On Sept. 29, I am launching a blog called Spirituality, Ethics, and Religion as part of a community of bloggers featured on OakPark.com and RiverForest.com, the new websites of Wednesday Journal.
The problem for me is that my mind still works in analog, so when I heard that Cathleen Falsani, who was an award winning writer on religion for the Chicago Sun-Times for 10 years, was giving a lecture at the Dominican Priory last Wednesday entitled Finding Sacred Space in Cyberspace, I jumped at the chance to get an introductory orientation to what for me was unexplored territory.
In an interview in the afternoon and in the lecture which followed in the evening, Falsani shared some insights gleaned from five years of writing her blog on religion and culture called The Dude Abides. At least for now, those insights will inform how I do my own blog.
Exposing bad information: “There’s a lot of good information on the web and a lot of bad information,” she said. “You can’t trust your Uncle Bennie working in his basement to tell you the truth.” Part of my blog’s mission will be fact checking-e.g. no, President Obama is not a Muslim. Yes, Rev. Brian Covell, the minister at Third Unitarian Church, is an atheist, but also yes, some of his members have criticized him for talking about God too much.
Process: Falsani referred to what she posts on her blog as “brain droppings,” i.e. she lets readers in on what she is processing rather than waiting until she has a finished product. I’m not qualified to be anyone’s guru, but if sharing how I’m thinking about a spiritual issue can assist your attempts to figure out the meaning of life, the mission of the blog will have been accomplished.
Vulnerability: Sharing “brain droppings” before they get crafted into a finished product exposes the one who shares. My hope is that openness on my part will encourage responses intended to engage in dialogue rather to win an argument.
Respectful discourse: Written on Falsani’s blog are the words “No Rants.” She thinks that because the individualized nature of web browsing can create a sense of anonymity and therefore a disrespectful tone, she is adamant that she maintains control over what gets posted and that it must be respectful and rational. Sometimes in the Viewpoints section of Wednesday Journal I have read ad hominem arguments. What matters is the plausibility of the message, not the moral stature of the messenger.
Full disclosure: Falsani is very open about being an Evangelical Christian. I am an every Sunday church going, ex-pastor, twice divorced, handicapped, seminary educated, Lutheran Christian who believes that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.
God in strange places: Knowing where I stand doesn’t mean I can’t stand people who believe differently than I do. “I go looking for God in a lot of places where some people aren’t comfortable saying God is supposed to be,” Falsani said. What she looks for are people who are honest about themselves and life. I am regularly humbled and sometimes shamed by the goodness of people I know who believe differently than I do. I’d rather explore what makes them behave the way I wish I were living than to focus solely on our differences.
Exposing “Stinkin’ Thinkin”: “A lot of what we say about God,” Falsani argued, “is much more a reflection of our own minds and hearts than anything to do with who God actually is.” Freud called it wish projection. Theologians refer to it as “creating God in our own image.” The problem, of course, is that when we attempt to speak about a Being who is invisible, the only language we have available to us has referents that are earthbound. That said, it doesn’t mean we can’t respectfully question how we think and talk about God.
Come Sept. 29, you can check out my blog at OakPark.com/Community. We have the opportunity to do our little bit in attempting to reverse the polarizing tide in American culture by listening carefully and speaking respectfully about what Paul Tillich called our Ultimate Concerns.