Words for bloggers to ponder

This was written as a comment on a post I wrote about bloggers who were at the Friends General Conference gathering. What are your thoughts, Friends? And I couldn't notify Anonymous or contact him or her about lifting this up in a post, since he or she was just that -- Anonymous.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Quaker bloggers at FGC Gathering":
I happened upon a photo of "Quaker bloggers" at FGC and also read some Q-bloggers, blogs about things that went on at various small groups. Though there was discretion (no mention of names), there were disturbing things put on the web that should never be put up for all the world to see. One especially troubling blog was about a person who had tried to walk out of a small, worshipful event at FGC, but got persuaded to stay. I won't repeat the details.

I will steer clear of any discussion or worship-sharing group that has a "Quaker Blogger" present. I'd feel more comfortable being hounded by Paparozzi (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paparazzi.) At least they don't take notes at events that bring out people's heartfelt yearnings toward the Divine, or their private inward wrestlings, and then feel at liberty to make whatever was said or done a Quaker event an occasion for public speculation and musings on a Worldwide Web forum.

This is no way to let our lives speak to the world, especially without the express consent of the individuals who come to worship-sharing at a gathering like FGC for personal, spiritual discernment. It is such a tender thing between one person and God. It is a privelege for Friends gathered in small worship-sharing groups to abide with one another in that tender place, which must be safe from voyeurs looking for material to sustain their blogs. It is a privelege to witness whatever Friends find in common worship together. What is said and done should be honored as privileged information. Please, you have with your blogging, made worship-sharing a risky event. Friends should not have to worry about what they said or did at a Quaker gathering ending up on the Internet, whether you name names or not. How can any Friend/Blogger feel entitled to take such license? Or be at ease doing such a profane thing with a worshipful occasion?

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Personally, I hunger to read about other people's "heartfelt yearnings toward the Divine, or their private inward wrestlings." I also agree that confidentiality is a part of worship-sharing. I am less clear about an interest group or the like that might have 50 people in a room. Anonymous conceded that most posts she or he had read did handle such matters with discretion, which is important me. And for me, the boundaries between what I share in a small group and what I share here on my blog seem very porous. Personally, I'd be interested to read what someone else wrote in response to something I said at such a gathering. I want to be open to the Spirit -- and one of the key places I find the Spirit is in the "gathered body" of the church/meeting, and through the comments of the community of Quaker bloggers. Yet I realize others, like Anonymous, have completely different responses.

Thoughts, Friends?


Martin Kelley said...

Hard to know what to say... My observation is that most of the more visible Quaker bloggers show considerable discretion, a point which Anonymous makes. I self-censor a number of my posts because it would be too obvious who I was talking about. I use examples to talk about trends and ideas within the RSOF itself, not to condemn or embarrass individuals.

To say blogging should be stopped because an unspecified comment somewhere made someone feel uncomfortable isn't particularly helpful. It's quite possible that a comment crossed some line of discretion or taste--many of us have posted things we later regretted--but we'll never know. Not much learning to be gleaned from this.

Friends in the early days of the movement went to jail in large numbers over the principle that Quaker worship is a public event. When Parliament outlawed unauthorized religious acts in 1660 and 1662, some dissenting religious groups went underground but Friends refused that, holding open meetings knowing they would be arrested. Later Friends developed very strong testimonies against participation in secret societies. Love requires tenderness and discretion when but I'm not sure there's too much that "should never be put up for all the world to see" once stripped of any details that might identify.

Quaker blogging is doing a tremendous amount of good outreach for Friends. Seekers want details and first-hand stories and they want to be able to converse about the ideas behind Friends' practices. I find it pretty ignorant to compare bloggers to Paparazzi and to refuse to worship with anyone who writes a blog. I do wish Anonymous had modeled discretion by contact the offending commenter directly rather than just throw a hand grenade against Quaker blogging in general. I have to think there's a lot more going on than an offending comment or two.

quakerboy said...

Friend Martin speaks my mind. An anonymous comment about a non-specified blog seems odd.

Providentially, we have been given guidelines with which to deal with a sister or brother who commits an offense against us in the Scriptures...go to the person, then to the elders...

Contrary to what some may think, scripture can be a wonderful guide for those of us attempting to live our lives in spiritual community.


Lorcan said...

I'd agree with Martin, and add, that the Friend should seek a clearness committee. Friends who avoid meeting other Friends for clearness miss a large part of the origional intentions of our founders which come out of our roots in Christian love.
Thine in the light and love

Nancy A said...

I accept the spirit of Anonymous's concerns. The privacy of worship sharing needs to remain private.

But what a difference there is between "private" and "secret." As long as names are not named and identifying situational factors are left out, then privacy has been respected.

This concern reminds me of other technology-related issues where the "old way" is clashing with the "new way." One of the "old way" issues is copyright. Copyright made sense in the days of the printing press, when someone owned the means of production. But now that anyone can own the means of production, the concept of copyright is ludicrous. I realize the printing, filming, etc. industries are trying to cling to copyright, but it is a losing battle.

So is censorship. Even China knows it can't hold back the flood of Google for long. Remember the execution of Saddam Hussein?--the "lie" version presented by the officials, and the "true" version, recorded on a shaky phone camera.

There are no secrets anymore.

Thank God for the hackers that get into upper-level corporate plans for secret meetings, WTO documents, etc! How else would we be able to confront these organizations if we can't get at their secrets?

Quakerism is no longer the Quakerism of the 1950s. Because of changes in communication technology, any thought anywhere becomes a thought everywhere. Our light is out from under the bushel, whether we individually choose it or not. What we say and do as Quakers is not copyright to ourselves as individuals, but to Quakerism as a whole--and to the world as a whole.

I believe these are all good developments, regardless of the challenges. Nothing can stop them from happening anyway. There is no way to make copyright real again, either for books, music, movies, or Quaker activities. And no way to make events secret anymore.

My husband calls this "future shock." It's just the way it is. As for avoiding worship groups with Quaker bloggers present, this assumes one is able to identify a Quaker blogger. I highly doubt that anyone knows who I am.

It's a secret.

cubbie said...

have you seen that graffiti outside the meetinghouse that says, "consent is sexy"?-- i always look at that and go, "um, hi, did we consent to have our building graffitied? no? k thx, pls don't, then!" (i don't know why i morph into lazy text message speak when i think at whoever did it, but i do.)

... anyway... i think i'm more in line with anonymous, actually. though it's so tricky. sometimes there are giant things that effect me in ways that i want to share, and figuring out how to respect the anonymity/confidentiality of the situation is tricky. but i do try, and maybe that's what anonymous is asking us to do, to remember the kind of space it is and figure out how to best respect people's expectations and needs regarding the space...