Hello Again

So it’s been a while.

I started this blog way back in 2011, primarily because I was starting graduate school, and I wanted to chronicle my exploration of what I was learning and how that affected my beliefs. Somehow, I managed to get up and write several mornings every week – posts that summarized class lectures or textbooks, others that provided more political musings and eventually a few big series that explored topics separate from my education but to which my studies had pointed me.

By happy coincidence, our three children were either too young for school or being homeschooled, so I could write all the way until I had to go to work without much interruption – no lunches to make, hair to brush, teeth to double-check, screaming matches to referee. But as the kids got older, they needed more help in the mornings, and so it became harder and harder to keep this up. I could feel it drifting away, and although I don’t recall a specific decision to stop publishing, essentially that’s the choice I made.

I wish I’d kept it up.

A lot has happened since 2013, when I last posted regularly – most of it in 2015 and 2016, when I took a new job and moved several hundred miles away, and graduated with my M.A. in modern and American Christianity.

When I was last blogging actively, I hesitated to provide too many details about myself because I worked where I went to school, and I wasn’t sure how my employers would react to my ruminations. That was probably an excess of caution, but I worked in the fundraising arm of the university while openly questioning things like the virgin birth. If the wrong donor found the wrong post, it’s not hard to see how that could get awkward.

But that’s not really a concern anymore. So I don’t mind saying now that I earned that degree from Abilene Christian University, a fairly small liberal-arts school in West Texas affiliated with a cappella Churches of Christ.

We moved from Abilene to the Central Texas Hill Country in 2015, and I graduated a year later. Around the same time, we started attending our local Episcopal Church, which we love. How we joined the long line of former evangelicals to become Episcopalians is probably worth its own post.

Not only do I wish I’d kept blogging to better keep track of my thoughts as I wrapped up my degree, which included some work I’m really proud of regarding mid-century Churches of Christ and their responses to evolution and the civil rights movement, but I wrote a lot of words on Facebook about the 2016 election whose reach was necessarily limited to my friends. I’ll try to fill in the gaps with some flashback posts.

Finally, I wish I’d kept it up because, let’s be honest, this thing was doing pretty well. I’d had some success with Rachel Held Evans and Andrew Sullivan linking to the blog, with Fred Clark throwing some bones. Traffic seemed to be pretty steady, and there was some fairly consistent commentary back and forth from regular visitors. When you stop maintaining a site for five whole years, that pretty much all goes away. It’s probably not born from the highest and purest motives, but I hate the idea of starting from scratch.

But here I am, looking at starting over anyway. Why?

Because I need to write. And while I’ve had some papers published and continue to work on academic publishing and freelance writing, blogging allows almost infinite flexibility in what I choose to say and how I choose to say it.

In this blog’s very first post, somehow written almost seven years ago, I said:

Join me, won’t you? For perhaps the first time in my life, I can’t promise any answers, but I hope we can have some stimulating discussion and share in some amazing revelations as God reveals more and more about his nature to this student.

Let’s become disoriented together and see how God reorients our lives.

A new job, a master’s degree and hundreds of blog posts later, it’s more of a struggle to embrace the humility of that initial post. My brain has always tended toward figuring out and then disseminating the answers. It’s the old journalism background, I guess.

But one thing I have learned over the past seven years is that the life of faith is one of constant disorientation and reorientation. So I re-extend the invitation: Join me, won’t you? Let’s embrace the questions, the doubts, the struggles and see what God turns them into.

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Oh, Hi There

shame-on-you

Well, it’s been quite a while since I last afflicted the world with a blog post, and I apologize for that. The cycle has been something like: Crazy day at work means I have to stay late at the office, go to bed late, wake up with barely enough time to go to work in the morning, rinse, repeat, with class and homework thrown in.

So it’s been hard to find a time to blog. But I’m going to try to do better, getting back to a schedule of at least weekly. I need to wrap up the universalism series, and I’m reading through Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True, which obviously raises all sorts of questions about the nature and methods of God, some of which we’ve discussed before.

Likewise, I’m taking Restoration History this semester – a history of the Stone-Campbell Movement, a unity movement seeking to restore the practices of the New Testament church that, ironically enough, birthed three denominations: Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches and Independent Christian Churches – and that has led to a lot of questions worth considering about the nature and difficulty of unity in Christ.

So I’ve got some things to talk about; now all I need is time! I’m hopeful that I’ll better manage my time and go to bed earlier so we can continue to have these conversations. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy them, and they’re helpful for me as I process my thoughts on this journey.

Sorry again for my absence. Let’s talk again soon!

Life: Kind of in the Way Right Now

You’ll have noticed by now that my usual rigorous haphazard schedule of blogging has gotten a bit off-kilter of late. My usual tendency is to try to post Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Sometimes one of those gets forsaken, and so I supplement with a Tuesday or a Thursday post. Sometimes, I have so much to say, I’ll even manage four or five posts in a week.

But this semester, my class is at 8 a.m. Mondays, which means I have no flexibility in the mornings to sit and write a post. I have to be out of the house by 7:30. On top of that, the class sis so writing-intensive, I’m taking two study nights a week, and a study night guarantees a 1 a.m. bedtime. Which means getting up early to write something is quite difficult. So that leaves Wednesdays and Fridays for posting.

I enjoy blogging, and I think it helps me process and retain what I learn in class, so I’m not about to stop. Nevertheless, the blog will be a little slower, at least until May.

Love: It’s a Mind Thing, Too

250px-LovestampRachel Held Evans had a powerful set of posts last week detailing her problems with what she described as “the scandal of the evangelical heart.” She noted the often disturbing lengths to which evangelical Calvinists such as John Piper, Al Mohler and Mark Driscoll have gone to affirm the bigness and sovereignty of God, ascribing to him atrocities and tragedies that, were they correct, would turn God into a monster.

Rachel notes that many have criticized what I’ll call establishment evangelicalism for its anti-intellectual strain. She instead focuses on its stunning lack of grace, love or compassion.

But the questions that have weighed most heavily on me these past ten years have been questions not of the mind but of the heart, questions of conscience and empathy. It was not the so-called “scandal of the evangelical mind” that rocked my faith; it was the scandal of the evangelical heart. …

For what makes the Church any different from a cult if it demands we sacrifice our conscience in exchange for unquestioned allegiance to authority?  What sort of God would call himself love and then ask that I betray everything I know in my bones to be love in order to worship him? Did following Jesus mean becoming some shadow of myself, drained of empathy and compassion and revulsion to injustice?

In a followup post, she quotes from readers, one of whom makes a point similar to what I’ve argued on this blog before:

If “God is Love” is something that cannot be fathomed by our emotional understanding of love, then that verse has little meaning outside of any context people wish to place upon it. And placing a context upon ‘love’ that lies outside of our emotional understanding diminishes Christ’s loving sacrifice.

Rachel’s purpose in these posts is to defend the existence and use of emotion in our faith, and I certainly have no problems with that.

But I also want to affirm that love is not only emotion; those of us who are more “head” types than “heart” types can get this, too. Continue reading Love: It’s a Mind Thing, Too

Whoops

So I fully intended last week to write a “going on vacation” post. But the stress of getting everything packed up and into the car drove it from my mind, and though I brought my laptop with me, never even opened it until this morning. So instead this is a “sorry I went on vacation and didn’t tell you” post.

I’m pretty sure dropping off the face of the earth without warning for a whole week isn’t right up there on the list of things you should do to sustain your blog traffic, but the average hits per day actually increased when I was gone. Apparently, the masses have spoken: We like your blog better when you don’t say anything.

Undaunted, I’ll continue posting anyway, starting tomorrow. Be warned.