So, it’s 2012, apparently (or is that 2012™? I suspect the Olympics organising committee have probably trademarked the year). So that’s about 2016-18 years since the birth of Jesus, and 1986-ish since his death.
Better-informed and more timely commentators than me will already have picked over the bones of the past year politically, economically and sociologically. If you’re interested in what I thought of events at the time, here are some of my news comment pieces – Riots in England, John Stott’s death, Osama’s death, Royal Wedding (tenuous), downfall of News of the World, the End of the World that wasn’t…
But (forgive the TLA), TEL isn’t primarily a political or current affairs comment blog, unless there’s something that strikes me as being of particular theological interest in the news. In fact, the more I’ve ventured into politics, the murkier waters I’ve got into and the further I’ve tended to stray from the original purposes of this blog. (However, a good friend has asked if I haven’t noticed anything theological in David Cameron’s stance on Europe, so I might try and write about that at some point.)
One year on
As I’m sure you’re all aware and bursting with congratulations, yesterday was not only New Year’s Day but, far more importantly, TEL’s first birthday. It’s now officially lasted as long as my previous late-lamented blog Colourless Green Dreams, and with any luck and a fair wind it might keep going for the foreseeable future – which of course isn’t very long, unless you happen to be Nostradamus. (Speaking of predictions, 2012 is of course the year the world ends if you subscribe to the Mayan Calendar theory, which could put an untimely end to my ramblings. I’ve not bought my Rapture tickets yet though.)
So it seems a good time to reflect on the experience of blogging over the last year or so, to review what this blog is about and where we might be heading together over the next year.
The moaniness of the long-distance blogger
Amateur blogging is a bit of a strange and self-aggrandising pursuit, to be honest. Facebook requires you to have friends and be interested in what they’re doing and thinking. Twitter requires you to be concise and timely (or even timeous, a lovely new word I learnt recently). Blogging on the other hand assumes that there are people out there who might be interested in what you have to say despite (in my case) a serious lack of relevant qualifications or expertise. It’s a platform from which you can feel free to discourse on your pet theories and thoughts to no-one in particular, only to discover that one or two people are actually taking the trouble to listen and engage.
When I started blogging as Colourless Green Dreams, I had high hopes of an engaged audience, but after a few months with barely a single comment I began to blog just as a discipline to aid my own thought processes, with little hope of anyone paying any attention. With TEL then, it’s been both gratifying and slightly disconcerting to find that there are actually people reading my random rants and rambles, often offering insight and encouragement; occasionally taking strong exception to my opinions (which is fine).
Even more disconcertingly, I actually know who some of these readers are and may have to face them at church or over the dinner table. This lends a slightly different colour to the experience; I’m no longer just talking into the void, but speaking to actual people. So to all of you, my genuine and heartfelt thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve gained a lot from the experience; I hope you’ve got something out of it too.
Evangelical or just liberal?
I set up TEL with the hope of exploring some of my difficulties with my own evangelicalism, and to investigate alternatives that might work better for me at least. Like the whole act of blogging, this is very self-centred in a way; I could only hope that some of these issues and ideas might also chime with others who have also struggled with evangelicalism and who are looking for – or who have found – more helpful ways to follow Christ, ways that allow them to be themselves without having to suppress major parts of their personality.
As well as being self-absorbed and self-aggrandising, there’s also an inherent danger of negativity in this. I’m aware that I’ve written much that sounds merely critical of evangelicals and evangelical faith, and for that I apologise to my evangelical friends. Moving on does sometimes require turning against the old, but I don’t want to throw any babies out with the bathwater. There’s still much (well, quite a bit) that I admire in evangelicalism, and more that I admire in particular evangelical individuals; and I hope to be able to retain those good parts while seeking other ways of being Christian.
In light of this, I’ve been asked quite legitimately to what extent this blog can claim to be the evangelical liberal as opposed to the plain old liberal. It’s a good question. Perhaps as time goes on the ‘evangelical’ adjective will be in increasingly small letters, or in parentheses. Or perhaps – and with your help – I’ll actually find new content to qualify the term, rediscovering healthy and human forms of evangelicalism.
I’ve tried to balance out the criticism with some more positive ideas, setting out some tentative alternative views: seeing the world as sacramental; the importance of incarnation; alternatives to both extremism and moderation; what healthy religion might look like; the meaning of the cross. These posts haven’t generally provoked as much comment as the more controversial and critical ones, but for me they’re a lot more important.
So where to next – where is TEL heading in 2012? I’ve got some vague ideas, but I’d be very glad for you to have your say in it as well. Any thoughts?
In the meantime, a very happy and blessed new year to each and every one of you lovely people.