Saturday, February 17, 2007


I made a comment on Wade's blog recently that defined, according to Wikipedia, what "propoganda" is and how one blog seemed to be more that... than a true sharing of "information." On another occasion I read a comment that said Wade's blog was nothing but "gossip" and the refusal on the part of a Southern Baptist leader to respond was simply refusal to indulge in "gossip."

It all got me to thinking....and that's anything on the blogs nothing more than "gossip" or "propoganda"? It also got me to researching. Here's a short, simple, and all too inconclusive bit of thinking about it all.

"Gossip" by definition, again, according to Wikipedia, is..."a casual or idle talk of any kind, sometimes slanderous and/or devoted to discussing others." Webster says..." 1. A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational fact. [noun] 2. Rumor or report of an intimate nature. 3. An informal conversation. I think we can safely assume that "gossip" is capable of being viewed both positively and negatively by language and definition.

In a negative sense it is idle talk that is intimate and personal in nature with a view to harm. This is what scripture is referring to, I would think, when it refers to "backbiting" as in Romans 1:28-32. It certainly is ONLY negative there but to make "gossip" ONLY negative would be counter productive to reality as the same passage lists "debate" as evil. But there must be another side to debate that is positive or the entire SBC is in trouble with all the debate going on. But "gossip" is a very negative thing when viewed from this backbiting kind of perspective.

Its foundation is "rumor" which is purportedly true information that has no substantiating evidence. This is a greater problem when the Internet is involved as information can be given/received with such speed the substantiating evidence, if any exits, doesn't reach people with the same speed it seems. Such evidence IS essential for the information to move from the realm of "gossip." The reason is that, boiled down to it's core, "gossip" in a negative sense, has more to do with something that is of a personal, salacious, intimate nature or has a direct and obvious intent of harming a person if believed.

The Jewish view of "gossip," which carries over into the Christian view in my opinion, is that "gossip," as discussed so far, is a sin, as it negatively impacts the dignity of a person, both the speaker and the subject of the "gossip."

"Information," on the other hand, is the result of processing and organizing data in a way that adds to the knowledge of the person receiving it. This is what blogs can be a great tool at doing. The "information," however, in most blogs, though certainly not all, is in "conversational" form. It takes the sharing of different views on a topic to learn from each other, hence, the comment section. When this is not allowed, for whatever reason, the blog becomes more "propoganda" in my view, or at the very least, a "speech" or "teach" situation and is not "conversation."

All of the last paragraph is the positive side of "gossip." It refers to a casual style of conversation. It has been this to which I've referred in the past many times when I referenced the "gossiping the gospel" need that we had. In other words, we need to view speaking/sharing of Christ as more a casual conversational way of life rather than a confrontive, combative, "I've got the truth and you'd better listen or else" kind of communication. This kind of "gossip" [positive] is healthy to a marriage, a friendship, and parent/child relationships. It tends to involve a great deal of transparency regarding information, events, and facts, [that are substantiated] but is not the personal, demeaning type that qualified earlier as negative "gossip." It is this "transparency" that is my final thought.

I read where someone said that participative democracies are built on "transparency." [We won't debate at this time whether a local church or the Convention are to be a democracy. Suffice it to say the BF@M speaks to democratic procedures that are to be excercised.] And the same person said that everyday participation by all in the democracy is demanded if that "transparency" is to be a reality.

"Transparent" procedures needed in a church or denomination are not that far removed from those needed in a well working national government that is democratic in nature. They might be such things as open meetings, financial disclosure, freedom of information, and always remember that "transparency" is the opposite of "privacy."

I personally believe that "radical transparency" is needed in church and denominational life. This would involve all levels of decision making being made known and published. No one would dispute that there are certain areas where safety is a required concern, but, those MUST be few and far between...much like issues of "National Security" keep some things secret in the government, but they had better be few and far between and always opt for freedom of information where there is doubt as to the need for privacy.

So, all of this is to simply say, is blogging "gossip"? My answer is..."yes" and "no." You will have to decide, as will I, which blog "is" or "isn't "gossip," which blog is or isn't real "conversation" and which is built on "transparency" with substantiation factually a priority. Add to this our need of being discerning whether one's refusal to respond as a Leader is legitimate or dodging transparency. Be discerning and communicate your opinion in some comment section and...welcome to the blogging world. [Just don't gossip negatively...:)]

Paul Burleson

13 comments: said...

Well said.

I have long advocated transparency for the work of Christian SBC circles. I will link to this post when people wonder between the difference of gossip and transparency.

Alyce Faulkner said...

