NEWSWEEK magazine and THE WASHINGTON POST sponsor an on-line series of conversations about religion called On Faith. You ought to check it out sometime.
Here's how it works. Every few days the hosts come up with a question. Most of the time, the question is related to both religion and current events. Then, the dozens of folks on the panel get to respond.
The responses have a blog-like quality. Anyone and everyone can comment on something written by a member of the panel, which includes a wide array of folks like N. T. Wright, Richard Mouw, Martin Marty, Elaine Pagels, Elie Wiesel, and Brian McLaren.
Every once in a while, I scroll down to read the dozens of comments following the wise-and-witty words of some of the panelists. Even when (or especially when) a response is coming from a place much different from my own, I usually find there's something there for me to learn.
But then--and it almost never fails-- at least one person has posted a comment like, "What a load of crap!" A lot of the time, it's more offensive than that.
Usually, the commenter says enough to prove that (s)he doesn't even begin to understand what the panelist has said, is completely out of his/her depth, and really doesn't belong in the conversation.
It's one of the most obvious examples of something that bugs me now and then. There's a real downside to the near-complete democratization of publishing called the World Wide Web.
Fact is, one person's opinion is not just as good as another's. And frankly, I don't like it when brilliance and blathering are given equal (or nearly equal) space.
Yeah, they used to say the same kinds of things when the printing press was a new invention. But we know there are differences. For example, even fifty years after Gutenberg's invention, how many people could actually use it so quickly and easily as you and I use our computers?
People who maintain a high view of humanity aren't bothered much by the proliferation of nonsense. Their assumption is that good, reasonable people eventually separate trash from treasure. Truth and goodness in time prevail. But it seems to me like there are a lot of examples to the contrary.
While I am constantly amazed at the ability of ordinary human beings to do great and godly things, I'm also amazed at the capacity of even "good" people to be foolish in their thinking, blinded by their prejudices, brutal in their actions.
I know, it's a little late to start a campaign to put the Web genie back in the bottle. Besides, that's not what I want. What I want is for the portrait of the Book of Revelation to be realized; for the Truth who is God to overwhelm everything else, and for his kingdom alone to be established.
Until that happens, blasphemy and blathering will still bother me. Maybe I can manage to not be a part of the problem.