Thursday, July 17, 2014

Adding to the Noise

On the album The Beautiful Letdown, Switchfoot included the song, "Adding to the Noise."  This song has one of the greatest refrain ever.  "If we're adding to the noise, turn off this song."  The song discusses the noise that surrounds us, the materialism that blinds us, the consumerism that seduces us, and the media that anesthetizes us.

What is noise?  The dictionary defines it as "a series or combination of loud, confused sounds."  It is sound that has no utility or identity.  We hear sounds and identify their meaning or usage.  Sounds that lack identification or become so mixed that they become confuse no longer communicate, but mask or hide.  Noise often functions to shut out thought.  Think of those "white noise" generators that help people sleep.  In his book, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis talks about the dangers of music and silence to the forces of evil and the demonic utility of noise. (The Screwtape Letters #22)  "Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires."  Noise blocks the demonic realm from the life-giving contemplation of the conscience.

We live in a noisy society.  The noise does not remain in the realms of auditory stimulation, but comes in the assault of information that has become the norm for our lives.  Information buffets our minds.  Your phone, television, internet, and radio all assault you with information important and irrelevant.  The irrelevant buries the important under the flood of the banal.  This new technological reality requires of us discernment in the information we permit ourselves to consume.  We are called to be guardians of our time and attention.  "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Phil. 4:8)  God calls us to put His information first.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deut 6:6-9)
Unfortunately, even in the realm of spiritual information, we find noise.  The so-called blogosphere has become the repository of theological "discussion," and I use "discussion" ironically.  In reality, much of the "discussion" of theology found in blogs devolves into noise.  Dr. X disagrees with Rev. Y and Professor Z chimes in upsetting RE V (Ruling Elder V).

Many think the motto of the my denomination is "everything has been said but not everyone has said everything."  This means that we give each other virtually unlimited latitude in floor debates at our regional and national meetings.  It is not noise, but honest debate.  While I appreciate the love that we show in allowing everyone to speak and be heard in Presbytery and GA, this principle does not work in the noise that appears in the cacophony that pervades the "discussions" on the internet.

I'm not challenging these men's desire or passion for the church, God's people, or the lost.  I think many of them earnestly desire to protect, warn, and edify believers.  They may have the best of intentions, but those motives do not prevent them from adding to the noise.

The world needs less noise and more communication.  The church needs less blog wars and more collaboration.  Many times, I think that collaboration between people who disagree would produce better fruit, even if at the end they disagree.  Before Dr. X blogs against Rev. Y, he should try to collaborate in a joint document that will show thoughtful interaction between X and Y.  This would seem to end the plethora of "straw men" arguments and talking past one another that so often add to the noise.  Collaboration would lead to sound theology and less noise.

Now, this may seem rather hypocritical for a blogger to write critically about blogging.  I recognize this objection.  I am simply saying (like Switchfoot), if I'm adding to the noise, stop reading.  If this writing clutters your life and takes you away from clarity, so something else  In saying this, I commend this as your approach to every blog, not just this one.  If someone is adding to the noise and not critically engaging with the world to the glory of God, cut it off.

This is why I don't set myself a rigid blog production schedule.  It definitely is not good blogging methodology.  Conventional wisdom suggests that bloggers attempting to build an audience must regularly produce content.  This pressure to build an internet audience and keep it, the necessity of churning out content almost inevitably produces noise.  My infrequent posts will not build an audience.  That doesn't matter.  I refuse to add willfully to the noise.  If I have something important to say, I will speak.  If not, I will remain silent.  

I'm a blogger.  I will continue to write this blog.  I do not intend to abandon communicating and edifying all who read it.  I intend to write what is needful.  You are called to discern whether it is.  Does it edify?  Does it enlighten? Or does it add to the noise?  If I'm adding to the noise, turn off this blog.

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