Common English Bible blog tour

After I posted and tweeted about the new Common English Bible, I was invited to participate in a “blog-tour” for the new translation. I don’t think this makes me particularly special; it seems anyone who wants to can participate. In any event, what participating bloggers are asked to do is to post entries during the next few months that make use of the CEB in some way or another–such as commenting on Bible verses or discussing the translation. While the guidelines are quite flexible and there’s no minimum number of posts required, I should note that the publisher provided me with a complimentary thinline copy of the CEB.

What I thought I’d do to participate is adapt a practice from a small group I was in a few years ago. We would meet on Wednesday evenings to read, reflect on, and discuss the gospel lesson for the upcoming Sunday. So my plan, during Advent, is to post on the appointed gospel lesson for the upcoming week (as determined by the Revised Common Lectionary). These will be loosely structured meditations based on my response to the text. It should be a nice way to “test drive” the CEB and a good spiritual discipline for me in its own right. My plan is to post these on Wednesdays during Advent (I realize I’ve already missed a week).

The publisher also says that I can give away one free softcover copy of the CEB every week that I write a post participating in the blog tour. I figure that it would be fairest for it to go to the first person to comment on that week’s post. So, the first person to comment who wants one will need to provide their mailing address to me in an e-mail, which I’ll forward to the publisher.

Don’t blog angry

I’m sorry to see that Marvin is apparently hanging up his blogging spurs, although I understand and respect his reasons for doing so. Still, it’s a loss for those of us who’ve been edified by his writing but aren’t part of the academic or religious milieus where he plans to re-focus his energy. I have some hope though. Blogging is a bit like the mafia–no matter how hard you try to get out, it finds a way of dragging you back in.

One reason Marvin offers for quitting is that his blog had become a place for venting anger rather than for constructive writing. Although personally I rarely found his posts to have an angry tone, I agree that there’s a danger of blogging being nothing more than a forum for angry rants. Over time, I’ve become less interested in the “someone is wrong on the Internet” model of blogging and drawn toward an a more exploratory approach focused on working through texts or ideas and hopefully coming to some clearer understanding of things. In other words, less polemic and more inquiry. Which is not to say that I always succeed, but it’s definitely the direction I’ve found my energies going in.

Anyway, best of luck on the dissertation, Marvin!

State of the blog address

I just realized that July 1st marked the 7th anniversary of my blogging efforts. I started out on a Blogspot site (“Verbum Ipsum”) and migrated over to WordPress and A Thinking Reed a few years later. (All the archives have been imported to this site.) I’ve been at it more or less continuously ever since 2004, with only one or two breaks of any significant length.

Sometimes I ask myself why I continue to blog, particularly as the blogosphere has become so diversified and specialized. For instance, there are lots of theology blogs by clergy, academic theologians, and others with much more impressive credentials than me. What can I possibly add to their conversation? The only persuasive rationale I can come up with is that (a) every Christian is called to think about and reflect on their faith; (b) I like having an outlet for stuff I’m thinking about, particularly what I’m reading; and (c) blogging has enabled me to connect with a handful of like-minded folks with whom to compare notes–something that’s not always easy to find in “real” life.

I’m less persuaded that blogging about other things, like politics, is worth the effort. Partly that’s because politics just isn’t as close to my heart as other things I like to write about. To the extent that I am still interested in thinking and writing about politics, it’s the higher-level questions about what makes for a just and sustainable society–not the day-to-day Democrat vs. Republican stuff–that interest me. (I follow day-to-day politics, but I don’t feel like I usually have anything particularly interesting to say about it.)

There’s also the development of social media–sites like Facebook and Twitter now absorb a lot of the energy that people might once have put into blogging. While I use both those services, I don’t think either one can really replace blogging. Facebook I see as a more informal setting for interacting with friends or family, particularly those I don’t see often. Twitter is useful as a “micro”-blogging platform and has made the link-plus-sentence-of-commentary blog post more or less obsolete. It also can generate some interesting online conversations. But neither one allows for the development of a more formal and extended argument or line of thought, something blogs are much better suited for. In fact, one of the most frustrating things about Twitter, in my view, is how it virtually forces people to resort to unsupported assertion much of the time. There are real limits to the value of that kind of conversation.

When it’s all said and done, I guess I continue to blog because I like to read and I like to write about the things I’m reading and thinking about. If I wasn’t doing it here, I’d be doing it in a notebook or journal. But the blog, because it’s public, forces me to be a bit more polished and to clarify my thought more than I would in those other mediums. And it facilitates interaction with interesting people, some of whom I would now consider friends. Not a terrible way to spend one’s free time.

Friday Links

–A challenge to libertarians on the coecivene power of private entities.

–A.O. Scott on superhero movies as a Ponzi scheme.

–Richard Beck of Experimental Theology on why he blogs.

–A political typology quiz from the Pew Research Center. (I scored as a “solid libera.l” Although I’d take issue with the way some of the choices were presented.)

–An end to “bad guys.”

–Def Leppard’s Hysteria and the changing meaning of having a “number 1″ album.

–The folks at the Moral Mindfield have been blogging on the ethical implications of killing bin Laden, from a variety of perspectives.

–Ta-Nehisi Coates on Abraham Lincoln and slavery.

–Marvin had a good post earlier this week on the death of bin Laden and Christian pacifism.

–Christopher has a post on problems with the language of “inclusion” and “exclusion” in the church.

–I don’t always agree with Glenn Greenwald, but I’m glad he’s out there asking the questions he asks. He’s been blogging up a storm this week on the circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s death.

–Brandon has a concise summary of the history behind Cinco de Mayo.

