Over the course of blogging I have discovered that words can be taken in all kinds of ways, many of which I did not intend. While this is the case with all writing, it takes on a particular vigor in the virtual world. Reader-response is alive and well in the blogosphere. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that a blog post is too short to explain much and its overall purpose is usually informational and provocative. Part of it, however, is due to the reader’s own disposition and the expectations that he or she brings to the site.

It helps that, much like journals or magazines, sites cater to specific audiences who then expect a certain unity of outlook. This allows the blogger to use “insider” speak and go deeper through vocabulary even with a short post.

During my time as a blogger I have received too many good comments to count. Most of the online readers who have interacted with my blog posts through Twitter, Facebook, and the comments section are thoughtful and respectful. They remind me of how much I have to learn. The virtual world provides a community of minds that, at their best, both challenge and affirm one another in ways that engender greater creativity and stimulate more faithful articulations of the Christian message.

I have also discovered a pattern among some comments that could be described in a word or phrase. While some of these patterns can be found across the online community, others are unique to religious and/or theological sites.

Below I give a summary, not unlike other lists, of those I have observed and been guilty of both as a blogger and a commenter. Just in case, I should also point out the use of  slight exaggeration for effect.

Heresy Hunters: Despite the fact that you’ve written a long post here, this one particular line bugs me. In truth, I think it is a gross theological error of epic proportions and therefore it invalidates everything you’ve said. I must respond to keep your readers from falling into this theological trap.

Quotation Hounds: I love this line. It is the money quotation of the post. I plan to use it on Sunday.

Disciples: I so appreciate your theological perspective. In fact, your words always seem inspired and therefore I cannot disagree with what you write. Ever. I will share everything I read as a matter of course because I want to spread the word.

Ecclesial Evangelists: Everything you’ve said just affirms my own faith tradition even though you don’t belong to it. All of those problems or issues you raise have been dealt with in my faith tradition and that’s why we’re right. If only everyone, including you, would become one of us the Christian world would be fine.

Theo-politicos: I come to this blog to find ammo for my moral and political views and your efforts to offer an “alternative” perspective are not helpful. I don’t care if we do share the same faith tradition, please stick to the party line of this site. If you cannot, go away, go far, far away.

Discoverers of Deeper, Hidden Meaning: I’ve read your post quite carefully and, while I know you have not said this explicitly anywhere, I am sure that the deeper meaning is an affront to the theological or ecclesial tradition I represent. You are not simply trying to describe what’s going on in the Christian world, you’re really trying to invalidate that part of the world to which I belong and I need to clarify that for your readers.

Précis People: I’ve read the first paragraph and despite the fact that most opening paragraphs are introductions that set the tone, I think yours is a précis of everything you say in the post and therefore I can ignore or skim the rest.

Literalists: I cannot affirm what you say because the way you’ve said it could be misinterpreted as not in agreement with our faith tradition. I’m not really sure that it is. I wish you would simply repeat, verbatim, the official lines of what we teach somewhere so I could know with certainty that we are in agreement.

I am sure this short list has not exhausted the possibilities so feel free to add your own observations.

Articles by Dale M. Coulter

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