Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who is this blog for?

My wife and I had an interesting conversation the other night about the nature of my public writing on this blog, and how it has been received in various social circles in which I find myself. At this transitional point in our life together as a family, I've been in a reflective mood in general, but as it relates to this blog and our conversation, it seems the right time to ask: Who is this blog for?

First, a theological preface: My goal in life is to faithfully answer the call to discipleship issued by Jesus Christ. So anything I do in my life, including writing this blog, should be first and foremost an offering to God, who is the "first who" in answer to the question.

But in line with the "double love command" of Jesus (love God, love neighbor; Mark 12), this "first who" puts me in relationship with the "second who": my neighbor. Who is my neighbor? Perhaps a better question in the digital age, on a public blog no less, is who isn't my neighbor?

This creates a challenge for a writer. Who am I writing to? Where am I writing from? Whose language am I using? Which community or tradition? Most of the traffic to this blog comes from the links I post on Facebook, which are seen by my "friends" there. Who are my friends on Facebook? These include actual friends, acquaintances, family, colleagues, intellectual peers and mentors, Christians (Anabaptists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Methodists, Episcopalians), Muslims (Sunni and Shia), atheists, capitalists and anarchists, liberals and conservatives, the list goes on.

As I said in my last post, this blog was born in my grad school experience, as a way to "think out loud" (I'm a verbal processer) about the learning that was going on. Naturally, this will put fences around my language; I hope they were/are porous fences, but they're fences nevertheless. So my speech here is fairly intellectual and academic in nature. While I have a commitment to sharing the fruits of my intellectual labor with the whole church, and I don't believe in an academy that's hermetically sealed off to itself, there is going to inevitably be a "nerdy" quality to my writing. It will be my ongoing task to make this theo-nerdery as approachable as possible, but there's only so much I can do. Readers have to do some work, too.

I'm also writing this blog as an unapologetic Christian in the Anabaptist tradition. This is a weird tradition, a vast minority in the long sweep of Christian history. I write this on the day that the book, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (Pocket Edition), helps us remember 16th century Dutch Anabaptist martyr, Dirk Willems, who was jailed for being rebaptized, holding secret church meetings, and spreading the anabaptist heresies. Willems escaped and fled across a frozen body of water, pursued by a thief-catcher, who then fell through the ice. Willems returned to his drowning pursuer and pulled him from the water. The burgomaster, standing on the banks of the river, called out to the thief-catcher, commanding him to sieze Willems. He was then burned at the stake.

I tell this little story to illustrate that Anabaptists have a history of pissing people off. There are people in my family who are in the military, and I write about Christian pacifism from this Anabaptist perspective, trying to illustrate the ways in which the church is not indebted to any earthly power for its existence, survival, or faithfulness. So I talk about the myths that this nation-state, the United States, tells its people which have the pernicious effect of convincing American Christians that the nation-state is "more real" than the church. This is, theologically speaking, dead wrong. Read the book of Jeremiah for how nationalism worked out for ancient Israel and Judah.

So put succinctly: I think this blog is for folks who are willing to hang with my nerdy, Anabaptist reflections on any number of topics. They'll always be a bit intellectual, they'll always be theologically Anabaptist. This may put some people off, but I hope for folks who are closest to me, relationally, who don't already agree with me, who wade in and read my writing from time to time, I hope we can learn from each other. Talk back at me, better, talk with me. Make comments. Send me e-mails. Let's keep trying to make sense of this crazy world and think about how to live in it well.

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