Friday, November 14, 2003

GOOGLE MOGUL HEEBIE-JEEBIES: Well, that first post is a little self-important, now that I read it again. But I'll let it ride.

I'm surprised and just a little creeped out by the search-bot-generated ad that Blogger has placed at the top of my page -- guess I'll get used to it. Today it links to Google searches for "David+Brooks" and "Christianity." Yessah, yessah, get yer Christian and David Brooks related expert opinions right here...

It's interesting to see myself linked to, the site of well-known (notorious, to some) Christian progressive John Shelby Spong. When I was a teenager, my family were members of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, and Spong was our bishop. I don't have strong firsthand memories of him, though I must have met him and heard him preach two or three times. My mother was a big admirer of Spong's, one big reason being he was a strong proponent of ordaining women to the Episcopal clergy, at the time when that was a controversial topic.

I could be exaggerating his importance, but I think Spong had a significant influence on the Episcopal Church, for good and ill. I think he's been on the side of the angels in regard to the rights of women and gays, but the denomination is in something of a crisis now, facing a possible liberal/conservative schism. The ECUSA is perceived as "Christianity Lite," endlessly accommodating to modernity and a bit soft on Biblical authority. It seems like I've heard that in his recent writings Spong fudges on matters such as the Virgin Birth and the divinity of Jesus. This would certainly fit the conservatives' image of him as at least flirting with heresy.

Some years after leaving NJ I had a friend whose father was an Episcopal priest and worked under Spong, and I gathered from this friend that Spong's management style and personal piety left something to be desired. Bishop yes; saint no.

But I should look over his site. So should you, if the concept of progressive Christianity is novel and intriguing to you.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Okay, here goes.

I had thought of starting with the Dix Hill manifesto, but I’m kind of stumped on that. I’m hoping it will emerge as time passes. Instead, let me write a quick catalog of my current preoccupations.

I am politically progressive. In the Internet circles I run in, this is a perfectly natural thing to be (less so in my real-life circles).

I joined a church two years ago. In the Internet circles I travel in, this is an unusual thing to do (not at all unusual in my real-life circles). I encounter a lot of people who are indifferent, if not actively hostile, to organized religion. I respect these folks, but they conceive of Christianity quite a bit differently than I experience it, and this disjuncture pains me somewhat. I’m trying to pursue Christianity as an intellectual tradition as well a spiritual one, and I’d like to argue to the secular humanists out there that a progressive, modern Christianity is not altogether a paradox.

I don’t intend to proselytize, honest. Merely to explain. This church thing is complicated (if one is paying attention), and it may be that in the end, things don’t work out between Jesus and me.

I am married and have three young kids. I don’t know exactly what to say about that; in fact, a big reason that I spend time online seems to be to interact with other grown-ups and NOT talk about my domestic concerns. But my family is a big part of my life and I hope to say something about family life in the context of religion and culture and politics and other big themes.

I live in the South. I haven’t lived here all my life, but I’m working on 15 straight years, and I would be content to stay here the rest of my life. Honestly, I don’t think the South is that radically different from other parts of the country, but it does have a certain flavor in regard to politics. And religion. Which ostensibly are two of the things this blog is about. So thoughts on the South and Southern-ness may bubble up here from time to time.

I can’t stand George W. Bush. As an apprentice Christian, I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to “hate” him. So let me state for the record in front of God and David Brooks and everybody that I do not hate him. The fact remains, I can’t stand the sight of his face or the sound of his voice, I will dive for the TV remote when he appears. And I desperately want his term of office to end in January ’05.

But there are lots of defeat-Bush blogs and left-wing politics blogs, who plow that turf better than I could. I’m hoping to offer a distinctive and personal perspective. And in my linking behavior, at least early on, I’m going to try to plump for a couple of sites in the blogosphere that are somewhat off the beaten path.