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Where have all the Christian bloggers gone?

25 June 2014

Where have all the Christian bloggers gone?

Gone to Facebook or Patheos, or given up blogging altogether?

About six years ago a group of Christian bloggers (and one atheist) got together for coffee in a cafe in Hatfield, Pretoria, and spent a couple of hours chatting. Some had met before, because they were at university together, but others had only known of each other because they read each other’s blogs. It was an interesting gathering, but I wonder if it would be possibe to do such thing today, not necessarily with the same people, but with anyone.

Is the state of Christian blogging a bit like this ruined church in an Albanian village?

Is the state of Christian blogging a bit like this ruined church in an Albanian village?

Some of their blogs are still in my blogroll, but nothing has been posted in them for a year or more. I often even forget to look.

That was also the time that the print media were trying to carve a niche for themselves in the blogosphere. The Mail & Guardian invited some active bloggers to blog in their Thought Leader section. That, it seemed to me, was a betrayal of the spirit of blogging. It was bloggers allowing themselves to be coopted by the mainstream media.

Something similar happened with Patheos, which was a kind of vacuum-cleaner site that sucked in several Christian blogs that I used to read. I rarely read them now, because of my aversion to the very concept of Patheos. It describes itself as “hosting the conversation on faith”, which seems to confuse means and ends, as if “faith” were something separate from life itself. Faith is surely a conversation about life, and not an end in itself. Hosting a conversation on faith seems to be removing religion from the publicx square, and isolating it in a kind of religious homeland. My blogging friend Macrina Walker has written about religion in the public square here.

The public square in Tirana, Albania

The public square in Tirana, Albania, where religion was forbidden for 27 years.

When another Christian blogger, Ryan Peter (whom I haven’t managed to meet face to face yet), proposed setting up something called The Christian Blooger I was a little wary, fearing that it was yet another attempt at setting up a vacuum-cleaner site like Patheos or Thought Leader. But his proposal for The Christian Blogger shows that he is aware of the dangers, and is trying to avoid them.

Ryan Peter used to participate in a similar venture in the past, a kind of “blog of blogs” called Emerging Africa, which sadly is no more. It was run by Roger Saner, another blogger who seems to have disappeared from the scene, and whose blog hasn’t been updated in years. So could The Christian Blogger lead to a revival of Christian blogging in South or zouthern Africa? I hope so.

 

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 25 June 2014 6:28 am

    I think part of it is that after a while there is a sifting. I stopped blogging for a long time just because of other commitments. I’ve never had much of a following, so it wasn’t that much of a loss to me or anyone else. I’ve started again, at least on an occasional basis, though without the sort of blogrolling networking that was going on, my readership is even less than it was before. And my views are not mainstream enough for any group (evangelical Right, evangelical Left, Catholic, Orthodox) to generate a following among them.

    And with all of the various sources of social media, there are lots of voices outside blogging. Everyone is competing for the marketshare of everyone’s reading time.

    • 25 June 2014 6:37 am

      I don’t think the readership of this blog has changed much since 2009 — there are about the same number of readers (I’d need to check the states to make sure) but there seems to be a lot less interaction, and in some of the blogs I used to read there haven’t been any new posts for a long time.

  2. 25 June 2014 8:33 am

    Thanks for the kind words Steve. I miss those Emerging Africa days. Part of the reason that disappeared, I think, is because of how the “emerging church” morphed into modern liberalism (which I believe is nothing like the old liberalism) with a bit of a new face. Not all of it has gone that route, but most of it did, at least in my experience. I found that to be a sad turn of events.

    • 25 June 2014 10:11 am

      Yes, perhaps one problem was that the rise of blogging coincided with the rise of the “Emerging Church” movement, and that the latter tended to be disproportionaly represented in Christian blogs. In southern Africa (and also North America) the “Emerging Church” movement was largely white — in South Africa, almost exclusively so. See here: Emerging, missional — and white | Khanya.

      • 25 June 2014 10:27 am

        That’s a valid point, but it’s not just SA blogging that’s been affected. I’ve had some discussions on FB with former Orthodox blogging friends who also bemoan the demise of the Ortho-blogsphere that existed five years ago. I’m inclined to blame FB as guzzling up time and leading to superficiality – and every time I think of leaving it, one of the reasons I stay is to stay in touch with people I originally met through blogging, so it’s a vicious circle!

  3. 25 June 2014 10:23 am

    I don’t like Patheos either, but I also think that there’s more to the problem than just blogging vs traditional media.

    Part of the problem, from what I can see, is that what other Christian media forums there are are just so awful and present a picture of Christianity that makes me cringe. (I’m thinking of things like Joy Magazine and Gateway News). Now perhaps that’s just where SA Christians are at and we should follow the anti-ecumenists and have no contact with the non-Orthodox (although some Orthodox also make me cringe), but this isn’t just about Orthodoxy vs non-Orthodoxy. In other places it seems possible for people from different traditions to have intelligent, rigorous and yet irenic discussions. It seems to me that Christian discourse in SA is identified with either the sort of stuff mentioned above or else the “new liberalism” mentioned by Ryan (which cuts across historic traditions), neither of which seem particularly helpful.

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