It is the CNMAC 2013 today (the UK Christian New Media Awards and Conference), which highlights some of the best Christian blogs, websites and tweeters in the UK. I am honoured to say that I have been shortlisted for Best Blogger, (and I am not ashamed to admit that I did a little happy dance when I found out.)
I may be biased, but I think blog awards and lists like this are good. Each year, when these awards come out, there is a minor scuffle on Twitter as various people debate whether it is a good thing to have Christian blog awards.
There are many good reasons not to have award ceremonies for ‘best blogs’:
- ‘Best’ is subjective. There are five judges for the awards, and it is their choice that determines the winners for the year. It is ‘best’ according to those five judges, not necessarily popular vote, and it is always going to be somewhat subjective. Blogging is something of an art and something of a ministry – and how can we judge art, or ministry? These are tricky issues, and so the word ‘best’ should be held lightly, recognising that it can never be an objective measure.
- Awards sound anti-Christian. There is an excellent blog post by the wonderful tweeter, God Loves Women, on how making these kinds of ‘best blog’ lists is anti-Christian, because the gospel is inclusive, not exclusive, and how by making awards we are inevitably excluding people who are equally worthy of praise.
- Awards can exacerbate the often-unhealthy Christian ‘celebrity culture’. Recently, tweeter Helen_a13 was bringing attention to the danger of awards and celebrity culture. Are we in danger of mimicking Hollywood, making idols out of ‘famous Christians’ instead of recognising the body as a whole?
- Awards can reinforce unhelpful prejudices. I often read the lists of ‘most popular Christian blogs’ or ‘best Christian blogs’, and despair that there are so few women recognised on the lists, when I know so many outstanding women writers and theologians who blog. Male, white, protestant Church leaders are often over-represented (particularly in American lists), which means that the famous get more famous, and the unknown get more unknown, regardless of quality. Popularity doesn’t always equate to quality.
- Awards can be painful for those who are excluded from them. There is nothing worse than looking down a list and wondering why your name is not on it, and why you are being left out. It is horrible. Suddenly you are a teenager all over again, wondering why you are the last to be picked for a sports team, or wondering why you’re the only girl who hasn’t been asked to dance, and silently listing all your faults as possible reasons for your isolation (…maybe that’s just me!)
I totally understand all these reasons why blog awards and lists of this sort are unhelpful or unhealthy, and there are many times when I struggle with the existence of these kinds of awards, for these reasons. We need to have these discussions, and it is good and healthy that they crop up each year.
However, I still think that, overall, it is a good thing to have blog awards – because I think it is a good thing to thank and celebrate people, particularly those who are often overlooked. My ever-so-tentative biblical reasoning would be that Paul took time in his letters to single out and thank individuals in the churches he had worked with – Phoebe, Priscilla, Mark, Epenetus, Apelles – and he gives them accolades: Junia was outstanding among the apostles, for example.
Now, I’m willing to bet that when that letter was first read out, there were a few people in those churches who were a bit miffed. Perhaps they weren’t mentioned, or perhaps they thought that they had been outstanding among the apostles, and really, if you put it to a public vote, you’d find that Junia was fairly mediocre among the apostles, and it wasn’t fair that she was going to be immortalised in the words of scripture. I reckon this happened because although Paul was an awesome Christian, he was also a sinner, and we sinners forget things, and often neglect to thank people whom we should.
But the risk of leaving people out does not negate the benefits of taking the time to thank people and encourage them in their ministry.
Sometimes I wonder if our response is somewhat British – we so fear offending people who we’d rather not have the awards at all. (I know that when I published my list of favourite bloggers I was terrified that I would have forgotten someone I loved, and they would be completely offended). It is a more American response to be a cheerleader anyway, and to try to cheer as many people as possible. In this respect at least, I want to be American. I want to cheer people on. It is good to rejoice with those who rejoice.
I am shortlisted for the Best Blogger award, and if I win, I will be SO excited, and my face will look like this:
But I know that the other people in my category are good too, (I particularly know God and Politics and iBenedictines well, whose blogs I hugely respect). So if someone else wins, I am hopeful that my face will look like this:
I mean, sure – there may be a part of me inside that wishes it were me, and that secretly looks like this:
But really, I would like to be the one who cheers. My preference would be to not just have one UK awards ceremony, as there is now, but several awards ceremonies by different bodies, representing many areas of ministry, highlighting blogs that will help various groups of people. But in the absence of many awards, I would rather have some awards than no awards. This is why I have guest posts on my blog, and retweet other people’s blog posts, and review other people’s books, and do Twitter #followFriday – because it’s good to cheer people on, and recognise and celebrate their ministry. Full Stop.
I can’t be at the awards ceremony in person, as I am housebound, though I would love to attend. Perhaps I will wear a nice dress at home, in its honour. Tonight I will be celebrating – and most likely for other people, rather than me. But I will be doing it with gusto.
Over to you:
- What do you think about Christian ‘awards’? What are the pros and cons?