Journalists, free speech, blogs and the church

Originally posted on 30 March 2005

Reading an editorial in BusinessWeek magazine from March 28, 2005, it struck me that the business world and the church may share a similar problem: redefinitions of the traditional roles of stakeholders.

The editorial was entitled, “The Apple Case Isn’t Just A Blow To Bloggers“, and referred to the recent Californian judicial ruling that web loggers (bloggers) must reveal their sources for confidential documents posted on their sites. The underlying issue is really about the definition of a journalist — who is one, and who isn’t, and what rights and privileges this status may bring.

If a blogger is actually acting as a journalist, then that blogger and the contents of his/her blog should be accorded first Amendment free speech rights. I sense a similar problem in the church today, where, at one level, we’re trying to work out who has the right to develop theology.

I was recently told of a conversation between a young person and an older theologically trained church leader. As the debate ensued, the older person stated something like this: “I will only be prepared to believe and accept this new type of thinking if someone like a modern-day Martin Luther spent his whole life studying the topic, and then writes down the fully developed, systematised version.” What this person really wanted was a bombproof faith, with no unanswered questions, and only one answer to each question asked. And they were only prepared to hear the answers if fully qualified people were giving them.

People who read this blog or who have read my articles in magazines, and don’t like what they hear, often confront me by e-mail or letter. Most often, instead of dealing directly with the content of what I’ve said, they will question my right to say it. In my particular case, I’m normally able to surprise them by answering all of their concerns in this regard. But that’s not the point.

Part of the problem with the church today is that we have forced the average lay person to abdicate their personal responsibility to test everything for themselves against God’s Word, and we have created congregations of mindless sheep. Why are we then surprised that these sheep keep wandering off, or that they’re so hard to keep entertained, or that they’re so easily tossed and torn by every new wind of doctrine that comes their way?

Of course we can’t believe everything that everyone says, and we must be vigilant to test what people say against God’s Word, but that is not the same thing as blindly believing what our leaders tell us. Professional training and years of experience, if not continually empowered by the Holy Spirit, can just get in the way.

One thought on “Journalists, free speech, blogs and the church”

  1. Dear Graeme,

    Your observations re laity are spot on. The need to re-discover the priesthood of all believers, ordained by their baptism, is vital. Discernment is not the privilege of the clerics or the highly trained. The challenge is to invite the laity to do the tongue-tip test and taste the grace of an ever willing God in their everyday lives.

    It is a painful journey for both the lay and ordained – being shaped by Christ means we have to be in a state of limanality, non-control, where we “allow” God to be the Potter.



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