16 September 2005

blogular isolationism

narcissist that i am, i entered my (full) name into google blogs this morning. i found exactly one hit, this rather appalling piece from a month ago today.

when am i ever going to learn my lesson about full names? the first sentence of the post is "she identifies herself as amelia hoover." (oops, i've done it again.) thanks to the wretched, wretched autofill feature on my computer, i occasionally comment under my full name. this is usually fine, but it does tend to give me the willies when someone else blogs me -- especially a hostile pro-lifer who is read by an audience of fellow hostile pro-lifers.

ignore for a moment the fact that this person -- who is this person?! -- has misrepresented my little snippet of argument in a pretty bold, bald way, and furthermore, that s/he has cherry-picked some of my most telegraphic remarks in order to label me a "cafeteria christian." what really disturbs me about finding this post now, in this way, is the disturbing failure of people from opposite political ends of the blogosphere to actually talk to one another.

i notice it all the time: there will be one conversation going on among certain lefty bloggers, and then i will discover a parallel and topically identical thread of righty blogging, but we are all too chickenshit (and furthermore, too practiced in polemics) to engage one another. in places where left and right bloggers do break bread together, so to speak, the results often seem to degenerate quickly into total disconnect. responses don't respond, they just restate the responder's own position more forcefully.

depressingly, this is especially true of places where left and right christians encounter one another. when i talk to a right-wing christian face-to-face, in whatever setting, i am almost unfailingly polite, just like i am when i'm talking to an atheist. i try to act that way in the blogosphere as well, at least when i am responding to an individual. but...the less real, the less individual the entity, the less polite i am inclined to be. the less polite, in fact, we all are inclined to be.

and nobody likes being disrespected or purposefully misunderstood. after a few tastes, i think, generally reasonable people tend to retreat to the ease of their own turf. hence i blogroll people who are basically like-minded, and i tend to avoid righties like the plague, as protection against hypertension.

here's an observation, along with a related wish: the sort of bible-reading that fundamentalist or literalist christians do, their theology of authority and hierarchy, makes it very difficult for these people to approach my theology with anything like a thirst for understanding or an open mind. in fact, and i believe that i understand the reasons for this and am not being disrespectful, there is no provision for open-mindedness in this sort of christianity. hence, in the language of the person who blogged me last month, i am just "lost in the wasteland." the related wish is only this: that there were a way to hold onto orthodox religious beliefs and still strive for understanding and sympathy with those who have considered and discarded such views.

maybe the real issue is format: comment boxes are for telegraphy, not for the expression of difficult ideas. if only i had more time to devote to actual correspondence!