They're not all bad

Good BadUSA TODAY religion reporter Cathy Grossman had a great story the other day about the religion blogosphere headlined "Bloggers keep the faith, contentiously":

"For Christ's sake, stop!" declared the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Rev. Frank Page, pleading for civility in the Baptist blogosphere. Episcopalians and Anglicans duel incessantly over their faith and future in the Anglican Communion.

Catholics focus on every topic from liturgy to law to spirituality.

These are faith bloggers -- uncountable voices who contest, confess and consider religious beliefs, doctrines and denominational politics in their posts.

Although every faith has its bloggers, U.S. Christians may be among the most vociferous of the watchdogs, philosophers and ecclesiastical groupies.

She notes Rocco Palmo's popular Whispers in the Loggia, which covers everything -- everything -- Catholic, before looking at the more contentious sites out there:

Other sites are more inclined to give their opponents hell.

Southern Baptist leader Frank Page discovered this when bloggers, notably at SBCOutpost.com, boosted his campaign for presidency of the nation's largest Protestant denomination in 2006.

Within a year, Page soured on the blogs' incendiary approach to issues of church governance and religious expressions.

Page fretted in a Baptist Press column that battling bloggers frighten off "lost souls and new believers." He wrote, "Lost people are seeing the deep division and sometimes hatred that is flowing forth among churches and among those who are involved in convention discussions. For Christ's sake, stop!"

Grossman speaks with the Rev. Ben Cole of SBCOutpost, who says his blog is intentionally provocative, and she notes how many bloggers are able to overcome traditional institutional gatekeepers and denominational protocols. Grossman looks specifically at Episcopalians who are blogging the conflict in the U.S. church, quoting people familiar to GetReligion readers, including Kendall Harmon, David Virtue and Jim Naughton.

The story focuses a lot on the contention in the blogosphere -- which is a worthy hook. It reminds me, though, that I've had a few journalists contact me for research on stories they're writing or producing about this very topic. One thing I've always stressed -- and which I've never seen make it into any story -- is how educational and edifying these blogs can be. It is absolutely amazing how much one can learn through regular reading of various blogs. Yes, there's a lot of fighting that can get uncomfortably fierce. But it seems to me that the benefits also need to be highlighted.

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