Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Public Theology 2 - Blogging

Today has been an edifying one on here because I went out on a limb and did not find the place lonely. That is the thing about writing on weblogs, we go out on a limb quite often.

I have written for over year on an array of topics that I would never have predicted. When I used to read Bp Alan's Blog (long before I thought of doing it myself), I marvelled at how he found the variety of things to write about. People now say the same of me. To them I say that it is not a skill, but I think that blogging requires a certain courage to test an un-prepared idea of thought. There are times when those thoughts chime, and times when they don't - and that is to be expected. 

I believe that the corpus of work that is represented in blog is a purely personal theology. Yes, it has considerable overlap with the theologies of most Christians, but each blog has a distinctiveness. That is perhaps the reason why for the moment, blogs are popular reads for many, and I modestly add my own to that number in its own small way. In short, you get my theology. What is also true, is that it outstrips sermonising in terms of volume, variety and maybe raw honesty (though I hope not too far in the case of the latter). In short, I have said more here about Christ, directly or indirectly, than I have in all my sermons over all the years I have been delivering them. Each of these posts is read by more people than hear my sermons on a given Sunday - and I can no more stop this now than discontinue sermons. 

I have noticed something about blogging as public theology - a thing I believe wholly that it is. Pawing through the statistics that this site delivers, I have learned the following:

 - Bloggers write in a linear fashion, one post after another one day to the next. That is not often how they are read. In a given day on this site, ten or more separate posts are read, and given that I typically write no more than two posts a day, suggests that people come here looking rather than just finding.

 - I wrote a silly post about a BBC TV programme. Many many hundreds of people have read it because it was added to the BBC's own website. Each of those readers had never seen this blog, and have now visited - some even looking further than the post that they were seeking in the first place. They didn't run a mile when they saw that it was a link to a God-botherer! If I were to receive that many unsolicited new visitors to my church in the same period of time, I would feel very pleased - and that is even before I spoke a word to them about God. We don't need to be exclusively obsessed about speaking of God to speak about God!

 - The posts that people seem to want to read the most here are not all the ultra-pious ones (not that you would find any). Actually, the perennial appetite for a human story, good or painful - the accounts of faith as struggle, of theology bound up in the normal disappointments and joys of life - they are what people read. It is the joy of having a fairly wide 'back catalogue' of some fairly whacky stuff that I am able to make this observation. 

 - A phenomenon that I note but do not attempt to interpret: posts with the word 'Women/Woman' in the title is a 'fast sell', and not for the reasons you might imagine with a filthy mind (which you are invited to rinse out over there)! This at least tells me that a public theology is one that is still struggling for an equal voice for all. 

In line with my previous posting, public theology is lived out in the considered and conspicuous lives of Christian people. Priests have an advantage if only they recognised it and wore it, and so do bloggers. The danger for bloggers is that they may be so wrapped up in writing theology that they in fact stop being theology, just as priests who over-theologise the choices that they have miss a trick for those who never knew or cared for those choices in the first place. 


  1. Public theology has been the curse of Anglicanism since the beginning. We have always done theology publicly. Look at the "tooth extracted" newspaper headline at the beginning of the tractatian movement. We are not a church thy can sit an decide behind closed doors and then decree what we decide as we are always in the public eye.

  2. No-one could accuse you of over-theologising, you seem to have the mixture about right I think.
    As to the most-read blogs, of course they are the more human/everyday/humourous ones. In case you haven't noticed, human beings are inherently nosy and other's lives (even tiny snippets), endlessly intriguing. Or am I just speaking for myself?

  3. Very interesting that posts with 'Woman/Women in the title rise up well on the read stats. I have slowly been building up my readers - and have so far avoided posting anything around the topic of women (in leadership / ministry), egalitarianism, and my thoughts on it - the crazy thing is - this has been due to a fear of offending. Silly really. I should 'man-up' and just go for it - my opinion is just that - mine - and I am entitled to discuss it on my blog right?! :)
    Maybe this week ...
    ps ... have really been enjoying reading through your blogging posts. Interesting and challenging. Thank you.



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