When “our” voice is silent

word-balloons

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned over the last few years, it’s this: writing requires you to have something to say. Whether it’s a blog or a book, you’ve got to say something worth reading, or no one’s actually going to read (not even your spouse). Think about your favorite bloggers and authors—what do they all have in common: their writing “speaks” to us. They’re able to connect with us. Their opinions often mirror our own (although they might put theirs a bit more eloquently).

But bloggers, perhaps even more than traditional authors, are more than just voices in the ether, especially in this “YRR/New Calvinist/whatchamacallit” movement. Some have formal theological training, many do not. Some are in vocational ministry, many are laypersons. They’re relatable and accessible and, almost inevitably, their voice becomes ours.

We share like crazy when Tim Challies crushes heavenly tourism books, we enthusiastically comment when Jared Wilson lambasts our pragmatic goofiness and one or two people politely agree when I critique books on “biblical” womanhood that are neither particularly biblical nor encouraging for women.

And then a particularly nasty controversy comes to light—a pachyderm gets a bad credit score or a prominent church leader is accused of covering up heinous crimes…

…and “our” voice goes silent.

“Why aren’t they talking about this,” many ask. “Have they not heard about this? Do they not care?” The longer the silence goes, the more troubled we become (and the more the critics of those voices have a field day). We want answers. We want to know what they have to say. But the silence continues, until, finally, an article appears. But by then, it seems too little, too late.

We feel disappointed, let down by the people who “should” have something to say. Why is that? I wonder if it comes down to expectations. We want our favorite bloggers to always be ready with something to say—but is this realistic? I would say no. Here’s why:

We may not know about what’s going on. Although there’s an idea floating around that a guy like Tim Challies should be in the know about everything, that’s simply impossible. No one—not Tim, not me and not you—is capable of being aware of everything that’s going on in the world. Very few Christian bloggers are only bloggers. Most of us have jobs, families and ministry responsibilities within our churches that demand our attention. So when we don’t have something to say, it might be because we’re not aware of what’s going on.

We may not have anything worth saying. Sometimes the best thing we can do when controversy’s a-brewin’ is to say nothing at all. It could be we don’t have enough first-hand information from reliable sources to make form an opinion, or we’ve not actually had enough time to sit with the information to get a sense of what’s going on. Although many may want to read what we’ve got to say, it might not actually be worth reading.

We may not want to be gossips. Finally, we always want to be helpful in what we say—biblically, we all have a mandate “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” after all (Heb. 10:24). This is (or should) be the goal of all Christian blogging. So we always have to consider: how does what I’m writing encourage a brother or sister in Christ? How does this serve them? How does it help them become more like Jesus? Speaking up about a particular issue can come from a desire to help others—but in reality, it might simply be gossip.

While I can’t speak for those who are a bit higher up in profile, these are certainly the reasons why I avoid speaking about too many controversial issues. While issuing a proclamation about every controversy might help boost traffic in the short term, if we’re not careful, we erode our credibility and dishonor Christ.

But the question I have for you, dear brothers and sisters, is why do you want us to speak?

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  • hannah anderson

    Yes. I agree. But only if we apply these same criteria to every other controversy outside *our* circles. When we don’t and blog about those things, it comes across as selective. My two cents.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Totally agree—I can’t speak for everyone else in blogworld, but I strive (with varying degrees of success) to apply these points to any controversy, whether in or out of “our” circles.

      • hannah anderson

        From my perspective, far too much blogging is reactionary. It takes a lot more work to produce something of value than it does to respond to what others are writing. I’m not saying that there isn’t a place to debate opposing viewpoints or even to speak up about omissions–just that our blogging diet should not depend on controversy.

        • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

          Totally agree.

  • Benton Barby

    Good thoughts, Aaron. There have been several times where I’ve waited on tenterhooks for any number of pastors/authors/bloggers to speak out on a controversy, and then I realize that my motives are not God honoring. More so lately, I’ve actually appreciated restraint from some of the high profile types on controversies and whatnot. It seems like they are doing exactly what you’ve highlighted, here.

    Overall, though, I think a lot of why we want “you” to speak up is a lack of discernment on our part. Most people (secretly) want someone they trust to do the thinking for them, it’s just easier that way. However, I also think a lot of it boils down to gossip. We want to know what “you” know. But, hey, I’m not trying to create some kind of controversy, here ;-)

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  • Steve_Winnipeg_Canada

    Brother Aaron, your last question is challenging and profound.