Well, The Evangelical Liberal reached its half-anniversary today. It’s maybe not quite time for the autobiography or the Greatest Hits album, but indulge me in a brief retrospective of the story so far…
I started TEL on New Year’s Day after promptings from the lovely Terence J. Wright of Christ Pantokrator (not to be mistaken for N.T. Wright, also lovely but slightly more beardy). Previously I’d been blogging for just over a year at Colourless Green Dreams on the Blogger platform, with very little sign that anyone was interested (probably they weren’t). My only regular commenter was, again, the fabulous Terry, upon whose head be many blessings forever. 🙂
Terry had suggested a while back that a better name for my blog would be the mildly controversial and nicely oxymoronic title of one of my old posts, ‘The Evangelical Liberal’. So in lieu of any New Year’s resolutions I finally stopped dithering on 1 Jan, switched to WordPress and started off a shiny new blog with a clearer theme and aims to match the new name. But (to be strictly honest) quite a lot of the same posts, at least initially.
A quick geeky aside – I’m an almost total convert to WordPress, which I’ve found to be a much better platform overall. My big niggle with it is that you can’t embed audio or play around with the styling without paying for an upgrade – Blogger definitely has the edge there.
Comment and engagement
Any slight lack of flexibility is far more than made up for by WordPress’s highly-engaged community of users and commenters. I had about 30 comments in total over a whole year on Blogger; TEL had its 400th comment today after six months (though admittedly half of these have been me replying to other comments). Some of these have been from old friends (thanks Terry again ;-)), but many have been from people who I didn’t know before but who I now count as friends. It’s been great engaging with you guys, not always agreeing of course!
The sheer range of responses and views encompassed has also been fascinating and rewarding. I’ve found myself in dialogue with agnostics (all of whom have been lovely) and atheists (some aggressive and accusatory, others polite and pleasant); with liberal Christians and fundamentalists (one or two of whom have been terrifying); and even with one very friendly pagan, my conversation with whom will probably bar me from membership of the Evangelical Alliance for life. Oh well.
I confess that I’ve maybe courted controversy a little at times – it makes for far more interesting debates, and does tend to up the stats a little. 🙂 In this vein I’ve blogged about homosexuality, atheism, universalism, religion and politics, the death penalty and responses to Osama’s death – some of which have led to productive discussions, others less so.
I also reviewed Rob Bell’s mildly controversial Love Wins, and composed a couple of swear-wordy posts: Swearing at God and Finding God in the rubbish. No-one seemed too upset by these, disappointingly. Must try harder. 😉
Overall, I’ve managed 52 posts so far (barring this one), which is an average of exactly two per week. Mind you, most of them are about twenty times over the ideal blog article length – conciseness really isn’t my strong point.
Evangelical or liberal?
So, having called this blog (and my accompanying screen persona) The Evangelical Liberal, have I actually just shown myself to be a classic liberal as one or two commenters have suggested? Can I still lay claim to the adjective ‘evangelical’ given that I seem to have abandoned so many core conservative ideas and embraced so much that is traditionally seen as liberal?
The truth is that I don’t see myself as either fully evangelical or liberal, but treading a somewhat uneven path between the two camps. I still see myself as basically grounded in historic evangelicalism, and I still belong to a broadly evangelical church community, which keeps me from wandering off too far into the extremer ends of liberalism to which I sometimes feel drawn. I still hold to many classical evangelical doctrines, though I’ve had to rethink and re-interpret most of them a little. And above all, I continue to place my trust in Jesus Christ, whose uniqueness, divinity, atonement and resurrection I do not doubt, even if again my understanding of some of these is slightly different from that of mainstream evangelicalism.
If in this blog I’ve seemed to veer heavily towards the liberal end of the spectrum it’s because I’m feeling my way out of a more rigid evangelicalism, exploring the alternatives while not necessarily fully embracing them. So I probably overstate the more liberal case in some articles, not because I fully accept it but because I want to see what it looks and feels like and whether it’s something I can ultimately sign up to or not.
Stages of faith
In keeping with this, the most popular article on this blog has consistently been the life cycle (stages) of faith. This was actually my second-ever post on the blog, back on 9 January, and it was one of the key ideas which gave rise to the whole blog and which has informed the whole theme and direction that it’s taken ever since.
It’s essentially the idea that faith is not static but changes throughout life, that we are all on different stages of the journey, and than moving away from rigid fundamentalism can feel like losing your faith but can actually be the path to a truer and deeper spiritual life. This blog is partly an outworking of that idea, a forum for myself and others “to explore more open and liberated ways of being a Christian”. Of course it doesn’t (or I don’t) always succeed, but that’s still the general idea.
So what’s in store for the next six months? I’ve got some articles lined up on nice safe subjects like hell, Harry Potter, creation and evolution, maybe Israel and Palestine… but I’d love to hear from you what you’d like to see here. Are there any books, albums or films you’d like reviewed? Any subjects you want me to commit minor heresy on? Let me know and I’ll see what I can do. 🙂
In the meantime, commiserations to Andy Murray who was knocked out of Wimbledon by Rafa Nadal again today… better luck next time. Oh well, barring a couple of historical wars and the odd test match, coming a brave second is something we Brits do seem to do better than almost anyone else…