How is a Group Blog like Church?

By: hawkgrrrl
October 19, 2010

Who owns a community?  The URL owner who made the financial investment and created it? The administrative team who runs it, creating the culture and policies?  Or the regular commenters on the site who come back time and again to the discussion?  Is the answer somewhere between all of these?

An interesting parallel could be drawn to the church.  Who “owns” the church?  The founder, Joseph Smith?  The current church leadership?  The members?  How we answer this question colors our experience with the church in a marked way and impacts our satisfaction with our church experience.  I would hypothesize that those who consider the church to be the members are more likely to find satisfaction. Consider the following variations:

  • FounderIf you love the founder, but dislike current leadership or the members, where are you supposed to hang out?  At a tombstone?  Reading books from the past?  Life and community are always going to be more compelling than dusty history for those who occasionally surface to engage IRL.
    • Likewise, if you came to the blog because you loved the founder, but you don’t like the current permas or the commenters, that’s not going to be enough reason to stick around.
    • What would happen if Joseph Smith showed up at Church HQ?  Would he take over?  Or would he not have special privilege because it was no longer his time?  I for one, would expect some serious ID in this situation.  But I’m not convinced the church would immediately give him the corner office either.  And that’s probably for the best.
  • Church LeadershipIf you love the current direction the church is heading, but you aren’t crazy about some of the founder’s direction (e.g. polygamy, racism, or whatnot), you’re probably in better shape than someone who yearns for a lost past.
    • If you came to the blog because you enjoyed the bloggers, that’s actually pretty compelling.  It would be enough to bring you back to discussions you enjoy and bloggers whose OPs you like.  But if you don’t enjoy the community and the ensuing discussions, you might only lurk.
  • MembershipIf you have some issues with the direction the leadership is headed, but the members you interact with frequently are people you like and who like you, people you enjoy spending time with, whom you trust and love, you’re much more likely to stay in that community.  Personally, I think this is the most basic disconnect people can’t abide in the church.  They might leave if they don’t like the founder or the leadership, but it will be much harder to leave on those grounds unless they also dislike the members.  On a blog (as at church) this usually manifests in a few ways:
    • Cliquishness.  You might just feel like nobody would notice whether you are there or not, like there is an “in club,” and you don’t belong.
    • Not fitting in.  You might feel the conversation goes over your head, or that it’s beneath you.  Either of these makes you want to go away and find a place you do fit in.
    • Trolls.  You might dislike some outspoken individuals who come in to ruin the party for everyone with their outlandish, judgmental or just plain weird nonsense.  For the record, at W&T we prefer to make the blog more like church–crazies and all!

So what is a group blog?  Is it a community?  A canvas waiting for the artist’s brush?  An empty room waiting for people to make it come to life?  A place where everybody knows your (fake) name?  What is it to you?  Discuss.

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18 Responses to How is a Group Blog like Church?

  1. Dave on October 19, 2010 at 6:41 AM

    I like the discussion about perspectives on Church and congregation, but I don’t see group blogs in quite the same way. I think they are more of a forum than a community, as a rule. That way of looking at a blog makes it easier to tolerate “diverse” posts or comments (that is, ones you don’t agree with).

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  2. Jon Miranda on October 19, 2010 at 6:47 AM

    The owner of the website is the king or queen and while listening to others, has final say in what goes on.

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  3. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 19, 2010 at 7:02 AM

    Group blogs really vary in what they are and how they work. One thing that flavors them is what the group who is blogging wants in terms of interaction and direction.

    With the Church it is interesting to see how the Church is flavored by the changes in leadership. Every type of leader has strengths and weaknesses that spill over. I’ve been through the spectrum and the truth is that no particular style meets everyone’s needs.

    Only in the flux do you have an entity that works on the balance.

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  4. Mike S on October 19, 2010 at 8:18 AM

    I like the concept. A few comments:

    1) There are problems with the “founder” model as you mentioned. There are many strange things that were a part of the Church at that time, and I think were the original Church to be present today, we would think them very strange and not related to us at all (ie. end of times talking, prophets marrying young girls, people marrying other people’s wives, mummies, formalized “Church militia”, etc.) Yet while we distance ourselves now from much of the founding/history, we have elevated the Founder to near divine status. It therefore becomes hard to reject some of the founder’s ideas from the Founder’s status.

    2) One real difference between the Church and a blog is anonymity. The modern Church encourages obedience for its own sake, correlated discussions, and uniformity. Any nail that sticks too far up is hammered back down. And the validity of an idea is NOT based on the idea itself, but by the position in the hierarchy of the person who presents the idea.

    On a blog, however, it is different. Ideas stand or fall on their own merit and not based on what someone does “in real life”. Actual and real discussion is encouraged. Things can be said that are true, and not just “faith-promoting”.

    I think the different areas appeal to different people. There was a post on personality types. Some people like the nicely packaged comfort of having a checklist of rules to follow to make sure they are on their way back to God. Some people like the hierarchy and titles and roles in an organizational structure. And some people like exploring information, truth, concepts, etc. wherever that may lead. So there is a role for both.

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  5. Yet Another John on October 19, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    Mike S
    I’ve seen blogs where if you stick “too far up” you’re “hammered back down”! And not gently, either.

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  6. Course Correction on October 19, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    Readers who do not know the founders, leaders or other members of the blog access a blog for information and entertainment. If the blog provides that, being part of the in-group is not necessary for enjoyment.

    Churches cannot make the same claim. The social aspect is key to a person’s enjoyment and continued involvement.

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  7. SW Clark on October 19, 2010 at 9:10 AM

    While ultimately one can say that, yes, current leadership owns the church/blog and controls it, it’s fascinating (and perhaps timely) to recognize that they don’t necessarily own everything associated with or created as a result of that medium.

