“I don’t blog and I don’t read blogs.” A friend of mine retorted a couple of years ago. It was a badge of superiority he wore. He still believed only those who wrote their thoughts in public were either narcissistic or hidden away in their parents basement donned in their pajamas with nothing better to do. As if being on television is not a bit narcissistic.
Three years ago that was the sentiment by leadership in our denomination. Now many “Tweet” as though there is no tomorrow and offer their thoughts on websites, or personal blogs. I guess they decided it was true, “If you can’t beat them, you might as well join them.”
We who process some of our thoughts in writing, when we do not have the occasion verbally, often wonder to ourselves if this is just a personal exercise. And, maybe it is. Often we wonder if we should shut things down. Turn the computer off. Even worse, “Is anyone reading?” we wonder in desperation.
Recently I picked up James K.A. Smith’s, The Devil Reads Derrida. In my own denomination the title would provoke a, “Why on earth would you read something like that?” Anathemas have been pronounced on anything postmodern and anything “emerging.” We somehow believe the genealogy of our own beliefs derived from some pristine place. No external influences here. Nope, we just read the Bible. Listen to the Spirit. Those who taught us presented truth from Scripture without so much as a hint of cultural embeddedness. No, the cultural “South” did not leave any imprint on our hermeneutics. Much less certain reigning philosophies from the West.
When I read the following quote I could not help but think of the countless times IÂ longed to have a conversation partner who would talk about something other than Maxwell’s greatest hits. Who would not point me to someone’s sermon series. Who would not wax eloquent on their latest programmatic coup. Who preferred not to take the word of someone else who read but worked to apprehend the issues personally.Â Smith writes,
“In particular I have been deeply disturbed by a serious vacuum of thoughtful reflection in evangelicalism, and even the constituency of my own denomination.” James K.A. Smith, “The Church, Christian Scholars, and Little Miss Sunshine,” in The Devil Reads Derrida, p.xii.
Smith argues in his “Introduction” for diaconal scholarship in service to the Church. In a guild (philosophy) where the term “popularizer” is the death knell, he urges scholars to break out of their elitist confines. He goes on to suggest his peers should be prepared to learn from others outside their guild,
Even if I think they’ve bought into all sorts of questionable assumptions and causes; even if I think they’ve ben so co-opted by cynical political machines; even though I might think they’ve assimilated the worst sorts of cultural prejudices; even if I think God wants to invite them to “higher” cultural passions – there is a sense in which I think they’re trying to make their way in the world the best they can. And if they’ve bought the paradigms sold to them by voices on Christian radio that I think are problematic, then the burden is on me to show them otherwise. My responsibility is not to condescendingly look down upon them from my cushy ivory tower, but to take time to get out of the tower and speak to them, and, please note, learn from them. Christian scholars would do well to be slow to speak and quick to listen. (p.xvi)
Smith’s challenge has implications for pastors/ministers. More in Pastoral Writing as “Public” – Part 2.