Wooh. What a ride. What a blog-pile. Glad the story has ended so well, at least this chapter, all of us still friends and all learning from each other. It has been a learning experience for me.
I have already noticed a few short histories of this diablog on women vs girls. I want to be a good historian and put up my version as a reference for those of you interested in the conversation, the infamous event, or even the dynamics of new media communication that came out of this diablog.
In case you are interested, my stats tell me that i have already had 1950 hits today. That is above average. I get 1000 - 1200 on a good day, although I dont try to get it higher - I would rather have less people visit that i can get to know better than have a mass of strangers.
According to my inteligent blogging engine, the last person to visit my blog was a someone who typed in "Orlando Bloom" into Google. How he got here i have no idea. Well, i did mention Orlando Bloom once. A while ago. Google likes me, did I tell you. Anyway, I hope the person looking for info on Orlando Bloom was not put off by some church people talking about women's issues and gender equality.
I am also hoping that people like this would see that in the church, people can have heavy and heated discussions on things that are loaded with painful memories and spiced with power plays from a patristic culture, and yet, when all is said and done, leave the conversation as brothers and sisters in a happy but slightly dysfunctional family. Functional enough, I hope, to be attractive, and redemptive.
I should recount the story, the whole story, for the sake of posterity. And then I want to stop my part of that conversation with the admission that i dont really have anything really profound or prophetic to say on the topic (ask me again in a few decades when i am old and wise . . . [I KNOW . . I KNOW . . I AM ALREADY OLD] )
I also want to end up telling you about the Emergent Conference entitled "MENTORING WOMAN LEADERS FOR THE EMERGING CHURCH" and then i am going to casually ask you for 40 grand to sponsor this event.
OK, lets talk about NEW MEDIA and use my transgression as an example of sloppy communication in our new world of post-post-literacy. Here goes . . .
1. The Discretion.
Feb 13, 2004 Andrew is at an internet cafe where he hastily writes a blog post called Questions and The Mullet of Jesus saying:
" . . . in the area of missiology and overseas development, which is where i often hang out, women traditionally have outnumbered men, in some cases 7 to 1. I am looking over the coming summer at the people who have told me they are going overseas on pilgrimage or mission, and again, i am looking at a large group of GIRLS! Not much equality there. Where are the men?"
2. Red Flag.
The Warning is delivered with gentleness and respect, by Lily Lewin, who joined their family's pilgrimage with ours last summer in England. Lily had just kicked off a significant discussion on gender issues that i mentioned on my blog.
"dr. jones, just watch that use of "girls " vs women.
i read it that GIRLS rock and boys don't when it comes to leaving their comfort zones to do ministry elsewhere...but it could be an issue! :)
hope the new home is coming together and the kids are enjoying their new school! and btw getting ready to join the ranks of the type pad users! blessings! lilly"
At this point, the conversation has moved slightly from age discrimination to gender discrimination, but that was permitted, since gender discrimination in the church is a sad reality and something that needs to be addressed.
4. White men cant see it.
The comment immediately following Lilly's is from Greg Millsaps who lives in Nicaragua.
I live on the so-called missions field and so far have hosted 3 girls (ahem, excuse me, WOMEN, ages 15, 16 and 19...geez, for God's sake can I pleeze refer to them as "girls" without stepping on any feminine toes around here...) Anyway, my experience is that there are lots more females (there we go) on the missions field. Why? I have no idea. Maybe I'll go and ask one of the chickadees..."
Greg adds humor to his post, and therefore can get away with the 'chickadees' reference. If he knew where this conversation would go, and the lack of humor that turned up in the resulting comments, he would probably have chosen a different word. But so far, no harm done. And no one mentions Greg's comment again. The guys who comment later on generally side up with Greg - whats wrong with the word "girl"?
Andrew is committed to the word "GIRL" because it represents the age factor - the shocking fact that God often chooses really young girls over more qualified "women", despite our protest and wondefull training institutions. Andrew does not want to be blogging. He has no phone line at his house and the only way he can get online is by travelling to internet cafes that do not allow him to use his iBook. He cannot upload images and cannot respond in a timely fashion.
