Wesley’s first rule is rather simple to adopt to our discussion on blogging.
The goal of this rule is to allow the people called Methodists to present themselves as those who are saved. This rule allowed for them, unlike other Christians in the abusive power structure, to present evidence of a counter-cultural power, one that relied on transformation rather than subjugation. Wesley practiced non-violence and afforded himself every opportunity to offer his hand of fellowship.
How does this apply to us today?
Blogging used to be a cut-throat world. In the early days of blogging, we engaged in civil wars, even finding it worthwhile to argue over what we would call those bloggers who blogged in some way about Scripture. Further, before publishers knew the value of blogging, we would seek to undercut one another for the best books. Many wouldn’t even share information on how to reach publishers. We were a harmful lot, refusing to allow anyone new in and keeping nice, unwritten rules to prevent those whom we didn’t really want in.
This was harmful. Many of us have stopped this and in the following post, I will explore some of the ways to Do Good rather than harm.
“Do no harm” as a blogging rule is also about personal relationships. Cyber-personas develop easily. This mask we are able to make is one that is dangerous because it allows us to be mean, terrible people. In real life, many of us are not like that. Online, we can we be combative, insincere, snarky, and caustic. In person, many find we are roundly different. This is harmful not only to those we use our mask to scare, but so too to ourselves because we lose many friends along the way.
Another aspect of this rule is the way bloggers go after something. There are no editorial boards I have to answer to, nor am I required to fact check my statements. I can just rattle off an opinion against someone and have it into Google which seems to me more authoritative than a CV. I have no responsibility to insure I have to think ahead nor do I worry about how my statements may come back to bite me. If we took the first rule seriously, we would act as our own editorial boards and fact checkers. We would wait until news developed before throwing stuff out on the web and we would be cautious when charging against someone. We would seek to do no harm.
However, harm is not “push back” nor is it correction or otherwise an attempt to right a wrong. There are times to be rough when confronting ignorance or false information. There are errors to stand against and arguments to dismiss. This involves weighing the harm that is to be done. Is it more harmful to allow false facts/error, etc… to continue or more harmful to step into the fight? Of course, this leads us to a Just War theory on blogging. Someone else can develop that. Just remember, non-violence is not anti-violence.