The Highway & The Sidewalk

The Highway & The Sidewalk

Sometime back Douglas Wilson gave an analogy that made some serious sense to me. Someone asked him why so many of his blog posts were so abrasive. Wilson responded saying something along these lines, "I don't drive on the highway the same way I walk on the sidewalk." The person asking the question was clearly confused so Wilson went on to explain what he meant.

Wilson explained that writing a blog post about a hot-button issue (sexuality, abortion, politics) for thousands of people to read is akin to driving on the highway whereas talking (face to face) with someone about the same issue is like walking on the sidewalk. In other words, Wilson sees that the medium plays a big role in how one approaches a topic.

I agree with this approach and I think it would serve us all well if we could come to understand this a little more closely. The pastor who gets up to the pulpit on a Sunday morning to preach Psalm 42 (Why are you downcast O my soul?!) will communicate very differently to the 200 or 300 hundred people in the congregation than he would to the individual congregant that he is counseling through depression the following morning.

This does not mean that the pastor is two-faced and is taking back his large sweeping statements against spiritual depression that he made from the pulpit the day before. No, rather, he is taking a more precise approach. I believe the same could be said for people (like Wilson) who write about controversial issues. Wilson says that he approaches issues like homosexuality, abortion, etc. in a very pastoral way when he is dealing with individuals in his congregation or community. Does this mean that he is being two-faced or doesn't really mean what he wrote about in his last blog decrying the cultural work toward same-sex "mirage"?


Rather, in one instance Wilson is seeking to dismantle a bulwark of cultural propaganda (blog post), in another instance, Wilson is seeking to guide a soul from darkness into light. The approaches are very different because the actions are very different. Too often when someone disagrees with what someone is writing they tend to boil things down to silly arguments about the writers moral standing. Developing an enlarged understanding of how differing mediums and purposes will affect one's form of communication could do much to quell the tumultuous world of social media and blogging. Especially among Christians.

Food for thought.


Michael lives with his wife (Caroline) and dog (Beau) in Athens, GA where he teaches history and economics to high schoolers. Michael enjoys reading, watching soccer, drinking bourbon, and taking walks with his wife and dog.