His post, originally titled "Catching Up On Questions", is called Urban Poor and GIRLS
"Girls, girls, girls. I will call them girls and not women. No apologies. The movement in China would not be the same without teenage girls. A friend from China told me recently that a teenager started a church in China that has since become hundreds of churches involving tens of thousands of people. I will not call her a woman, since that would let a lot of western Christians with the excuse "God cant use me until i am older or more mature". Dang, God has been using girls from the beginning. Mary was young. Esther was young. It should not surprise us. There is a massive Sunday School movement in China that Wolfgang Simson just informed us about in last weeks Friday Fax. Massive, I tell you. Thanks to the GIRLS behind it. And the older women, of course."
Andrew is not supposed to be blogging. He is writing a book, and wants to answer all the questions and comments. He comes back with a post that, hopefully, will deal with the situation, relieve him from blogging over the weekend, and will stop the conversation. He is wrong on all accounts. What a moron!"
6. Lead Balloon.
The post does not go down well. A lot of women are offended by the term "GIRL" and take it as derogatory(although the guys cant see where the offence lies).
Here are some of my thoughts, although i hope they do not take away from the gravity of gender discrimination. What i am addressing now is Blog dynamics rather than subject matter. In other words, please dont flame me 8-)
- First and foremost, it is a touchy subject and millions of women are bruised and scarred from the abuse of a male dominated society. It doesnt take much to get a spark going. Even the word "girl". I found out the hard way and have subsequently entered rehab (dont worry, i am in good hands).
- Some people picked up the storyline halfway, not knowing the context. They started at the Urban Poor and GIRLS blog entry rather than going back to the originating entry.
Andrew's fault, for not adequately hypertexting the whole conversation. Dang, people are not going to chase down all the previous posts and comments trying to piece it together. Andrew should have done that, although he didnt realize it would be something that people would be following (or trying to follow). Andrew is an idiot, and should be more careful with creating journeys of learning and discovery in his blog, rather than discrete and apparently homeless blog entries.
- Many of the initial comments were written in a harsh tone, making them sound harsher than they were actually intended. Communication on-line needs more care than face to face. There is no way to soften speech with facial expressions, lower the tone with your eyes or smirk. Yes, you can do it online with smilies, or :-) or even pasting an image of your face, avoiding capitals, or adding extras like . . . and . . ah . . to slow the pace down. (I leave in most of my spelling mistakes to add a touch of informality). But when it is pure script, it usually needs an element of play, or invitation to casuality, if it is to carry the same tone as conversation.
7. The Grit Hits the Pan.
A few flaming comments stimulated some angry responses and heightened the tone. The situation escalated, much more than it should have done. The fire became a furnace. People left nasty comments, written hastily, and then emailed Andrew to apologize, or came back later with comments written in a softer tone. One "repented" on her own blog.
Funny thing the internet. You write something and it feels right when you type it in. But when you view it as black writing on a white screen, it looks quite alarming. I have done this before. The problem is, once you have sent it, it is there, published, permanent, unchangeable. And you cant take it back.
Well I can, actually. I have the ability to edit peoples comments, but choose not to unless there is a terrible mistake.
If it happens to you, dont take it as people shouting death wishes to you. Realize the limiations of the media and make necessary adjustments.
We are living in a reformation of writing, in case you havent noticed. The first reformation turned hearers into readers, the new reformation (according to Douglas Rushkoff [dont have the link right now - sorry] is turning readers into writers. TV is dead. Computer technology is creating a post-post-literacy that makes all the church's talk on TV passivity quite redundant.
OOOps, Distracted. Sorry. Let me get back to ....
A few guidlines to joining the present renaissance of on-line publishing:
-A lawyer voice is as scary as hell on a computer screen and should only reserved for times of public emergency or Armegeddon :-c
-Deletes are normally taboo in blogdom. If you make a mistake, you should leave the original intact, but add your additions and edits (sometimes dating them - i have used the word "back-blog" for this). This is for posterity's sake. You shouldn't mess with history. Especially when people's comments are related directly to a particular blog entry. Deleting your original entry changes their comment - you have to respect that.
-Biting is allowed, but dont use venom.
-Use the Bible as a code for appropriate behaviour - answer with gentleness and respect, love believes all things (give the benefit of the doubt), be quick to hear and slow to speak, etc.
8. Silence of the Lamer.
Andrew does not respond. His silence is taken as lack of respect or worse, that he is enjoying the show, and the thousands of hits on his blog site.
Where is Andrew while this is going on? Still homeless with his family in London, staying in a rented apartment without a telephone line, trying to keep his family sane. No internet connection, but then its the weekend, right?
Duncan, who sees the whole incident as a possible new media learning project, tracks what happened in his entry called Little Miss-Communication .
