|Posted: Apr-26-03 at 6:37pm | IP Logged
Hello my dear friends!
When I first considered opening a discussion group on the shovel web site, believe me, I had imagined the possibility that I might just be asking for nothing but trouble. After all, the world is filled with those who desire or even demand to be listened to - especially those with religious or oppositional viewpoints - and the Internet offers an unprecedented platform to do just that.
In truth, Internet forums and chat groups have not only offered a much broader outlet for those who enjoy speaking their mind but also one for those who have otherwise kept their thoughts and opinions to themselves. And I realized that this factor alone - even disregarding the content of what is being expressed - produces an awful lot of miscommunication and contention. On the one hand, you've got some who are well-seasoned at expressing their viewpoints, and then on the other, you've got some who have so much bottled up inside that it all comes out in an incoherent jumble ... even though it often makes perfect sense to the one posting it (and of course, there are many whose skills at expression lie somewhere between).
What I had seen in my limited chat room and forum exposure was that the well-spoken were so often given the nod, or allowed to dominate simply based upon the presentation. But even though well-presented arguments may express their point better they often lack any real connection with those to whom they are presented (and I'm not even considering the fact here that such posts may simply be well-spoken BS!). But this is only one side of the contention, for there is a silly long-standing illusion that suggests that anything oppositional is preferable to the "status-quo". And in the realm of Internet domination this underlying conflict influences much more than we might imagine.
The truth is that some well-presented posts truly communicate, while others are simply attempts to appear superior. Also, some oppositional posts truly communicate, while others come from an attempt to NOT appear INferior. The confusion enters in when a particular bandwagon is appealed to so that the underlying contention between the "haves" and the "have nots" blends in with the real point of the discussion. Even before the Shovel Shack I saw this surface time and time again.
For example, someone may really want to talk about the grace of Christ in real life but just doesn't know how to express it in terms understood by those who are "used" to discussing it so that their attempt is misunderstood and pounced upon for its inaccuracies by the first one or two to respond. But you also have the very real scenario where some can't express it because they simply don't have it and merely want to express their own confusion in order to seek a camaraderie based upon that confusion, and I've seen such a discussion get praised for its non-conformity to the group. I've also seen those who are able to express their point so well that they're held in suspicion merely for the ability to express themselves so well.
And so here I am, just some nobody from nowhere, demanding that TRUE freedom runs contrary to the freedom we all learned in this world ... even the democratic version by which we can be so quick to demand our "right" to be heard, and also by which we insist that one opinion is just as valid as the next. And here I'm going to demand that the narrow-mindedness of Christ is the only true open-mindedness. No, not the narrow-mindedness of the RELIGION built around Christ, but the reality of the only MIND that is truly open, which is a mind that baffles both the religious mentality created around a religious figure and the mentality that opposes religious conformity.
Ah, but can a discussion group actually survive its own weight and offer any real benefit in view of so many variations? I mean, any group that flourishes (as opposed to stagnates) will always be changing based upon the changes within the individuals themselves and in the coming and going of new individuals. There are always those who will try to "fix" things, both those who obviously try to do so AND those who pretend not to (who of course, find it easy to point the finger at the more obvious). There are those who don't think real communication can happen unless it is aggressive, and those who demand that any conflict is unprofitable. There are those who push their favorite authors and books and quotes, and those who reject the same, based either upon their own bad experiences or upon the popularity of the book or author, or just because its a book. There are those who will defend the "group" at all costs, and those who attack it at any given opportunity.
Anyhow, with all the imagined possibilities and worst-case scenarios suggesting I would have to be a complete moron to open myself up to something I might easily regret I nevertheless decided to go ahead with it. I knew that if it was going to be real it could not escape those very real conflicts we have in real life ... especially those internal conflicts we each need to deal with but that we often project onto someone or something else!
