Tag Archives: gospel

The trouble with blogging

I started this blog about three weeks ago as a way to help chronicle my struggle to become more fit, to share some of my theological insight, and to have a place to record some random thoughts.  I had no visions of grandeur when I began this endeavor.  I got a real kick out of the first set of comments I received from friends who appreciated my writing.  It was great to hear from a couple of people I was not expecting, and I was flattered by some very kind words both here and in other places in cyberspace.  I enjoyed monitoring the number of visits I had, and I get a small sense of joy when I see the history graph on my blog stats spike past 30 visits in a day.

Last week I achieved two milestones as a blogger.  The first was that I passed 500 visits.  I average about 100 a week, and that is pretty cool – but those are just numbers, and I have no idea who those 500 visits were, but I figured they were mostly friends of mine.  Then the second milestone happened.  Last week, I had a comment from someone named Neal.

I do not know Neal.  I am not sure how he came across my blog, but he commented on my blog about the Social Creed.  He and I carried on a discussion through a few posted comments.  We seem to disagree on the nature of the gospel.  He seems to be a thoughtful person, a Christian, and probably a pretty nice guy.  But I have no idea who he is, and I realized that I have officially expanded my sphere of influence.  I have now reached people with my ideas that I would have otherwise never reached.  There is great power in that concept, but there is also a serious problem.

If you read the comments we left for each other, it is clear that Neal and I disagree about some things.  He clearly has little respect for Chuck Currie, who was a classmate of mine.  And while I don’t agree with Chuck on everything, I respect his passion, his intellect, and many of his ideas.  I also have a great deal of admiration for the mission of the National Council of Churches. 

Neal and I could have gone back and forth for sometime on my comments page and argued about the mission of the Church, the interpretation of Scripture, and the authority of the Bible.  I am willing to bet that we disagree on a lot of things, and could probably argue about abortion rights, homsexuality, immigration, war, poverty, and probably over the advantages of a queen opening in chess and the designated hitter. 

Neal and I could probably argue and argue and argue, and have lots of very logical and eloquent diatribes.  We could quote the thoelogians of the past, we battle with Bible quotes, and have a literary contest of wits and wisdom.  But what good would that do?

I wonder if a single heart has ever been won with those tactics.  Has anyone on a discussion board ever changed their mind?

Theology is a tricky thing.  What makes it so difficult is that we think about God with more than our head.  Knowing God is not a purely intellectual endeavor.  I stand whole-heartedly behind the idea that education and scholarship can bring us to a fuller, and more healthy faith.  At the same time though, I recognize that God-words are written by the heart. 

That is the problem with blogging – with discussion boards – with chat rooms – with call-in TV shows – with formal debates – there is plenty of head-work, but little heart-work.  We can argue all we want, but until there is a relationship, there is no transformation.  Theology is a barren wasteland if it is not connected to human hearts.  Theology, if done without relationship to other human beings, is dead.  And I cannot help but think that the internet has created a vast network of pseudo-relationships that fool us into thinking we are influencing people, when all we are really doing is spitting in the wind. 

I am going to keep blogging.  I am going to keep it up because it strokes my ego just a little to see those spikes in my blog stats.  I am going to keep it up because maybe, just maybe, someone will read my words and be touched or inspired or challenged or entertained.  I am going to keep it up because I am, at heart, a writer.  It’s what I do.  And I am going to keep it up because despite all of its shortcomings, this blog is still a great way to increase my sphere of influence.


Filed under Blogging, Christianity

The Social Creed, 100 years later

100 years ago, the Methodist Episcopal Church put forth a Social Creed.  It was a statement of solidarity with the millions of victims of the industrial revolution.  During a time of unchecked capitalism, the industrial revolution had created a system of enormous oppression.  Workers were forced into labor conditions that were dangerous, grueling, oftentimes cruel, and usually for little pay.

In the face of this injustice, the Church found its prophetic voice, and ushered in the era of the Social Gospel.  Reading the creed of 1908 is like reading a summary of modern labor laws.  Among the items covered by the creed was the abolition of child labor, the six-day work week and the right of workers to have a safe working environment. 

Some decried the creed as Socialist, and many thought that the Church was overstepping its bounds.  Critics wanted the Church to stay out of politics and policy.  They felt that the Church should just have worship on Sunday, a few Bible studies on Wednesday night, and a pot-luck from time to time.  If the Church wanted to get involved, these critics felt, then open up a food pantry or give money to a missionary in Africa.

I like a good green bean caserole or deviled egg as much as the next guy, and I love sitting around a table to talk about Scripture, but the Church is about more than pot-lucks and Bible studies.  Read Isaiah 58, and you will find these words:

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
   and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
   and to strike with a wicked fist.
Is not this the fast that I choose:
   to loose the bonds of injustice,
   to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
   and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
   and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
   and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Isaiah demands that we do more.  Isaiah demands that the Church act when it sees injustice.  In the New Testament, James agrees:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?  If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

I, for one, am proud that the Social Creed of 1908 is a part of the legacy and history of the Church I love.  In this, the one hundredth anniversary of the Social Creed, the United Methodist Church has created a new creed.  It is more universal and timeless.  Instead of being directed at specific injustice, it speaks of the nature of God in hope that believing in a God of justice will lead people to act for justice.  It is more liturgical in nature, and is written to be read responsively with a beautiful musical response.

There are many injustices in this world.  There is economic turmoil, a growing disparity between the rich and the poor; there are preventable epidemics, growing extremism, environmental disasters, and wars being fought that could have been avoided.  The writing of creeds and social principles will not solve the problems of our world.  The idea of a creed though, is to set a standard – to give people a place to fall back on when the work of justice becomes difficult.  It is a reminder of the God to whom we belong, and it holds out hope that in time the world in which we live can reflect God’s goodness more perfectly.


Filed under Christianity