Thursday, September 27, 2007

Some mullings

Paul maintained a relationship with Christian communities through letters.

Historically a number of famous friendships have been maintained through letters.

84 Charing Cross Road, the book and the movie, is a true story about a friendship that is conducted almost entirely through letters. Frank died before Helen met him.

Does this say something about the possibility of friendships/community being established or maintained through letters?

Are letters different than the internet?

Are we ruder on the internet because we are disembodied from each other or are we ruder because we are becoming less civil everywhere?

1 comment:

Tim Chesterton said...

Erin, I think the comparison with Paul falls down on a number of fronts. He was always clear about how he 'longed to be with' the people he was writing to - letters were second best to him. Also, he did not write using a pseudonym - his readers knew about his story and many of them already knew him as a person. Indeed, he says in 1 Thessalonians that 'Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well'.

A number of things worry me about so-called 'Internet communities'.

In Eugene Peterson's book 'Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places' he says that one possible definition of a 'sect' is a community of the like-minded. You choose your friends on the basis of agreement, rather than learning to love a community in which not everyone agrees - in which there are differences of age, race, political persuasion etc. etc. That is so characteristic of internet communities.

Second, on so-called Christian blogs, basic rules of Christian conversation (such as the one I quote) are routinely ignored. People protest that they need this forum to be able to 'vent', as if this justifies ignoring Matthew 5:21-22.

Third, on the Internet people can basically create their own identity and use it as a mask to hide their real self. This is precisely what the heroes of '84 Charing Cross Road' did not do. How can we be a real community when we won't even reveal our real names to each other?

One consequence of this is that in so-called 'discussions' in the blogosphere, people often make assumptions about each other, because we don't have to share our story with each other before we participate in these conversations - whereas, in a real community, we would gradually get to know each other, and have our conversations in that context.

But my last concern is to do with the whole 'gnostic' (or perhaps a more accurate term would be 'Manichean') idea - the fact that Internet communities are totally mental and emotional and do not involve the body. I think the incarnation means that a body must be involved in order to have the fulness of communication. This is not always possible, and every lover who spends time away from their loved one knows that a letter is better than nothing. But shared meals, hugs, taking communion together, and so on, are vital parts of full-orbed relationships.

Which is why I'm very happy to make friends with you on the Net, but will be even more delighted when we actually meet face to face!