(If you've read this on twelve other blogs already, apologies. This is my thoughts on seeing the manifesto, before looking to see what others think.)
The manifesto is dated August 10th. They suggest an association of Christian webloggers, with various duties. There's a few points I want to raise.
The association would be "led by a formal committee of progressive, open-minded Christians." Now this is a pretty open definition. Does it include those of different denominations? Who appoints the committee, and who guards the guards? You will get bias, however hard you try to avoid it. And you will always get someone who objects to being in the same room as "those heathens from denomination X." You can't please everyone, as the response to this manifesto is showing. Having run a message board, I know you will also get deliberate troublemakers showing up who will object to whatever the committee proposes. Manure happens, how do you deal with it?
The proposed code of conduct for Christian bloggers is at best unenforceable, and at worst could degenerate into people not saying anything for fear of the consequences of breaking the code, and people sucking up to the committee to "prove" how compliant they are, all kinds of nasty stuff (seen it, picked up the pieces, never want to go there again). Christians should all be plugged into a local church body, that is the place to lovingly set standards of behaviour, encourage, and support, for the purpose of growing the local church, and for personal growth. I'm not saying that we cannot have standards, but this one feels to me like the headmaster wandering around the web, ever vigilant for those who don't match their standard. By nature, the internet is a rambling open frontier where anyone can speak, no matter how whacked out and crazy, or buttoned down and restrained. Netizens largely police themselves, in the early days of the internet, newbies were taught how to behave. It wasn't always nice, it could hurt, but it worked, until AOL and others started flooding newbies online faster than the old hands could train them.
I'm all for courtesy, politeness, calm and civilised exchange of opinions, even heated exchange of opinions, so long as it doesn't turn into personal attacks. The manifesto says "this type of code would not be censorship" but just by being Christians on the internet we are deliberately and rightly self-censoring ourselves. The darkest places of my mind need to be kept quiet, it would help no-one to see them. Censorship ties into the idea of the online persona. Who I am online is not necessarily who I am in person. You have no way of knowing that without ongoing face to face experience of me. How true to life are our online personae? How many of us have the internet equivalent of multiple personality disorder? I try be as true to life as possible, though online I know my temper is somewhat shorter, especially when someone deliberately pings a sensitive area. I'm working on that one. Censorship is unavoidable.
The final proposed duty of the committee is to "maintain a master list of all Christian webloggers and make it freely available to all individual Christian bloggers." But who decides who keeps the "master list"? Who says that there is to be only one list ("One list to rule them all, and in the darkness, bind them")? What's wrong with multiple lists? Sure, you get some duplication, but everyone's taste is different, everyone's definition of a "Christian" weblog is different, every Christian's personal expression of their weblog is different. Just search for "Christian blog" on Google and you'll come up with over 19,000 different entries.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes (who watches the watchers)? We all watch each other. If you don't like someone's blog, you can tell them. If you think it's not "Christian" enough, you can tell the owner. They probably have a good reason, perhaps partly connected to not wanting to live in a Christian-only zone. If you want to keep a list of Christian blogs, go ahead. The internet is not a church, or even a parachurch organisation, and a commercial, for-profit company cannot dictate international behavioural standards to people without them asking "why?"
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