Walking the fine line
I’m teaching an advanced creative writing course this semester on blogging (which is one of the many things keeping me from actually attending to my own blog, as it turns out). And so I’m thinking a lot about blogs and blogging in slightly deeper ways than is usual (or perhaps is even healthy).
No matter, it’s always been my contention that I started this blog “to encourage and maybe begin to sustain a conversation from a multiplicity of perspectives about southern gospel music and culture,” to quote myself in a recent post. This is true. But it occurred to me somewhere in the sky over
I’m no longer surprised to have underlying motivations for things I do surface embarrassingly late. It took me several years to realize one reason I’m so interested in Puritan literature and life professionally was that I was raised in the closest thing to puritan culture than post-modern America has to offer.
And so, it seems, with blogging, am I working out some longstanding tensions or unresolved ambivalences from the formative periods of my past. This is not the only reason I blog, of course. It’s fun, for one thing. It keeps me connected to a part of the world that I wouldn’t have much contact with otherwise and since I also mine this part of the world in my day job, that connection helps me stay current in a way I might not otherwise be able to do.
Still … growing up in a conservative, fundamentalist culture, I learned early and well the limits of dissent and argument – in both the sense of making and having an argument. This fear of or disdain for or condescension to dissenting views has seemed to me by turns silly and counterproductive, self-sabotaging and hopelessly self-destructive. Trying to wall yourself off from the world around you, reinforcing isolation with beliefs untested by vigorous debate and exchange – this way of life doesn’t keep the world at bay in the least. Rather, it only ensures that that world will reach you filtered through the lens of antagonism and phobia or defensiveness and anxiety.
I understand the reasons for this world view (or at least I think I do), and mean no disrespect to those who subscribe to its central tenets and habits of mind. But I would lie to say a great deal of my private and public life has not involved challenging this sort of thinking and living. In blogging about gospel music, I realize — quelle surprise! – that I’ve found a way to try to foment the kind of vigorous discussion and rangy conversation that’s so often missing within, and in conversations about, conservative Christianity as I’ve known (and know) it.
It doesn’t always work of course. Almost every comments thread here gets hijacked at some point by people quoting scripture or preaching mini-sermons in ways clearly meant to function as conversation-stoppers. But even if these kinds of comments weren’t obviously self-discrediting, on balance I think the kind of give and take here succeeds in challenging the narrow- or small-mindedness that besets so much of conservative Christianity.
Of course it’s not always a mensa-meeting around here, and I have no pretensions about averyfineline eradicating what one scholar I’ve been reading lately has rightly called “the scandalously trifling qualities of the evangelical mind.” Sometimes, I enjoy being an ordinary fan and playing the inside baseball stuff too. In this, I suppose I unsteadily walk the fine line between profundity and piffle all the time. And yet, my modest epiphany at 30,000 feet gives me some consolation that even in the silliest of discussions here, all is not lost … at least not for me.
I tell my students in the blogging class that the best blogs aren’t about the “museum of me,” and I think I’m coming perilously close here to violating my own maxim. So enough. Carry on. And thank you.Email this Post