Friday, July 05, 2013

New Series: "Taking Sides on Gossip"

Beginning next week, we're going to start a new blog series, reporting and analyzing what various people have said over the years about the subject of gossip.

We're going to call it "Taking Sides on Gossip." I'll be posting what I found (and evaluated) for my doctoral research into the problem of gossip (complete with the exciting footnotes!) in a chapter mellifluously titled "Historical Precedents and Current Cultural Conditions."

[*I'll tag all of these short articles (lightly edited from the original chapter) "Taking Sides on Gossip" as well as "D.Min Fragments" for those who like to track that sort of thing.]

And here's the introduction:

As an intrinsically valuable activity, gossip satisfies the basic need to acquire information about the personal and intimate aspects of other people’s lives.
                                                        – Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, “The Vindication of Gossip”
Taking Sides

Not all people agree on whether gossip is good or bad. In five major steps, we will survey and review diverse opinions and teaching on gossip from far-ranging and sharply contradictory voices through both history and current culture.

We will begin with gossip’s proponents: evolutionary scientists, philosophers and ethicists, and literary scholars. These people believe that gossip is good and serves useful purposes in human society. Some will even argue that gossip is essential to life.

Secondly, we will examine current cultural conditions that both exacerbate and exploit the problem of gossip. This will include developments in technology, the rise of social media, and the profitability of publishing gossip for show-business and entertainment.

In the middle, we will hear from ambiguous and ambivalent voices–those that talk about gossip as a good thing (perhaps with their tongues positioned firmly in their cheeks) yet also recognize its destructive potential. Their opinions are more difficult to classify.

In the fourth step, we will hear the chorus of voices raised against gossip: business people, educators, social workers, parenting experts, etc. Many are opposed to gossip for utilitarian reasons, others from religious ones, especially in Judaism.

Finally, we will survey the contributions of distinctly Christian voices. The fifth section will review helpful articles and gleanings from short resources produced by Christ-followers and then end with a review and critique of a number of Christian books on gossip currently in print.

In this chapter, we will continue to contend with the problem of definition. It is not always clear if enemies and friends of gossip are talking about the same thing. At each step, we will attempt to clarify the definition being used by the authors in question and compare it with the biblical/functional definition we arrived at in the previous chapter. This will yield a few surprises along the way.


Tune in on Monday, then, for the first "proponents" of gossip: "Evolutionary Scientists and Gossip."

Pre-order Resisting Gossip on Amazon today.