"Within 15 hours of the "offending" entry being posted on the internet, someone leaving a comment on the blog referred to the fact that Andrew was yet to respond, implying he should have perhaps. (This was the 16th comment left on the entry by that stage.) At 26 hours it was suggested that the negative response should have been anticipated, and suggested that Andrew Jones' "almost revelling in the response worsens things." Note that the basis for this attribution was a non-response, not any observable behaviour."
9. Andrew actually reads his own blog.
A busy man, indeed, and quite handsome to boot (in a lanky kind of way, and only if you like big noses) but not too busy to glance every now and again at his little diary online. Its Monday morning and Andrew walks into the office on CMS in London. Jonny Baker mentions the 50+ comments and the weeks activity. Andrew looks vacant. Andrew walks over to the Oasis Ministry office, half a mile from Jonny's Office, where they have WiFi and an honorary desk in their office for him, and reads.
Andrew is in trouble. He has upset a lot of people.
Or was it really all Andrew's fault?
Some might suggest, and already have, that people were projecting on Andrew the frustrations of spiritual abuse, and that the miscommunication resulting from a partial reading of a friendly conversation, was intentionally mixed in a volatile cocktail of flaming comments as an attempt to highjack the conversation and illegally POACH ANDREW'S READERS FOR THEIR OWN BLOG!
Me? Never crossed my mind. No conspiracy going on here. Just good old fashioned diablog.
Anyway, what really mattered was that people were hurt and waiting for a response. I had offended people and an apology was called for . . . and given.
I really hate offending people and i shy away from unnecessary controversy. OK, sometimes i go for controversy, but not the negative kind. There is a huge amount of fragmentation in the church and we need to be a community of reconciliation. This is our apologetic. i was a little worried that some people who are still thinking about following Jesus, and sometimes check out my blog, would come and take a look at the sorry state of our disagreements and quarelling, our wrangling over words and disunity. By our love will they know us. By our love.
A blog is like a window (Daniel's window is a good biblical analogy) that allows people to look in. We need to be on our best behaviour.
Anyway, where was I? Ahh yes . . in the third person.
So Andrew prays and writes a response. ! Dang that Andrew, he is a Lamer!
He also apologizes in a comment for any offence caused and explains the silence.
"Wow - lots of comments. I respect them all. I have just posted another blog to flesh out where i am coming from. I was off line for a few days - hope my silence was not miscommunicated for lack of respect."
9. So Andrew writes an apology and response.
Didnt i just say that? It was called Women:Am I missing Something.
The issue at hand: Woman/Girls. I have been weighed and found wanting. My use of the word "girl" was taken my many as a negative connotation. Rehab is suggested. I am very open to learning. Please continue to teach me."
I liked what i wrote except the last piece about men being "less male and more like Jesus". Thats lame and not correct. Jesus was fully male and he calls men to fully embrace their masculinity, just like He woos women to fully embrace their femininity.
I could delete that line in about 15 seconds, but I wont, because, as i said earlier, you cant mess with history.
10. As I was driving home last night, I started to think about really young people again, young poor girls and young poor boys who are spearheading the good news of Jesus into new places of hurt and brokenness. India. Africa. China. I was hoping that the conversation would not shift from them back to the West again (we have a habit of doing that). I had a strong desire for justice - that their voice would be heard, that their story would be told, and a fear that i had stolen that story from them in this conversation.
Well, a few minutes ago, I noticed that the comments are still adding up and the last two comments (55 and 56) are an attempt to get the conversation back to the original issue of the urban poor AND girls.
That makes me feel a lot better.
As for the conversation on gender issues, I dont have much to say - I usually get my wife to address that issue (let the older women teach the younger, the Scriptures say). How surprising for me that such a "rich conversation" (as someone described it) would happen on my blog. Thanks for honoring me. And thanks for your warm toned comments on my response.
I have done my bit on this subject and now i think it is time for the conversation to move on to other people who can speak from experience. I suggest you go through my comments and click on the person who carries what you carry or who speaks in a way that resonates with you.
Conference. (Brace yourself for an advertisement)
If you live in USA, you may be interested in Emergent's conference on this topic coming up in June. Its called Mentoring Women Leaders For the Emerging Church.
If you want to contribute to the future of woman's ministry, then send a check to Emergent to help them with the conference. We currently have a gift of $10,000 but need four times that to pull this off. Go to EmergentVillage.com and download the Emerging Woman's Proposal