You see, I wanted to establish a platform where the true life found only in Christ could be challenged, examined and/or testified to as the reality that it is. The idea that I could create some kind of Utopian forum or perfect group where everything is always wonderful or always right was the furthest thing from my mind! This is the Internet, for crying out loud, and it fluctuates exponentially faster than any off-line form of communication. No, I wanted to offer a place where life would show itself not only in the "well written" post but in the miraculous sense of unity that breaks through despite the misunderstandings and differences of opinions from varied backgrounds and despite the ever-present expectations as to how the forum SHOULD operate.
The fact of the matter is that every single one of us has been influenced by some kind of religious or superstitious perception ... or even a combination of both. Some may come to recognize that their false perceptions were pushed upon them by the religious system (as they experienced it), while others might realize that they learned their own false philosophy through their own upbringing in the system of the world.
But these different perceptions are not isolated, nor exclusive. No, not at all. And it has been my desire that this forum could be a place where through learning to communicate with those from totally different perspectives we would learn more about ourselves ... for even though we may be totally different, we are also totally alike!! That's right! None of us is really so different from one another after all, regardless of the multitude of obvious distinctions we have wedged between one and the other. In other words, through an openness in relating based upon the reality of a shared union in Christ we can only stand to recognize the true unity that transcends those distinctions.
In other words, the one who has always considered himself non-religious might come to realize how very religious his own non-religious upbringing was by truly relating to the inner struggles of a brother who describes his experiences in the system he either is involved with, or has come out of. On the flip side, the one who thinks he actually learned his religious behavior through the institution might come to understand through truly relating to the heart of one who learned the exact same religious behavior without a religious institution to blame.
It is in these amazing revelations that both are made more aware of the true source of their former bondage ... and of the miraculous freedom in which they now stand! The one realizes that he is not free because he escaped the institution, but that he was removed from the very realm of bondage upon which his every thought and action in this world had been based. The other realizes that his freedom has nothing to do with his lack of religious-institutional influence, but that he needed the very same freedom as his religious counter-part.
Now, the first couple programs I used for the Shovel Shack didn't have a way to make it a members-only forum, but the truth is that even though that option offers a way to screen out some of the religious spammers, opportunists, and/or drive-by shooters I didn't want to limit its accessibility. Of course, at the same time I realized that in the overall scheme of Internet exposure I was not too easy to find, so that the forum was in fact limited to whoever could find their way to my little web site, and then, through word of mouth. This of course, presented its own problems since the flavor of any discussion would be influenced by any group or faction that might decide to descend upon it to control its discussions.
Even when I switched to the current WWF forum program I opted not to use the members-only function to make it a private forum, with two exceptions: 1) one must be a member to post (but anyone can subscribe in a matter of minutes with no authorization), and 2) the setting aside of one section where only members can post something about themselves they don't want just anybody to read (and it's a rarely-used section at that). I also faced another consideration with the last upgrade to the forum: the availability of the Private Messenger.
Now, some may be thinking why that would be a big deal to me, but I knew one of the main uses of the PM would very likely be an easy means to bitch and complain behind the scenes about who said what and who disagrees or agrees with who, etc, etc. But you know what? This would also make our online connections more like real life and we would at the same time be forced to consider how we are viewing one another in a behind-the-scenes sense. So, even though I had objections I turned the feature on. And I have had a few reasons to regret having done so, but it is right here that we might see the life of Christ as being real ... even though what we learned in the world demands something else. :)
What are my continued desires for the Shovel Shack?
- That we would come to see more and more the openness that exists only in the narrowness of Christ.
- That we would come to tolerate the freedom of another, not based upon "freedom of speech", but upon the miraculous reality of Christ.
- That we would discover the reality of how our own true freedom in Christ allows us to truly hear beyond the limitations of words and communication skills so that our responses are not merely reactions, but instead, living expressions of hearts set free.
- That our words would continue more and more to be real expressions of our freed hearts and not to a learned conformity or established pattern of our "persona".
- That we would stand upon the only real freedom that has ever existed in this world, which is such a miraculous freedom that it keeps turning our world upside down so that we find ourselves strangely concerned about the freedom of another even beyond our own.