It's worth noting that although Web logs, or "blogs," haven't been around for more than about six years, the Technorati site (a search engine that monitors blogs) tracks 35.3 million of them and reports that the numbers are doubling every six months. And a Pew Internet and American Life Project estimates that 25 percent of Internet users now read blogs, and 9 percent write one, even if sometimes they are carelessly constructed and not well researched.
Blogs are an increasingly useful forum for frank, freewheeling communication and debate on many key issues ranging from disease control to drugs in professional sports, and from democracy to personal faith. But reading blogs is at times a bit like peeping at a draft as it's being written and published, mostly unedited, without standards or correction boxes, and in many cases its facts are unlikely to have been checked. It is good to see that bloggers have started talking about the importance of paying more attention to detail if they want a respected, influential role in the public debate.
That cautionary note speaks volumes to those of us who sometimes find ourselves blogging our way through everyday life, independent of electronic communication devices. It's all too easy to smatter human discourse with views that have not been fact-checked, thought through, or prayed over.
Mary Baker Eddy made it clear in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" that "matter and mortality do not reflect the facts of Spirit," which are the foundation of the Science she discovered and made accessible to all (p. 215). She also wrote: "The spiritual reality is the scientific fact in all things. The spiritual fact, repeated in the action of man and the whole universe, is harmonious and is the ideal of Truth" (p. 207).
We can safely assume that the "whole universe" embraces the blogosphere and the messages – good, bad, or in between – radiating from it. Just as serious journalism starts with the authentication and verification of information, so spiritual living has to start with authentic, verified sources of inspiration and truth. For our daily lives to be grounded in spiritual fact, we cannot be, as the Apostle Paul put it, "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." This is not to categorize all bloggers as unprincipled. Creativity and thoughtfulness abound in the blogosphere. But it points to the importance Paul placed on "speaking the truth in love" at all times (Eph. 4:14, 15).
Society cannot afford to be swayed by misinformation or self-serving anger. In an age of more information and fewer filters, Web surfers have to learn a new media literacy – call it basic wisdom, if you like.
The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes spoke of the heartfelt efforts people make to "know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom." The conclusion: "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" (7:25, 29).
True wisdom is the ability to see information from God's perspective, which then helps people know the best course to take. Wisdom comes from understanding and trusting God. When we do this, the effect on our lives is so astonishing that we can't resist sharing insights with others in the most acceptable way. In this light, it may be important to log off long enough to spend more time with God, and discern what He is communicating to us and what He requires of us.
God's messages are more than adequate to help us negotiate the blogosphere – and respond compassionately even to people who don't place a premium on fact. We may just find that there are more bloggers than we think who actually want to speed up the world's shift toward more honest, reliable – and even spiritual – information.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.