Bloggers are shaping public opinion. Evidence abounds that Web loggers have developed some muscle.

Evidence abounds that Web loggers have developed some muscle. They are credited with helping to defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman last week in Connecticut’s Democratic Party primary.

One blogger is credited with disclosing that Reuters, a wire service, used doctored images from Beirut, an embarrassment to the mainstream media.

A group of younger Southern Baptist bloggers may have tipped the scales in the election of the current Southern Baptist Convention president. They have set off a surprising and intense debate over drinking in a denomination long known for its anti-alcohol stance, causing the aging SBC establishment to snap back.

Make no mistake, bloggers have influence. How much is unclear.

What is clear, and regrettable, is that once again moderate Baptists have been slow to take advantage of technology for the sake of their religious convictions.

Review broadly the church’s use of communication technology. Moderate Baptists and mainline Protestants were slow to utilize radio. Fundamentalists rushed to radio. Moderate Baptists and mainline Protestants were tepid about TV. Fundamentalists hustled to TV. Moderate Baptists and mainline Protests were tentative about the World Wide Web. Fundamentalists dashed toward the Internet.

For all of fundamentalism’s anti-science ideology and phobia, one must give fundamentalist leaders credit for their rapid embrace of technology and entrepreneurial spirit. They believe in their call and cause. They use technology to advance their values and mission.

Moderate Baptists and mainline Protestants, on the other hand, take an Amish approach to technology without the Amish moral conviction.

Too many moderate Baptists and mainline Protestants prefer weather-beaten Interstate billboards to constituency-building Internet Web sites. We favor print media with two-week-old or older stories instead of paperless media in a 24-7 world. It is no wonder growth is minimal, influence is questionable and relevance is doubtful.

We simply must do better, much better and much better now.

A few centrist Baptists are trying, however. They’re a small tribe who apparently believe that moral opinions matter, that moderate avoidance of conflict is moral indifference, that candles shouldn’t be hidden under bushels. They are young. They are blogging. They are outnumbered 10-1 by the fundamentalist bloggers.

Here’s a list of centrist-to-progressive bloggers that we read and commend.

Bruce Prescott is the father of moderate Baptist bloggers. He updates his Web log daily. He networks broadly, albeit with a sturdy focus on separation of church and state. If you want to blog, study the way Prescott does it at Mainstream Baptist.

Brian Kaylor is the brightest young moderate Baptist blogger, bar none. He writes insightfully, even though he has a puzzling blog name: For God’s Sake Shut Up!. Kaylor heads the communication staff of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri and is working on a Ph.D. in communications at the University of Missouri.

Laura Seay offers good content mixed with personal comments. She is a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas, studying the Democratic Republic of Congo, and member of the First Baptist Church of Austin. Her blog deserves a daily visit: Texas in Africa.

Aaron Weaver, a graduate student at Baylor University, needs to write more often and has begun recently to do so. Big Daddy Weave almost single-handedly takes on the fundamentalist bloggers.

Nathan and Kristen White manage Moral Contradictions. They are students at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond.

Dr. Jim West is the blog of a Southern Baptist pastor, who writes with centrist sanity and with intellectual substance and honesty. West combines contemporary commentary with church history and biblical studies.

Michael Westmoreland-White writes at Levellers. He is a member of the Alliance of Baptists, more influenced by Mennonite and Quaker pacifism than a centrist Baptist tradition.

ABC Views from the Middle has co-writers: Dwight Stinnett, regional executive minister for the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., body of Missouri and Illinois; and Susan Gillies, executive minister for Nebraska. Regrettably, they write weekly at best.

I am beginning to click on other Baptist blogs: Gil Gulick, Rev. Gil, is a Wake Forest Divinity School student. His wife, Gay, is minister to preschool and children at First Baptist Church, Statesville, N.C.

Amy Butler, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., writes Talk with the Preacher.

Martin Tiller, a Virginian and former youth minister, is working on his teaching certificate. Once a summer intern at Baptist Center for Ethics, Tiller critiques the political and religious right at Thoughts of a Minister.

Doubtless there are more. Click on the e-mail link below to suggest your favorites.

These bloggers deserve our applause with readership, but we desperately need more centrist to progressive blogs that engage moderate Baptists in moral critique and advocacy.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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