Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Friday is for Friends

posted by xscot mcknight

There was a day when maintaining friendships meant typing a letter, sealing it in an envelope, stamping it, and dropping it in the mail. It took some time, and such “snail mail” has become a lost art for most of us. Why?
E-mail. I wonder how technology has affected your friendships? Any changes? Do you have e-mail friends? I sure do. (Sure, weigh in if you think this e-mail business is a bad thing.)
Joseph Epstein’s next chp in Friendship: An Expose deals with “techno-friendships,” about which many of us already know. Epstein canvasses phone friends, mentioning the value of caller ID (I agree) and voice mail (I agree), and then he speaks of e-mail friendships.
Well, it would be foolish of me to go any further in summing up what he says: this blog has generated friendships for me. Some I have met (I began mentioning some names, but there are too many), most I have not. I have renewed friendships with old students (like Bob Robinson and Ken White and David Reeves and I’m just beginning), and have formed new “students” (at least that’s what some of you say to me). I’ve met colleagues at other schools — and again I can’t start mentioning names.
Kris and I now meet readers wherever we go — in Rochester a couple of folks came up from Iowa and it was delightful for me to meet them. Ben and Lisa Pennington at the bookstore … I could go on. In Grand Rapids numerous folks said they were reading the blog — some only lurking. It was very nice to see Ted Gossard again.
There is a kindred spirit between us when we read and converse with one another, even if only electronically. It kind of staggers me at times to hear so many say they read this blog every day, but it has been as much joy for me (and Kris) as it has for you, of that I’m quite sure.

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Ted Gossard

posted September 29, 2006 at 5:25 am

I say, Amen, to what you say here, Scot- and thanks. It is nice to see the person face to face, but writing certainly has a high value (2 John)
And it was great to meet Bob (Robinson) on the video on his blog the other day, with his family.
For me the fellowship is a big part of blogging. As we share with others, what is in our heads- and hearts at times.

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Ted Gossard

posted September 29, 2006 at 5:28 am

Of course, I would like to add something: what’s in our heads normally should be in our hearts, and oftentimes is, as is evident on “Jesus Creed”. Though some of that head stuff may be more theoretical and is good to get out in the open to test- and work at refining our thoughts and theology.

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Nick Mackison

posted September 29, 2006 at 6:20 am

The Jesus Creed has had a profound impact on the way I view ‘spirituality’. I check this blog every day and regularly have my sensibilities and presuppositions challenged. Thanks for making yourself available in this way.

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posted September 29, 2006 at 6:44 am

For sure e-mail is a big thing, especially with friends who are in other countries.
As for blog friends, how about a feature some Friday where people write about how they have come to your blog?

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posted September 29, 2006 at 7:08 am

Jesus Creed is definitely an educational forum for me…but in an open, non-threatening venue. The thing lacking is the facial expression and intonation that push communication to the next level.
Thank you for being a ‘teacher’ to so many of us! I can only imagine how it would be in an actual classroom.

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posted September 29, 2006 at 7:10 am

As one who communicates substantially through e-mail, with colleagues and friends around the country and around the world, I find e-mail invaluable. It is an effective means of communication. The blog conversation is also very useful and fills a void. On the other hand electronic communication (both e-mail and blogging) maintains a distance that is kind of disconcerting, and a bit impersonal. There may be a kindred spirit – but there is little commitment.

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L.L. Barkat

posted September 29, 2006 at 7:37 am

I love the “friendships” I’ve created on-line… even across the globe… but, I also have to remember to balance my life with the ones I can see and hold and take a meal with. Was thinking last night that it’s odd to be daydreaming (night dreaming?) about the joys and problems of people all over the place, when I have a whole set of joys and problems right here in my lap.

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posted September 29, 2006 at 7:59 am

It’s so good to see an affirmation that real friendship is recognized online. It seems like so many people (maybe Christians more than others? not sure) are afraid of online friendship.
Personally, my most soul-forming friendship, outside of my marriage, is a friend I met online. Granted, it’s much more of a telephone friendship now (with semi-regular face to face visits), but we had a good long period of time where our interactions were primarily online and those were deeply intimate and significant. I think a lot more can be done in creating soul-forming friendships online than most people realize.

