What would Jesus blog? That and other pressing questions drew 135 Christians to Southern California this weekend for a national conference billed as the first-ever for "God bloggers," a growing community of online writers who exchange information and analyze current events from a Christian perspective.
Joe Carter, author of evangelicaloutpost.com., compared blogging to the 95 Theses posted by Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago that launched the Protestant Reformation.
"It's like putting 95 blogs out there," said Carter, who previously said God bloggers offer an "uncensored and unadulterated" view of contemporary Christian thought on politics and organized religion.
Many bloggers are now writing about religious oppression, poverty and world hunger, instead of hot-button issues such as abortion, homosexuality and assisted suicide, said the Rev. Andrew Jackson, a seminary professor and pastor at the Word of Grace Church in Mesa, Ariz.
"With blogging you tend to break out of those circles and you see other points of view," Carter said. "There's a bigger world out there than gay marriage and abortion."
As a sometimes reader of Joe Carter, I actually applaud what he has to say concerning the GodBlogCon. One of my biggest criticisms of the Christian conservative political position is its intense focus on just a few controversial social issues, while ignoring quite a few others that are of crucial importance to all Americans. Yes, I understand that abortion is an issue that conservative Christians cannot back down on, nor do I expect them to. If one truly believes that abortion is murder, then one must oppose its legality in principal. However, there are numerous other issues that serve little purpose other than to energize conservative Christians at the grass-roots level to vote for the Republican party. It's the implied promise by the Republicans that voting for them will bring the United States back to some imagined Golden Age of Christian piety that never existed, except in the minds of conservative religious and political leaders.
One issue, by way of example, is the evolution vs. creationism "debate". The whole purpose of this debate is to redefine science in a way that grants equal legitimacy to metaphysical beliefs. It really doesn't affect evolutionary science per se, but could have huge ramifications in how we as a nation view beginning- and end-of-life issues. It also marginalizes the United States in the worldwide scientific community; a community, I might add, with which many Christians find ideological fault. It's not the science of evolution that makes many conservative Christians uncomfortable. It's the perception of the United States as having a national character that values science and reason over religion and faith.
The biggest reason I see for why these kinds of conventions are more rare on the Left is the lack of ideological stratification on the liberal side. It's really not so difficult to take the major social issues of the day, gather 135 conservative Christian bloggers and have 100% agreement in stance on those issues. The same cannot be said for the Left, as we're likely to have ideological views spanning a great many social philosophies. I believe the problem stems from a tendency towards moral relativism on the Left, while the religious Right bases its platform stances on perceived moral absolutes.
Looking ahead to 2006, I believe this is one of the chief hurdles the Democrats must overcome in order to make real progress on the national level. They have to be able to coordinate a coherent platform message, certainly. But more than that, they must at least try to break the nation out of the polarized ideological stasis we are in and change the perception that a coalition of differing ideals cannot be a coherent governing philosophy. We must show that the ideological intractability of the Right is not a sign of moral strength, but rather weakness, represented by policy errors of reckless inflexibility.
I truly believe that such a change can be made and it's nice to see that some on the other side of the ideological wall are beginning to take a more critical look at the politicians and political party to which they've been giving their support. Christianity, even the mis-guided socially restrictive kind, can be a great force for good in our nation, if only its energy is focused in a productive direction. It appears the bloggers at GodBlogCon may be taking the first steps in that direction.