blog on policy descriptions with at least implied approval and at least occasional full approval (any more would be suspect)
  5. Blog in favour of the Church and its stance and policies, occasionally
  6. Blog in favour of the Church and its stance and policies, more frequently
  7. Introduce an ecumenical stance fully from within the denomination and reach out to convert
  8. Blog by asking questions but keep mild opinions to a minimum, and not every day
  9. Oppose some Church policies on non-essential issues, occasionally
  10. Have a seen as positive ecumenical stance, reaching out to present Christian truths
  11. Have a marginal theology but describe it from time to time only in complex language and always make it look central and orthodox
  12. Oppose a number of Church policies on non-essential issues, more frequently, and show openness to change to agreement
  13. Give a marginal theology but explain why and how it ought to be within the Church community being as orthodox as possible
  14. Oppose a number of Church policies on non-essential and essential issues once in a blue moon
  15. Be ecumenical regarding the 'mainstream' and reach out with dialogue to engage agnostics
  16. Oppose a number of Church policies on non-essential and essential issues, with some frequency
  17. Give a marginal theology but explain why it ought to be within the Church community
  18. Oppose many Church policies on non-essential and essential issues, with frequency, from a standpoint of a marginal theology
  19. Be ecumenical without boundaries of orthodoxy, and seek to include agnostics and atheists
  20. Keep a daily blog opposing many key and other Church policies from a standpoint of marginal theology

It is possible to be something of a Puritan nutter and oppose key policies, but having degrees of marginality more often than not concerns a liberal stance.


Ray Barnes said...

As well-worded (and informed) a piece of cynicism as I've ever seen.
Are we then to lose all our best and most free-thinking bloggers?

Laura Sykes said...

From where I'm standing, this piece is telling-it-like-it-is, rather than cynical.

I was warned by a friendly priest that the Church does not appreciate individualism and I would be 'a butterfly broken on a wheel'. I'm still here, but have had many rueful occasions to ponder that, when Christ said 'take up your cross and follow me', he wasn't kidding, but that most of the pain is inflicted by the Church itself!

What helps? I'm now retired and beyond economic pressure.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Cynical or otherwise, it is not for us to demand others perform as the best and most free-thinking bloggers at their risk. Occasionally, as a terror blogger, I point out to the punk bloggers the risks involved. It is too boring to do it too often. And now, having broken my own rule of habit, I'll go and see if Lesley has written a blog about the weather and the return of spring.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Well a surprise for a cynic like me. You can't go wrong blogging about the children. And even the one below, before it, about falling into the love of God is higher in the safety ratings, or at least until the comments dropped it just a few places.

Fr David Cloake said...


I sense much pain and anguish in this, and for that I am sorry. However, I do not wholly (I do in part) recognise what you say. I feel able to write freely, but do so responsibly and with a healthy sense of paranoia. I am the same in church, in the street, in the pub.

If I only said what I really truly thought, I (in common with all of us) would spend time in the ED.

Bloggers who seem to hit the walls that you describe are the ones who have set themselves up as extremes. Do I see you as an extreme? No. Jonathan is - but he would claim no different.

I know that jobs are lost to applicants because of blogs. But we live in the real world where sensitivities and sensibilities need to be respected and managed - and if we work away from that, we must take the view of the journey. Perhaps a blogger should first be an adept diplomat - and at least savvy - because this is all 'evidence' that can and will be held against us. We write publicly, and we publish globally - and we must do so carefully.

Free-thinking is one thing. Free-expressing quite another, and I speak as perpetually opinionated gob-shite. Just ask Ray!

Ray Barnes said...

No need to ask, take it as read!

Grandmère Mimi said...

Retirement is a good place from which to blog, which is all I have ever done. I realize that mine is a position of privilege, and that I risk nothing with my blog.

On second thought, my family mostly doesn't "get" what I do, and they think I'm somewhat crazier than they knew me to be in my pre-blogging days, which could be considered a minus.