I’ve recently returned from the God Blog Conference in association with Blog World and the New Media Expo. I recognize this puts me in a new category of blogging geekdom. Not only am I spending hours of my time blogging, I’m now spending money and a weekend away from my family to hear other people talk about blogging.
As you can expect most of the sessions I attended were on religion, faith and the use of new media. But it was the secular key note address at Blog World that I felt had the most profound religious implications.
The key word I walked away from the conference with was “decentralization”. The death of “Main Stream Media”, restricted publishing and elitism were all reported and celebrated. Blogging and other new forms of media have fractured the cultural, publishing and media worlds. No longer are there just a few voices to tell us what to think of the world. Every keyboard and cellphone in the country is a publishing house unto itself. Underlying all of this is the question: have we been yearning for decentralization and shaped the internet around it, or has the internet given us a taste of decentralization and shaped us?
I almost immediately recognized that this does not mean good things for the Pope. Nor does it mean good things for the LDS prophet or any other religous authorities. Decentralization by it’s very nature strips power from authority figures. If you think you’re the authority on any subject, much less the thoughts of God, you’re going to find that fewer and fewer people will take your word for it. Even if they claim to consider you an authority, the way in which they consume media will undermine their own thoughts on the power of authority.
In many ways Protestantism is more prepared for this than many other faiths. Protestants of been decentralized and freely handing out the priesthood for 400+ years. The “personal relationship with Jesus” already argues the power and weight of an individual’s opinions. It could perhaps be argued that Protestantism founded the problem or at the very least bought in and promoted it. Protestants have always pointed to other sources of authority outside of themselves like the Bible or the work of the Holy Spirit. Soon enough the authority to recommend seeking another higher authority will be stripped as well.
Just today, I heard a caller talking with a Christian Apologist about this very thing (47 minute mark). The caller’s question was “If I talk to God everyday, what use do I have for organized religion?” As the conversation progressed the caller said “Why should I take Paul’s word for anything, God is talking to me? I don’t need Paul’s mediation” (paraphrase). I suspect we’re going to hear more and more questions like this.
So then, the religious blogger is faced with the dilemna: If the very action of blogging is undermining the thing I’m blogging in defense of, do I go on blogging? It’s the question Guttenberg never had the chance to ask as he printed off all those Bibles.