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 dangerous...is 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...:)]