IVP - Strangely Dim - Grow Out Loud

July 29, 2008

Grow Out Loud

My momma raised me right: Always try to think of at least one nice thing to say about everything. Here's what I have to say about Internet spam that's nice: every once in a while it gives me something interesting to do. For example, when I'm a lazy blogger and neglect to disable comments from archived blog posts, some well-intentioned spammer posts a comment, and I get a reminder that I need to close the loop on that post. If not for these blanket invitations to try new non-prescription medications or to gamble online, I might never look back on the things I'd once written.

It strikes me lately that if, in an Internet era, everything thought is stated, and everything stated archived, then either everything we think carries the weight of permanence or else we need to rethink the weight we give public statements. For example, a year or so from now some spammer will remind me that I once upon a time typed the previous sentence, and I will wonder what in the world I was thinking.

So I'm lately an advocate of the idea that anything given the permanence of archived data or the printed page should also be given the grace of tentativity. The wild-eyed thoughts posted online by your church's youth pastor, or even the radical thesis of the latest book-du-jour, ought no longer be considered a permanent reflection of their views. We should instead allow people to grow out loud--not to perpetually recant what they've previously stated with great conviction but to speculate thoughtfully and revise freely.

Actually, I think the act of revisiting our one-time convictions reinforces this notion that what we think--and by extension, what we speak or type or otherwise archive--is at best an educated guess, and we should be prepared to one day chuckle at ourselves over it. Thanks, spammers, for reminding us that we are finite works in progress.

Ironically enough, the post I've most recently been reminded of is titled "The Church with Nothing to Say," dating back to March 2005. In it I reflect on a church billboard with nothing on it, and I make a brazen plea for my readers to post effusive comments on the Amazon book page for my first book, Comic Book Character. Which reminds me: Deliver Us from Me-Ville is available from a fine bookseller near you. If you're so inclined, feel free to offer your own speculative thoughts about it on your blog or some other public venue. You won't regret it! (At least not for a while . . .)

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at July 29, 2008 8:34 AM Bookmark and Share


It's fascinating for me to think of this not always being the assumption. Having had the Internet since age twelve and having had a website or blog of some sort for a large chunk of the last ten years, I know things I have written no longer reflect my views (or even more often, my emotions), and it's never really occurred to me that pre-Internet people would see things otherwise/that that would be the life factor that develops such a perspective.

I would say my normal reading of print material, as well, includes seeking information about how an author's views have changed over time. And off the page, it's the same thing. Why would it ever matter to me that Barack Obama used drugs in the past or was bitter toward white people at any stage of his life? There's a journey that can't be captured in a snapshot-- we've all got a story, whether we're famous politicians or just ordinary radicals. Why shouldn't we allow everyone to be human, to grow, to change?

While I am not recommending you leave a complete trail of all your missteps on Facebook for employers to find, I'm in strong favor of giving each other enough grace to change our minds and behavior-- a lot.

Comment by: Ashleigh at July 30, 2008 8:09 AM

I get it, Ashleigh. I'm old. Thank you for pointing that out to everyone.

You make the case well, but particularly in the realm of ideas or the annals of power, the impulse to allow people to grow and change hasn't completely overtaken the impulse to scrutinize and lambaste people for the things they've said or even misstated. Barack Obama got a pass on the drug use but not on his associations with outspoken pastors, and depending on what radio station you listen to, you'll hear Obama say "fifty-seven states" over and over again, or you'll hear John McCain tell the world he doesn't really get the economy. And depending on what conference you attend, you'll see people decried as heretics or mocked as modern-day pharisees. Now, heresy and pharisees alike demand some pushback, but I do hope all you kids out there will hold fast to this idea of giving each other grace to change. I also hope you'll get off my lawn and turn that noise down, but I digress.

Comment by: Dave at July 31, 2008 6:38 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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