ADDED LATER: How do you feed 10 billion people? By eating less meat for starters.

Note on the blogroll

I’ve updated the blogroll, mostly pruning some sites that’ve become dormant. (My rule of thumb is that a site is dormant if nothing new has been posted in 6 months or more.) As always, I’m happy to re-link if a site becomes active again.

Added later: I’ve also removed the Twitter widget from the sidebar, which seemed to me to be unnecessary clutter. I’m assuming that anyone who’s interested in my Twitter feed probably follows it elsewhere. But if anyone finds the Twitter display on the blog particularly valuable, let me know.

Where’s the Left?

Apparently there’s been a dust-up recently about the supposed lack of genuinely left-wing bloggers in the professional blogosphere. (See here for the run-down.) The charge, in a nutshell, is that many of the most prominent bloggers are so-called neoliberals: people with liberal policy goals but who embrace the deregulation/free-trade/globalization model that has been in vogue since the 1970s or so. A genuinely radical Left is virtually nonexistent among the upper echelons of the liberal blogosphere.

If true (and it depends on how you measure importance in the blogosphere), this isn’t terribly surprising. To the extent that bloggers have been absorbed into more traditional media outlets, they are likely to reflect the traditional media ecosystem. It’s not really unexpected, for example, that the range of views you find among bloggers at the Atlantic is about the same as what you’d find on the op-ed pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post. If blogging was once considered an insurgent alternative to the mainstream media, the process of absorption and co-opting is, if not complete, well on its way. This state of affairs reflects American political discourse across pretty much all media. Not only are genuinely far-left views excluded from virtually all mainstream discourse, even old-fashioned liberals (paleoliberals?) are rare birds. Many people consider Paul Krugman to be an ultra-liberal, but he’s basically a mainstream Clinton-era Democrat (possibly he’s moved a bit further left since then). In Europe he’d probably be a conservative social democrat, maybe even a conservative.

What might be cause for surprise, though, is how little impetus the events of the last ten years (and especially the last three) have given to the revival of a genuine American Left. Speaking personally: I have no left-wing credibility or bona fides (I used to consider myself a libertarian), but the Bush era and its aftermath have pushed me steadily to the left. This was partly because of the war in Iraq and the gross abuse of civil liberties and the rule of law–which convinced me that organized conservatism was deeply corrupt and not to be trusted with governance. But I’ve also moved to the left economically. For instance, I used to be of the view that inequality per se didn’t matter so long as everyone, particularly the poor, was getting richer. But the disparities of the Bush era and the abuse of political power they enabled, among other things, have convinced me that a society with such gross levels of inequality could be neither just nor healthy. The fact that in addition to growing inequality, real wages have been stagnating or possibly even declining for working Americans obviously adds to the problem.

In addition to this widening chasm between the ultra-rich and the rest of us, the global economic collapse we’ve come to call the Great Recession (but which has also been called the “new normal”: an ongoing period of high unemployment and generally poor economic conditions for wide swaths of the working and middle classes) further undermined any remaining confidence I may have had in the ability of free markets to be self-regulating or self-sustaining. I recognize that the causes of the meltdown were complex, but it seems impossible to deny that one major cause was the lack of adequate regulation and oversight, which sprang from a faith in the virtual omnicompetence of markets. (Even former Ayn Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan has admitted as much.)

So, after all this, the fact that so many liberal bloggers are still singing from the neoliberal hymnal does come as something of a shock. It’s almost as if the last three years (or ten years) never happened. This phenomenon is only more pronounced on the actual political stage where, for example, a president routinely criticized by the Right for being a socialist (because, e.g., he supported the passage of a moderate, market-oriented, technocratic reform of the health care system) is in reality pursuing a program of tax cuts and deregulation. And the burning question among many politicos and talking heads is how to dismantle the already fragile social safety net so we don’t have to raise taxes on millionaires to pay for all our wars. In other words, the greatest crisis of capitalism since the Great Depression hasn’t provoked any fundamental rethinking by our political and economic elites about the balance we’ve struck between the needs of capital and the needs of society. (The ecological crisis adds a whole other dimension to this problem.) As for the grassroots Left–the activists, labor unions, civil rights groups, women’s groups, LGBT groups, immigrant-rights groups, liberal churches, etc.–it may either be too busy fending off the Right (with good reason) or too disjointed to actually push for such fundamental changes. In that sense at least, the bloggers seem to be in good company.

New social ethics blog

Readers may be interested in this new(ish) blog: The Moral Mindfield. The about page says that it is “intended as an open forum for the discussion of the ethical dimensions of society and culture. …informed by philosophy, theology, and social theory, as well as other academic disciplines.” If I’ve got this right, the contributers are students at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and include Marilyn of Left at the Altar. Worth checking out.

Friday links

- The new(ish) blog Women in Theology has been quite active lately, with recent posts on John Milbank and Stanley Hauerwas garnering a lot of discussion.

- Scu at Critical Animal writes on books that have changed the way he thinks. And here’s the post that inspired his post.

- Jeremy recently had a good post on what it means when you pray for healing that doesn’t happen. And here’s the post that inspired his post.

- Russell points to this interesting post from Peter Levine, offering a “civic republican” quasi-defense of President Obama’s approach to politics. Russell follows up with some thoughts of his own on localism and communitarianism.

- A post on Lutherans and the “new perspective” on Paul.

- Nick Kristof: in comparing the U.S. to banana republics, I may have been unfair…to banana republics.

- Post-marriage America?

- Gateways to Geekery: The DC animated universe (I loved the ’90s Batman cartoons).