Blogging – at what point do we overstep the mark?

Following on from yesterday’s post about Christian Concern I’ve had some harsh words spoken to me from a couple of places.  On the other hand I’ve also had several more agreeing with me and the point I was trying to make.

The problem with writing anything critical or controversial is that people come to it with their own preconceived ideas.  Some will come in agreement and what you write reinforces their view.  Some will come from a different viewpoint or an open one, be challenged and then go away and think things through.  Others will come with opposing views and go away offended.  All of this is par for the course and as I’m discovering as a writer you have to live with that especially when you receive negative comments or you are condemned for what you do.  I always say that bloggers need tough skin but a soft heart.

My piece on Christian Concern is a case in point.  My intention was not to discredit them and their work, far from it in fact.  Most of what I wrote hopefully came over as supportive, but at the same time I wanted to raise a concern over some of their methods.  I think some people just pick out the criticisms and ignore the rest.  It’s easy to do if you’re not careful.  Negative points have a habit of sticking more than positive ones.

It did remind me of something I considered when I started blogging and it is this:  What is acceptable to blog about in the open arena of the internet where anyone can read your thoughts and what are the unwritten rules?

I suppose if you ask a group of people you’ll come out with a range of different answers.  Because of the nature of this blog as well as affirming individuals, political parties or organisations when they get something right, I also feel it is within my remit to be critical when I see something that is failing or needs correction.

In one sense I’m just a blogger writing about things that interest me and that I think will interest others too.  I voice plenty of opinions but there’s no guarantee that any of them are correct.  That’s left to the reader to decide and I’m happy to be corrected if the need arises.  I can say what I like and it’s up to people to decide whether to take any notice of me.  But as a Christian blogger with my faith comes responsibility to honour God in what I do.  I don’t inhabit the moral high ground and am not seeking to put myself on a pedestal for others to look up to, but whether I like it or not I become a spokesperson for God’s kingdom and this means I need to tread much more carefully.

What has made me think most over the last day is how critical I should be of others and how I should present that criticism.  In Matthew 18 Jesus says:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.  If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Using the Christian Concern example, would it have been better for me to have just contacted them via email and let them know what I thought?  They’re not sinning as in Jesus’ example, but there is a principle of not making public what should remain private.  Certainly I would never write about someone at my church on this blog if I disagreed with them because I would hope that it could be resolved  at a personal level.  It should never need to go beyond that.

What I wrote about yesterday was already in the public sphere.  I was not talking about anything that anyone else couldn’t find out if they wanted to.  Does that change things?  I suppose ideally I would be happiest if I could sit down with Andrea Williams at Christian Concern and talk these things through with her.  Why  should she want to listen to me though?  I’m effectively a nobody in the grand scheme of things.  I’m not a leader of an important Christian organisation or a think tank or the Government.  I’m not famous and I’ve not been trained in legal or political matters.  All I do is write about what is on my mind and wait and see if people will listen.

And maybe listening is the key.  If I make a point that others agree with then that gives it more value.  If enough people are in agreement then perhaps that point will take on a life of its own and gain the potential to change things.

I believe my job in all this is to do my best to try to listen to God and then share what I believe he is saying.  I need to do my best to make sure I get my facts right and not distort the truth or be economical with it.  I need to give praise where it is due and be careful with my criticism doing my best to make sure it is balanced and fair.  I need to be humble in what I say and weigh up criticism objectively.  I need to avoid insulting others but not water down what I want to say in case I might offend them.  Most of all I need to have integrity in what I do in the same way that we expect our leaders to demonstrate that too.  I can’t expect anyone to do something I’m not willing to do myself.

One of the best things about the blogosphere is that it is self-regulating in that if you overstep the mark or start writing nonsense you’re quickly going to lose readers most of whom are unlikely to come back.  I hope that if I do produce posts that are not worth reading for whatever reading that someone will step in and correct me before it’s too late.  Accountability is something that we all need in our lives and in this case I’m asking to be accountable to you and everyone else who reads this.

