N.T. Wright, in his book Justification, states (parenthetically) that “it is really high time we developed a Christian ethic of blogging.” Who wouldn’t agree? But reality thwarts this notion. Even if one could create an ethical code for social media it would be naive to think that such an ethic could have any more practical influence than the League of Nations did following World War I. It simply won’t happen, not on this side of heaven.
Mark Twain once noted “whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” This is -in relation to blogging, at least- is how I’ve spent the last few months. I’ve had this blog for nearly five years. I’ve seen influxes and declines in readership along with influxes and declines in my integrity of opinion, creative quality and good conscience. Twain’s wisdom rings a convicting note in my mind. I am, after all, a white, twenty-somethings, male who just graduated from an evangelical seminary. I’m also passionately opinionated. God help us. Few people are at a higher risk of assuming too much while actually knowing too little; it’d be wise for me to avoid megaphones.
And yet, Dante: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” ISIS. #Blacklivesmatter. Torture Report. Syrian Refugee Crisis. Abortion. Dr. Hawkins and Wheaton College… the list goes on. Is the right answer, the Christian answer, to the great moral questions of our time to abstain from conversation? Is silence ever truly an option? I can’t imagine that it is. But I also don’t know that I should be the one to say something. There are plenty of Aarons in the world, and Moses was considerably older, and wiser, than me.
But over the past couple of months I’ve had gentle encouragement from sporadic and unexpected sources. Friends and peers, even the occasional mentor, have prodded me with the question: when will you start blogging again? I want to answer with a question of my own: “how could I ever do that without succumbing to my tendency for vitriolic polarization?” But it’d be an unfair question. To them, that is.
I don’t do a good job of praying. I talk endlessly-not always verbally- and think on occasion. When I pray in private, they are streams of consciousness vomited into Christ’s appeals on my behalf. It is not that I don’t believe that God hears these. But if my wife spoke only French then I would learn to speak French and to speak it well, all the while knowing that her love for me did not hang on the condition that I do so. So it ought to be with prayer.
As of late, the memoir and writings of theologian Stanley Hauerwas have been helpful in my understanding of prayer. Hauerwas introduced me to a new paradigm through which to view the world: there is a human tendency to orient prayers around life. It should be the other way around. What is prayer in a world with ISIS? This, Hauerwas asserts, is the wrong question. What we should be asking is: where is ISIS in the content of my prayers?
Prayers are not devoid of opinions. But prayers are opinions directed to and humbled before God. Thus one conclusion on my future in the blogosphere is as follows: if I must give an opinion, when my conscience would bid me to blog: let it be a prayer. (Of course, this requires a kind of self-control that I am not entirely sure I posses; but diets begin with a desire to lose weight, not having already lost it.) This is my aim, however pertinent or trite such an ambition might seem.
Also over the last couple of months, I have become convinced that all theology must be developed “within earshot of the dying cry of Jesus” as stated by the German theologian Jürgen Moltmann. I’ve spent the last several months trying to contemplate what that means, what it looks like. My conclusion is the Psalms.
Until recently- the past couple years or so- Psalms were unappealing to me. They do not compare with Victorian poetry in their prose or quality (at first glance, that is) and they have the emotional consistency of a teenager’s diary (mine, at least). But what else is life, if not a roller-coaster of emotions? Then why is it so difficult for Christians to live, preach, dwell, study, practice and embellish the Psalms? Is it because we do not see the relevance? Or is it because the Psalms are a bit too real: “the Lord is gracious and compassionate!” (Psalm 145:8); “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).
I’ve quoted him previously but the words of Evan S. Connell are as applicable here as anywhere:
The Eskimo has twenty words
to express the condition of snow.
The Tokelau Islander
has nine words for the ripeness of coconut.
I have not one word
to express my longing.
If there is a way to articulate man’s ongoing, eschatological pursuit of God, I’ve not found it. This is frustrating. And I often bemoan, like Job, the endless silence that holds my questions for God about God. Silence also answers Christ on the Cross. And yet, when met with silence, Christ dwelt in the 22nd Psalm. If the dying Christ can find refuge- or at least solidarity- in the Psalms, then I must also understand that though I may not have one word to express my longing, I have been given 150 Psalms. I admit that I often view them as trite but impractical. But they are a gift I desire to no longer take for granted. And if I must speak- if I must blog- it seems an implicit requirement would be that I make my home in the Psalms, and venture forth from there.
Thirdly, I wish to continue living the words of Albert Einstein: “I have no special talents, I am just passionately curious.” (All this easily becomes my own little facade of humility.) And then there’s the poet Rainer Rilke, in his letter to a younger novice of the same trade:
“I would like to beg of you, dear friend, to have patience toward everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves…do not look now for the answers…it is a question of experiencing everything. At preset you need to live the question.”
So maybe it’s not an ethic of blogging that I’m really after. I have to conclude that really it’s just a standard, a framework, a set of rules with a resolution to cease from deviation. Prayers, Psalms, and-let’s call them- expanded curiosities…I seem to recall that there was something else I intended to add to that list. But I can’t quite remem- ah, that’s right: GIFs. A good blog needs GIFs. Any blog of my keeping, at least.
Thanks for reading. It’s good to be back.
Blogs. Such a ridiculous means of communication. I pray that one day I might live long enough to take a grandchild on my knee and talk about the days when I used to blog, just to hear them ask me if I have a load of phlegm stuck in my throat. And yet, dear God, you take the ridiculous things, the silly things, the common, trite, and even the pretentious things and you use them for your glory. Such strange grace.
So if we must blog- if I must blog- dear Father, I do so with the prayer that the words I write, the roads I travel, the things I love and the life I live, may it all lead, ever and only, to you.