Hell broke the back. Chad Holtz, until recently pastor at Marrow’s Chapel United Methodist Church in North Carolina, posted doubts about the traditional understanding of hell on his blog. Not long after this, Holtz was no longer pastor there.
Hotlz told the UMNS that “Earlier posts on his blog about homosexuality and displays of patriotism in church had previously caused tension in his congregation.”
Here’s my question: What limits ought a pastor set on what she or he posts on a blog or elsewhere?
What is now my blog originated in weekly columns I wrote for a local newspaper. The subjects of those columns varied widely. While each of them contained topics and conclusions in line with my preaching and teaching, I tended to approach them very differently because of what I understood as my audience.
Sure; most of the readers of my newspaper pieces were members of my church, but I hoped each week to draw others into conversation and thought about matters I find important, interesting, or provocative.
Once upon a time I submitted a column for publication, then posted it to my blog. I am now more than four years removed from having a regular newspaper outlet, yet I keep on blogging.
I have to admit that I do not always put the thought process and deliberation into these posts as I once did into my columns. Am I less aware of my audience now?
I don’t think so. Having once been told by a young man that his blog was his “personal, private diary that I keep online,” (yes, it was available for others to read) I am aware that what is posted here is here for anyone to read and comment on.
Sometimes I am more aware of this than other times. Sometimes I type one day and post the next.
What would life be if no one ever said anything but what made it through multiple filters in one’s own mind and conscience? On the other hand, what would life be if one spoke aloud (or even LOUD!) every thought to come across one’s mind?
What Chad Holtz’s situation illustrates is that the internet, connectivity, and social media have magnified the potential effects from both sharing and not sharing.
I don’t think this is something from which we can, or should, “go back.” We will all learn, in these next few years, to be slower to judge what we see, or read, or say online.
Perhaps we will develop new patterns of measuring what we say and what we don’t. In the community of faith we call church, I believe we ought always be adapting our patterns of what we say, what we don’t, and how we choose to communicate. We love, follow, and serve a God who has been working for millennia to communicate with us in many and various ways.
Most of us need practice speaking. All of us need practice listening.