Categories: Blogging, Christian organisations

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17 replies

  1. If it helps, I don’t think you were particularly harsh on Christian Concern. Naturally, people are upset at the way Christians are being misunderstood and sidelined, but we need to be wise as serpents as well as gentle as doves.

    • Thank you Liz. I very much appreciate your opinion. When you get harshly worded criticism from more than one source over something it’s a good moment to do a bit of reflection and re-evaluate where you’re coming from. Having done that I don’t feel I have gone too far, at least this time round.

  2. I think you are right not to shy away from information in the public domain. Actions have consequences. Do not be discouraged keep on getting us to think things through and see them from a fresh perspective.

    • Thank you Mike. It’s a wonderful thing to have received so much support from you and others here. I have a lot of confidence that I’m doing the right thing (maybe too much occasionally) but it does help when I hear these comments from people I trust. 🙂

  3. Things that arise in public need to be addressed in public. Simple really, albeit painful at times. I’ve been attacked (quite viciously sometimes) for raising issues of concern in the Christian book trade, my main area of blogging (, if anyone’s curious), at other times I’ve been applauded, and sometimes treated with indifference. In the end, though, it comes down to being faithful to what we feel called to by God.

    As you’ll have realised, I don’t always agree with your take on things; but I’ve come to respect your voice: keep up the good work, and thank you.

    • You’re last paragraph is about the best thing anyone could say to me. I’d get very worried if people agreed with me all the time. I know we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything Phil, but I very much respect what you have to say and am grateful for all the contributions you bring to this site.

  4. My last comment’s just disappeared into the ether… fancy checking your spam filter, please? I’m not a spammer, honest, guv 🙂

  5. I don’t think you were out of line, i think you said what alot of people actually do think about Christian Concern.
    What you say here is good too, too many blogs are a glorified rant and it doesnt get kept accountable!

    if what you say is done with peace in your heart and you didnt mean anything bad by it and you think God would be fine with you verbalising it, then do it. if others dont like it, they need to deal with it appropriately – all you can do is do your best! 🙂

  6. Well done for raising this issue. We all know the words of Jesus “I am the way, the truth and the life” and I believe it is most important that Christians adhere to the truth, and present the truth. If we do not do this how can we expect God to bless the cause we are presenting to the public? Christian organizations who depart from this in spirit if not in legality do themselves and us all a great disservice.

  7. They call themselves ‘christian’. I call myself ‘Christian’. Sounds like they are representing me in some way. I have the right to be as public as they are…I think. Anyway Gillan, I for one promise to let you know if you have gone too far, and I don’t mean in matters of opinion, but of manners! I will personally put you in a corner!

  8. I’ve always found your blogs thoughtful and polite. To me they are a Christian voice tackling difficult issues. I did not feel you were criticising CC, just making a valid observation. If the public are to see Christians as different then surely truth and concern for the full picture relating to issues of importance is needed. I love your blogs Gillan. They make me think, pull me back form self-righteousness and help me to reflect.

  9. Hi Gillan, you have a lot of support for the work that you do. Keep on going, we appreciate the hard work and thoughtful words. For the record I also appreciate the hard work that CC are putting in and just hope that they can take on the negative feedback together with the positive affirmation.

  10. Hi Gillan I don’t quite know how you find the time to consider so fully the points that you do. Its obvious to me that you try to address issues looking at all the angles. I very much enjoy this blog, it informs my Christian thinking, it helps me to grow. Your points seem well researched, balanced and interesting. I have learnt a great deal from you and many of the other contributors. This sort of Christian conversation is long overdue and you are facilitating it. For me you are gentle humble and sensitive in your approach but also honest. You are doing great work with God in your heart.

  11. Thank you efgh, Christopher and Graham. You are incredibly kind. Although it’s me who puts this blog together, it’s your support and comments that make it come alive. I’m glad my posts make you think, but also your comments make me think too and stretch me sometimes, which is always a good thing. As Phil said in an earlier comment we’re all in this together. It’s all about being part of God’s kingdom in this world and trying to wrestle with how we live it out effectively.

    I didn’t really need to say that last bit as you know it already and that’s why I love having you here.

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