    There is the formal structure of blog/church and the lived experience of participation/membership that happens within it. Interactions and community developed among the membership are certainly owned by themselves, and while sometimes removing or altering the formal structure will also destroy the community, that’s not always the case.

    The community, once brought together, might just move on together.

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  8. Paul on October 19, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    Hmm. Who owns the church? Perhaps the fellow whose name is on the building.

    Not so much with the blog — or perhaps better said, potentially not so with the blog. As we recently saw, a blog founder imposed a specific order that drove many participants to this one.

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  9. Steve Evans on October 19, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    Great thoughts. Obviously the comparison has its limits, but any time you have a group of mormons working together for a common cause you’re bound to see some church-style culture replication. Interesting.

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  10. mh on October 19, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    the most striking difference between the old and the new, is the structure of ownership. in one case, you have an absentee owner, who on a whim throws out all the tenants. in another case, the tenants become the owners, embracing a more democratic structure.

    I think the second model of ownership is more healthy, but in either case, when ownership loses interest in the property, it will show signs of neglect. with model 2, however, hopefully others will rescue the property due to the sheer number of owners.

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  11. Jeff Spector on October 19, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Not much comparison, IMO. The wackos at Church cannot hide behind a handle. It is out there for all to see. Also, in person, at Church, you can pretty much tell if someone holds a far out belief or not. here, you can never rally tell.

    I think the members own the Church, itself. For without the member, the Church is nothing. And that certainly goes for member’s money!

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  12. Corktree on October 19, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    Try comparing the church to an MLM company and see how far you get.

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  13. Heber13 on October 19, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    I favor the true and living blogs. I think they thrive by meeting the needs of those that come to visit.

    I think the church has been successful in conservatively teaching values that benefit people, but try to stay in touch with the needs of the membership to achieve its mission.

    I think the church is owned by the First Presidency, with the lifeblood being the members and their needs.

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  14. alice on October 19, 2010 at 11:41 PM

    Got to reluctantly say that I think this entry is in pretty poor taste.

    If you want to discuss the founder/leadership/members issue regarding the church, why not do it specifically in those terms. If you want to dredge up an episode that was beginning to fade into the past, probably best to re-think that a couple times. …and then just decline in any case for good measure.

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  15. Aaron R. on October 20, 2010 at 3:26 AM

    Alice, I think your comment misses both Hawkgrrls tone and her intent (perhaps another similarity with our Church experience). It is clear she is not ‘bringing up the past’ unnnecessarily but trying to make sense of the intersections between two communities she is committed to.

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  16. alice on October 20, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    #15

    OK. But there are probably limitless opportunities to discuss it with the other permas offblog and about as many to discuss it privately with permas/owners of some other blog.

    Creating a blog entry about it here looks suspiciously like wanting affirmation and/or absolution from others. That or a general theoretical discussion of the ethics/etiquette involved will be much more appropriate in about 6 months than it is when the scab is hardly forming.

    I am willing to accept that there could still be subtleties that I’m not appreciating but I doubt I’m the only one. Much more patience on sensitive ground was in order.

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  17. TH on October 20, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    Hawkgrrl:

    This is a profound post.

    What is community? It is a word that is used a lot. The college where I work strives to be a learning community. My graduate school is committed to creating a community of scholars through both Internet and face-to-face interactions. My denomination has even taken on the name Community of Christ because community is such a fundamental part of their mission. The Internet has forever changed the experience of community because we can now communicate with people all over the world who have different ages, ethnic backgrounds, religious heritage, political ideologies, personal experiences, and interests. We hear about numerous subgroups based on talents, interests, and characteristics. In Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas, for example, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are part of the Redskins football community. But is community simply a matter of getting together with or being on the same team as other people, especially people who are just like you?

    I have often had ambiguous feelings about community. I understood the value of it. As a middle school student, having a group of friends spared me the social isolation and ridicule that many loners experienced. I enjoyed the team spirit and shared accomplishment I found playing softball and basketball and rooting for home teams. I loved people and wanted the sense of belonging that one finds in relationship with others. On the other hand, my experiences in community often left me wanting. I saw people who were different being excluded, teased, and discriminated against. I saw fighting and bickering between groups. Even with the best of intentions, many times a community seemed to be more concerned with what it could get from its members than with what was possible because the members were united (and I don’t think united means non-diverse, certainly the example of America as a country that united yet had a great deal of diversity between and within states is a good metaphor for this).

    Often I hear of the church as being community. Certainly, as have pointed out, the church can play a critical role in community building such as in offering sacraments and providing opportunity for fellowship, education, and action. I would amend the statement of church as community with the following addition: true community is church. In true community, the sacramental is present, active, and cultivated. In true community, the invitation to participate in the life of one another and in the life of God is accepted and shared.

    This understanding re-emphasizes the purpose and importance for creating true community. While there are different approaches to how this knowledge should be put into practice the purpose of community is not just to exist, but to support and free its constituents to live their full potentials. The full potential is possible only in allowing God to participate fully in our lives and to participate to the best of our capabilities in the life of God.

    Anyway, those are my two cents for now.

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  18. hawkgrrrl on October 20, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    Alice – sorry you felt it was in poor taste. I don’t feel the scab is barely forming or that there is in fact a wound that needs to scab. I don’t believe the rumors of ill will and bad blood are an accurate reflection to insiders. But if others feel differently, I can only apologize.

    My post was a sincere reflection on what attracts us to communities and how what initially attracts us may differ from what ultimately binds us. I certainly don’t need anyone to pick sides as I feel we are all supportive of one another even if we’ve diverged. And I have no POV in need of validation with regard to the formation of the new blog. So I’m sorry if it came across that way. Not intended.

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