That's one of the topics at the "God bloggers conference" in California today:
Topics included God bloggers' relationship with the traditional church, their growing influence on mainstream politics and how to manage outsiders' perceptions.
Perception management. Sounds suspiciously familiar. Blessed are the spinmeisters, for they shall make all they do appear righteous.
Many bloggers are now writing about religious oppression, poverty and world hunger, instead of hot-button issues such as abortion, homosexuality and assisted suicide, said the Rev. Andrew Jackson, a seminary professor and pastor at the Word of Grace Church in Mesa, Ariz.
"With blogging you tend to break out of those circles and you see other points of view," Carter said. "There's a bigger world out there than gay marriage and abortion."
That's nice, but do they expect absolution for noticing the obvious?
[Biola University professor Timothy Muehlhoff] stressed that God blogging has the potential to be a "train wreck" because done wrong it can reinforce stereotypes of evangelical Christians as angry and close-minded "pit bulls of the culture wars."
"As Christians today we are embroiled in the argument culture and we have forgotten this one thing: 'Blessed are the peacemakers.'," he said. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could say we brought a level of civility back to the conversation?"
Pardon me for my cynicism, but excuse me while I don't hold my breath. While there are some rather thoughtful Christian bloggers whose writings and insights I truly enjoy, they seem to be the exception (in my subjective experience). And a "God bloggers conference" gives the definite impression of evangelizing, an activity that not only has a hateful tinge in modern-day cultural and political life, but historically has led to some rather unfortunate periods in history.
In this day and age of increased religiosity and religious intolerance, do we really need more religion? The recent study indicating that secular societies tend to do better than religious ones does not stand alone.
"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies," Paul concluded in the article.
"The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S ... is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so," Paul said, referring to measures of societal health.
THIRD WORLD OF THE WEST
"We have the highest under-5 mortality rate in the Western world," Paul said. "Our rate is twice that in Sweden and Japan and, I think, higher than Cuba's even. It's kind of scary."
Cuba was not one of the nations Paul used for his data. The studies he used were done in the wealthier democratized, developed countries. Compared with this group, in many cases the U.S. looked like the Third World of the West.
The U.S. homicide rate remains much higher than those of other prosperous democracies, with only theistic Portugal rising to a similar rate -- and both are significantly higher than the rates of secularist France and Japan. Sexually transmitted diseases are now comparatively rare in Scandinavia, where sex education is early and explicit, and sex is considered a normal part of life. STDs remain prevalent in the U.S.
The trends inside the U.S. repeat the global models, according to Paul, with the more religious South and Midwest "having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the Northeast, where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms."
So given the evangelical and dominionist political agendas in America, is there hope for improvement in our society and culture? When a large vocal minority incessantly and stridently preaches hate and intolerance towards women, towards homosexuals, towards illegal aliens, towards Muslims, towards "liberals," towards Democrats, how are we going to get off of this divisive path?
Even fiscal conservative Newt Gingrich, who's been pre-presential campaigning with some strong statements against the religious right, says, "A secular America would not be America" -- never mind the United States Constitution which says in several places that religion shall not be a test or requirement for public officials and that government shall not establish religion. Gingrich and the right wing "Christians" decry the secular traditions in this country, which was founded by religious dissidents who fled countries that had established religion in government.
So what would Jesus blog, anyway? New laws to protect the moneychangers? Contempt for the poor? Hatred of diversity?
I don't know. Maybe it's a good thing that "ordinary Christians" are starting to blog. Maybe real Christians, who believe in Jesus' teachings and don't treat church like a gang affiliation, can blogswarm with compassion, forgiveness, acceptance and love, and drown out the well-monied, hate-driven right-wing machine with its "anger points" and well-paid pseudo-bloggers and megalomaniacal television personalities.
Wouldn't that be nice?