I'm a member of an internet discussion group called "Episcopal/Anglican/Religion Community." Most of us are either Episcopalians or Anglicans, but not all. However, a lot of our posts/discussions revolve around what's currently happening in the Episcopal Church. You know - ordaining gays, same-sex marriages, defections of various parishes/dioceses - your normal, everyday discussions.
Occasionally we wander off into discussions of politics, other religions (both Christian and non), and current events. We make prayer requests, have a link for daily devotions, and even have a bit of irreverent humor. We Episcopalians are a versatile bunch, you see.
Today an article from The Guardian in the UK was posted entitled Blogging and the Meaning of Life: Does the internet make discussion of things too easy to be worthwhile? It's an interesting premise, and one I've struggled with on a low level from time to time. The author discusses, among other things, how many of us use the internet not only for legitimate research (guilty) but also for information to bolster our own point of view (also guilty). We write blogs or emails or comments to and about people we don't really know (guilty again), and find it easy to be abrasive or judgmental toward people who exist only in our cyber-world (okay, okay, I'm guilty of this, too).
I'm an opinionated person. You've probably already figured this out; especially if you're related to me. And I have a family full of opinionated people (you know who you are!). And often we hold opposing opinions. This doesn't mean we don't care for each other, and - thankfully! - it doesn't mean that we don't get along. What it does mean is that we accept each other's differences of ideas and philosophies without feeling threatened by them. It also means that we listen respectfully to each other, allowing each of us to have our opinions without tearing the fabric of our relationship. We're in this relationship thing for the long haul. I'm very blessed to have a family like this one I find myself in.
My cyber-friends, on the other hand, are people who read and comment on my blog because they are mostly like-minded. This doesn't mean that I don't value their readership or our tenuous connections with each other. One of my dear readers even called me her friend in a comment, and I floated for days on the strength of that remark. (Of course, she also said I was beautiful and that didn't hurt!) But I know that these followers of my blog, however happy I am to have them in my cyber-world, and even though I also follow their blogs, could disappear from my blogosphere as easily, as quickly, as mysteriously as they arrived. My world would be poorer for it, and I would miss them for a while, but someone or something would eventually fill the hole.
I'm writing this to put all of my thoughts into some perspective. In a post prior to our recent election, I made a comment about conservative Christians (actually, I made a couple of comments!) that one of my family members called me on. On re-reading my post, I understood why she felt that I had made a blanket statement, even though when I wrote it I didn't mean it exactly the way it sounded; it was not meant to be derogatory toward all conservative Christians. However, because it was made in a forum that doesn't allow the back-and-forth of a good face-to-face (or even voice-to-voice) conversation, I should have been more careful. No, she's not angry with me. No, we aren't feeling tense about each other. We have that good relationship that I mentioned in paragraph 4 above. But I felt bad that I had caused her to feel I was making a statement about her faith.
So. I am going to try harder to be more thoughtful about my posts. I expect I'll still do research to "prove" my point of view. And I expect I'll still get pissed off and write a diatribe from time to time. But I really am going to try to be more even handed and fair-minded. Because I value all of the people in my life: those of you I know and love as well as those of you who are only connected to me through this mysterious thing called the internet (or smoke-and-mirrors, as I often think of it!). I expect I'll screw up now and then, but I'm going to make the effort and I hope you - ALL of you - will help keep me honest!