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Ken White

posted September 29, 2006 at 9:07 am

I agree that email has led to the death of “snail” mail. It is a death I grieve. Because it was the main medium of exchange you had a good chance that someone else would reciprocate. Email is shorter, more immediate, but less thoughtful and feels less personal, somehow. I’ve only had one person IM me, a dear friend now, but I’d never accept it from another. I agree with RJS that email is a valuable means of exchange. But, oh for the day when you would go to the mailbox, see a handprinted address with a real stamp, and feel the heft of an envelope with anywhere from 1-5 pages of personal communication written on heavy paper with a nice pen. You could linger under the light of a wingback chair and feel the other person with you.
Thanks, though, Scot, for this blog and your emails–I appreciate them!

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posted September 29, 2006 at 9:45 am

As any Civil War reader knows, the letters written by uneducated foot soldiers were stunning. I am still amazed by how well they described their surroundings and, especially, their emotions.
I am most grateful for the way you’ve challenged me since I discovered your site a few months ago. “Praying With the Church” has literally changed my life.
I’ve experienced some very painful losses in the past decade and one of the results has been chronic insomnia. Until recently, I rarely got more than two or three hours of sleep a night, and paid the price for it throughout the day.
Remarkably, I began sleeping through the night recently and I realized that it happened about the same time I began regularly praying “The Divine Hours.” I usually pray three or four times a day with the church, and never skip the compline prayer.
A thousand thanks….my friend!

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posted September 29, 2006 at 10:09 am

Ken neglected to specify that the letter would be written with a high quality fountain pen – probably a Pelikan Piazza Navona — with an excellent flexible nib and as light as a feather. (Personally I go with the low class Pilot Easy Touch retractable ball point). But the wingback chair – thats what I need.

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Scot McKnight

posted September 29, 2006 at 10:25 am

That Piazza Navona is sitting next to the PowerBook — wondering when I might find its tasteful lines more to my liking!

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posted September 29, 2006 at 10:28 am

I agree that there really is something special about getting a hand written letter on real paper. It’s a treat and a delight. But, if you’re trying to form long-distance friendship, email wins hands down. Snail mail letters just take too long. Since last weekend I’ve exchanged a number of significant and lengthy emails on a very personal subject with a friend half-way around the world. It would have taken at least that long for just one letter to pass between us with regular mail – assuming we would have ever even met. We would have made virtually no movement on an issue that we’ve been able to cover fairly in depth in a short amount of time.
I did have a Christian leader tell me just a few months ago that any intimacy over email is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. I just dont see it that way.

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Dan Brennan

posted September 29, 2006 at 10:48 am

Hi Scot,
Is not New Testament itself, God communicating Hinself to us through the written word? Do we not enter into a personal relationship, intimacy with the Lord through His written word? Why does it have to be drastically different through email exchanges between mere humans?
Physical proximity is not the sole criterion or sufficient criterion for emotional and relational proximity, closeness, or friendship intimacy.
Is the community of the Trinity “close” in relationship? Yet, God is Spirit. I think the relationship between the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit both before creation and post-creation, I think give clues that email friendships are not as “impersonal” as one might think.

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Jen O

posted September 29, 2006 at 11:22 am

I have had friendships for years that began and for the most part continue through email. Most all of them developed in email lists formed around common interests, and so developed within community. Several of my closest and most spiritually challenging and edifying friendships developed this way. Besides individual friendships, I have been part of a group that has been together for something like 8 years now. I’ve met 5 members of that group face to face at least once, as well as well over 10 other “online” friends.
These are friends who live from Washington and California to Maine. They don’t replace face-to-face friendships or my need for them, but neither do face-to-face friendships replace *them.* Many of these friends have walked with me through some of the most difficult times in my life, and vice versa. And one of the greatest benefits has been that when I have changed jobs or moved halfway across the country, these are the relationships that don’t change. They’re consistently *there*, exactly where they were before the move. It’s wonderful to have community that moves with you without moving at all!
I have never been very good at writing “snail mail,” though I think it *is* special (and has only become more so in this day of e-mail. I’ve always loved this quote on writing letters from A. R. Gurney’s play “Love Letters”: “This letter which I’m writing with my own hand, with my own pen, in my own penmanship, comes from me and no one else, and is a present of myself to you…you can tear me up and throw me out, or keep me, and read me today, tomorrow, any time you want until you die.” Email just doesn’t do that). But email has given me a wonderful way to develop new friendships and maintain old ones.

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Scot McKnight

posted September 29, 2006 at 11:37 am

I just finished an essay on the authority of Scripture as God’s communicative event through words. You readin’ over my shoulder?

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Dan Brennan

posted September 29, 2006 at 11:43 am

No, Scot, just thinking ahead of you. ;-)

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danae mesa

posted September 29, 2006 at 12:13 pm

it’s all good.

