Notes From The Balcony

Progressive Reflections on Post-Modern Living in a Multifaith Age

GBGM has bought a lemon…

Posted by John Montgomery on June 13, 2009

It was a Pontiac Grand AM – it looked just like what we envisioned. My youngest was on his way to college and he needed new means of transportation . It was in our price range and we bought it from a Used Car Company that we had done business with in the past, a company whose integrity we had no reason to question.

it didn’t take long until we found ourselves on a frustrating journey. Little things at first. Tires, a water pump, back end brakes – the costs began to add up and we found ourselves trapped – the car needed a new engine! We could buy one and pay to have it installed or we could junk the car and use whatever money we were going to spend on the engine replacement for a down payment on a different car. We replaced the engine, after all we had invested so much by that time – then three months later , it blew apart again. My son Matt spent the rest of the semester on a bike or when it was raining, hitching a ride.

Many of us are familiar with the social networking site 7 Villages and watched over the last couple of years as it turned into a toxic cesspool of extremist religious and political rhetoric. UMCom finally did not renew its support and the owners of the site limped along looking for new sponsorship and agencies willing to monitor the  conversations. I really don’t know the history, but apparently, GBGM had been looking for a social networking package that could serve to build community particularly between the board’s mission personnel and supporters. I suppose it looked like a marriage made in heaven and about a month ago 7 Villages was renamed UMCommunities.org (the website address uses a .com url). New features have been unveiled  like links to RSS feeds and a sort of webpage technology that had some real potential.

What has become clear is that even with the new features, the site is still 7 Villages in different clothes.

On the opening page, the administration claims that there are 5,200 members, 900 groups, and over 39,000 posts. Of course, most of the members have long left searching for more safe space, the villages have for the most part become ghost towns and the posts have become bad jokes.

What is left, even in its new incarnation, is more akin to the movie “Barber Shop,” where a very small group of raucous men (with occasional visits from a couple of neo-con women) sit around and verbally tussle with each other and lob insults at anyone left of center.

There are good people at GBGM who are spending lots of time, too much time in light of the coming layoffs, to try to repair the site. But it has become obvious that there is not enough critical mass left to catalyze something different. Maybe it’s a full moon out, but my observation seems to suggest that given the board’s inability (or unwillingness)  to actually monitor what is going on, the voices have become more shrill.

I love the board – between my late wife and I, we have either directly or indirectly as consultants, worked with GBGM for more than 20 years. But, the board has bought a lemon.

Does the board really want to subsidize sexism, racism, homophobia, and extremist religious rhetorical violence?

I trust not….

Then the time has come to junk the site.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “GBGM has bought a lemon…”

  1. John Meunier said

    John, I’ve not followed 7 Villages. What do you mean when you say it became a cesspool of extremist rhetoric?

    This is an honest question. I was not aware of this problem at all until I read your very interesting post.

  2. Hey John,

    Thanks for asking – I do check out your posts from time to time. Trust things are ok in Indiana – more years ago than I can count, home base for me was DePauw, down the road, although I spent a lot of time in Bloomington.

    I had deliberately avoided putting a link in my post – probably not the best idea

    try this link UMCommunities.org

    My involvement with 7V began a couple of years ago when I started a “village/group” to do some study around Mark. I didn’t take long for me to get into a debate with one of the fundamentalists about how Jesus was sinless (not in Mark) and quickly how I was a tool of Satan. I have volumes of comments where various liberal pastors have their credentials questioned, etc. Last election season, the rhetoric became particularly vicious with extremist posts about Obama and his connections with terrorists, Acorn, – you have heard them all. We have one gentleman who regularly conducts witch hunts about Borg and Crossan and lately the Living the Questions curriculum. These are regularly accompanies by denunciations of GBCS and Jim Winkler. Anyway, check it out and judge for yourself – let me know what you think!

  3. John Welch said

    I can’t bring myself to put my name down for the “new” 7 Villages. Took a quick look, saw some of the same twisted right-wingers, decided that’s close enough.

  4. John Welch said

    So when I looked at the “new” site, I found all of the “old” 7V site. They had even dragged over my login and friends.

    I found a few of the same crowd complaining that GBCS only takes up “secular” issues…

    About 50 years ago, I joined the Methodist Church. Over those 50 years, I found that I couldn’t un-join, no matter what…at least could not un-join in heart, spirit, or some deeper-than-rational approach to the world.

    Good enough for the Methodist Church, and Blest be the tie that binds / Our hearts in Christian love…

    However, this 7 Villages doesn’t seem to know when people have left, and its managers don’t seem to know why they leave.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s