Paul, very good!
I have enjoyed blogging for the very reason that it keeps me informed. I am able to hear many viewpoints, check out facts from many sources and make a more informed decision.
But about 'if' conversation is gossip. I think motive-goes to the heart of everything. God ALWAYS looks at the heart. Is our conversation laced with motives? ie to win, to tear down, to attack. I see many here attacking. I hear many bent on winning at any cost and unable to hear or listen to any view but 'from those abiding in their tent.'
If our motive, on the other hand is to build up, to encourage, to lend a hand and care for people (even those we feel are not being cared for) then talking about How to do this, or and how it is not being done, to me is NOT gossip. As long as we check our motives, ways and plans with God After all, judgement starts here with the household. We are after all, accountable to one another.
Let's be honest, we've all crossed the line. I've typed, when I shouldn't have. And unfortunately, there is no erase button :( But, we learn. And can go back and say, I'm sorry.
For now, may God check me, I ask Him too, I have a good Hubby, who reads every day and comes often and says, Alyce great post, or sometimes, Alyce, perhaps you should.... :( either way I listen to him, because I know his motives toward me and like God's they are always good.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks...that guarantees a large measure of reads for vtmbottomline judging from your readership. :)


I appreciate your comments always. I have to admit to a bit of a minor thing being accomplished by this post, at least the portion addressing "positive gossip." [I'm one of those guys who straightens a crooked picture on the WALL OF MY BANK for crying out loud.] :)

This is really minor but I don't like to lose a word's meaning. My point is that "gossip" isn't only evil/sinful. The etymology of the word shows it originally refered to intimate friendly conversation between friends. "God-sib" is the word and it refered to the godparents of a child talking to him/her. That's close good conversation. I even read this statement..."Gossip can foster and build a sense of community with shared interests and information."

The overwhelming meaning today, I realize, is negative, but I don't want to give a word up like we've given up "gay." [That crooked picture thing, small but needed in my view.] Now I did say this whole thing is minor didn't I. :)

I wonder what this says about me? Don't answer that...I don't want to know. :)

Anonymous said...

No doubt, a blog could be used to convey gossip. I'm sure there are plenty out there that do.

Specifically, Wade's blog is not gossip. He is always careful to make sure his facts are accurate, and usually offers information as to how to check them out. He does not resort to personal attacks. He does not disclose confidential information. His intention, clearly conveyed in the language he chooses, is to disclose information that any Southern Baptist with a heart for the work of the denomination on behalf of the Lord should know. His comments are not personally critical, but questioning. The most common descriptive term I see related to his blog is "integrity." That's not gossip. If he didn't already have a calling as a pastor, he'd make an excellent Baptist journalist.

While I read his blog for information, I read yours for inspiration. I just celebrated my first anniversary in my current church staff position, in discipleship, lay mobilization and ministry supervision, and even though I've only been able to preach three or four times during the year, I often quote your blog in meetings with adult leaders. I'm glad you're writing these reflections and sharing your journey in ministry. It's valuable information, and I think it is an excellent use for this great technology, which is also a lot of fun. I really like being part of a Christian cybercommunity!

Paul Burleson said...


I could not agree with you more in regards to Wade's blog. I know some would chalk it up to being proud of a son, which is more than true, but it really is because I'm a connoisseur of great preaching and great preachers after fifty years of experience and you ARE correct. I see you're way ahead in regards to wisdom in things like that without the long years I needed to get there. :)

The rest of what you say is appreciated and I'll personally chalk it up to your kindness.

All kidding aside, you have much to say when you speak and I'm refering to the many comments you have wisely allowed all of us to hear in the christian cyber-community. Thank you for that.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in the Greek word for debate in the passage as well as the word for gossip!

I agree with Alyce that the heart of the issue is the motive, and we are always to be motivated by love for the purpose of loving and edifying. When I read personal public attacks I can immediately discount the comment as unloving.

Paul Burleson said...


It would be a fun word study which I need to make myself. I can tell you that, from the context of it's [gossip/debate] use in the passages it will be a negative meaning and, as such, should be avoided by all of us.

My little minor point is that, in English, the word/s do have a positive side. [Really probably not a point worth making.]

We're excited about the Riley's new ministry assignment coming up. Way to go.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Paul. I totally meant to call you today, but have let the day slip me by. I'd like to chat!

Bob Cleveland said...

Substitute "talk" for "blog" and it would all still apply. After all, blogging is sort of like talking, with Spellcheck, written down.

Is talking "gossip"? Some is, some isn't.

Paul Burleson said...


Call anytime.


Why is it you can say in three sentences what It took twelve paragraphs for me to try to say? Well said friend.

Bob Cleveland said...


Thanks. It's probably because, since I have no degree, I don't know that many words to use at one time.

Anonymous said...

I haven't written in a while, but this post also brought something forward to me:

I think you have a point--and we need to be very careful "out here" in the www.

But, as a female person in this universe, let me just say that there has been a lot on the planet done without transparency and cloaked as "need for prayer" or some such, and this has silenced or supressed women. So, I appreciate the transparency theme. I have been silenced in the church another institutions by those using churchey terms or themes and protecting their hides from their behaviors. Therefore, I am more supportive of the openness we need, which tends to make people's motives, actions and words synch up. We hope.

Best regards,
Annon from Chicago.
(also, are you and Wade related? I'm not fluent, yet.) :)

Paul Burleson said...

Annon from Chicago,

It is a delight to hear from you again. The "be quiet and go home and ask your husband" has been used for years to silence women who are smart enough to know when things are wrong and spiritual enough to ask discerning questions and the one in charge doesn't want to be held accountable. Unfortunately, that is lording it over the flock which IS sin and misunderstanding the meaning of that verse which IS true in context. So, to say you've been treated unfairly is putting it mildly if what I've seen done to some has been done to you. On behalf of Godfearing, Bible believing, and people loving pastors everywhere, let me apologize for that kind of treatment.

Yes, Wade and I are related. He is Mary and my son. The second of our four, and the first of two boys. He and Rachelle are the parents of four of our thirteen grandchildren and for that he's the greatest. :)