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Jim Watters

posted September 29, 2006 at 12:27 pm

I too love the relationships that have grown out of my having email as a connection point. I met you through email Scot – we probably never would have connected at all if it had not been for this marvelous device.
I enjoyed all that you shared in Grand Rapids this week – I wish I could have stayed behind to say hello. Blessings – Jim

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Wayne Leman

posted September 29, 2006 at 1:49 pm

I find it much easier to email than to write a letter and I’m old enough to have been trained well in how to write letters. I like the immediacy of email. And, yes, I really appreciate the fact that email helps me maintain longtime frienships. Sometimes just a sentence or two by email, or a word or two with a forward of some humor that I know we enjoy in common is all it takes to help maintain the relationship. I find it easier to email than telephone. Email allows one to pick up the message on their own time and to respond on their own time.
And, yes, Scot, my wife and I find that we have new friends around the world due to my email and blog efforts to promote learning more about Bible translation work.
New technology can become our master or it can serve us. It all depends on how we use it. Nice topic. It’s a nice breather from some of the heavier topics!

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posted September 29, 2006 at 5:35 pm

Great food for thought.
Greetings from Montreal, Canada…my name is Wren.
I have a discussion forum here…
Forum rules are straightforward and brief.
Please know that you are very welcome to register and participate anytime.

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posted September 29, 2006 at 6:21 pm

My mother in law had 2 pen pals she started correspondence with, in the 40’s. They regularly exchanged letters, hearing of marriage and babies and growing families and kids going away and illnesses and spouses dying. But they never met f2f. But a bond formed. I have that as one example. Whatever form, I think it helps to see there’s a person on the other end. Not sure we can say they’re a “real live” person were there to be f2f meeting, or a more “real live” person. Just differences and nuances. I think it helps to keep in mind there’s a person on the other end.
I know I’m not the first to think of it, but what folks must have fussed about when snail mail came to be, then the phone – in thinking it less personal than visiting with someone. We all grew up with the phone and snail mail and instinctively know how to handle them. I think email and IM’ing is this generation’s version of snail mail and the phone. Though, it’s a lot harder over the computer to call and ask if Prince Albert is in a can or if the refrigerator is running ! (-:

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posted September 29, 2006 at 6:28 pm

Hi Scot, Wayne and Folks: Wayne you mentioned the ease of drop line e-mailing, and have to agree with you there, it’s nice to have the time factor of phones, or interviews, not be a factor in what you write about. We use a term asynchronous and I think that it means that time isn’t a factor, function and message, are. Now- not wanting to pour cold water on the subject, but; how far down the technological highway do we go before we realize that we’re into something which looks far different than it actually is? For those who don’t know how powerful this new kind of thinking is- have a conversation with Alice – bearing in mind, there is no human on the other end of what you type into the chat mode: click

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posted September 29, 2006 at 6:36 pm

I too have enjoyed your site daily, and thank you..
I miss the art of writing letter, but alas with the lowly and plebian BIC stick pen, you know the one they could shoot out of a gun. I never hang on to a pen, expensive or otherwise, long enough to make the investment worthwhile. Writing a letter is different then email, email for some reason is more careless, while the letter seems to require more care and grace. I remember a letter relationship I had with a friend. We would write early in the week to describe what had occured in our ministries. Well that is now no more.

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posted September 29, 2006 at 8:14 pm

I count myself among those who consider themselves your students. I learn so much from this blog and love the atmosphere the way folks express varying ideas and views in a reasonably gracious fashion. Frankly, until I found this blog, I didn’t think this type of discussion was possible. Even though I don’t often comment, I read this blog almost every day, and I am learning so much from everyone. Coming from an evangelical background, I have really appreciated that discussion between RCs and Protestants. This has been an education in itself for me. Thank you for opening my eyes to so much of church history.
As far as receiving snail mail letters, I think most of my generation loves to get handwritten letters just because of the memories of having gotten them from special relatives and friends when we were young in the Fifties & Sixties. BUT, I have some very close friendships that I’ve made and kept up online. Between email and instant messaging, I can talk to friends in real time all over the world. It’s absolutely amazing. I really think technology has broadened options for friendships. Certainly, the internet can isolate you in one sense, in another, it opens opportunities for friendships around the world. How great is that?
In the end, I still prefer face-to-face communication, but with most folks being so busy, it’s really nice to be able to keep up online between actual visits. It’s easier than the phone and you can choose your time to communicate.
Scot, I hope I get to meet you when you come Irving Bible Church next month.

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