When the worldviews of friends clash; how blogging has blown my cover

[Side note: November is likely going to be a very light blogging month – writing focus, so I’m mostly going to scam good quotes from friends ;-). This may be the last thoughtful post for a while.]

One of the animals with a special place in my heart is the chameleon. It’s not that my looks make it easy for me to blend in anywhere, but I’ve tried to make myself believe that if I proceed carefully and slowly enough, I could somehow keep my wildly disparate worlds from clashing (1 Cor. 9:20 comes to mind and stereotypical missionary kid (MK) tendencies).

Blogging has blown my cover. I used to be able to say one thing to one group of friends, and an entirely different thing to another. It’s not that I would lie or be deceitful in any way. It’s just that I would focus on the common ground. Now anything I post can be read by a my entire range of friends.

I’m getting used to it, but it’s still uncomfortable because I’m sensitive and I know how passionate some of my friends are about certain issues. Last week was a tough week in that regard.

  • I wrote a post with a title that understandably hit some buttons from an internet friend whose comments I’ve really come to appreciate over recent months. In the ensuing comments exchange, she was very gracious about an issue I know she feels strongly about. On the other hand, I kept thinking how a different group of friends reading the exchange might think I was selling out.
  • I wrote an e-mail to many of my conservative high school classmates (where I was the chief of conservatives). I was responding to the Huntley Brown e-mail that has been circulating – something about how a Christian can’t vote for Obama. Knowing where most of them were coming from, it wasn’t “comfortable” explaining how I thought I could vote for Obama and still be a Christian – even if some of his really liberal policies give me the chills. They were all really loving, and it turned out to be a fun exchange.
  • I posted an article on Facebook and got some positive feedback and a caution from great friends.

All great exchanges that serve as a reminder of how tense it can be when your friends from polar opposites of the spectrum “get together.” (Two-thirds of this is my own fault for opening my mouth about politics.) Part of me wants to crawl back into into a shell or become a chameleon again; I’m not the only one. Here’s an example where one of my favorite blogging friends who retracted a post about his own theological journeys (read his relational reasons for the retraction.) I’m also constantly reminded that anything I say can and will be used against me; future employment is likely at stake.

The hottest, most dangerous issues seem to be related to:

  • politics
  • ethnicity and racism
  • religion; theology related ideas (doctrinal viewpoints).

The three regularly appear together and they are a potent mix as we all know.

The beauty of the recent exchanges is that they have forced me to think much more deeply about some of my views. They they have also reminded me of the importance of our contexts, experiences, and who we associate with. If I had one piece of advice to all my friends, it would be this:


Make sure you develop deep relationships with people who are very different from you and think very differently than you do. You’ll never be the same. Bill Dyrness once said, (quoting someone else I think). “We will never fully understand the gospel until we have heard it articulated in every different language and culture.”

Here is a great quote along those lines from a newly discovered blog – Todd Burkes, Follow – In his post My World 2008, he writes:

I have changed because I am surrounded by people who think differently from myself. I can’t avoid it.

I realized it was useless to try when my Facebook friend list started growing and I realized I could no longer keep my extremely diverse circles from perceiving one another.

And nor did I want to anymore. If it’s been healthy for me to be confronted with all of these people, the same could probably be said for all of them.

I know that this blog is read not only by my conservative Christian friends . . . , but also by my atheist and agnostic friends. It is read by black friends and family from the inner city and the suburbs … by white friends from every economic level …

All of these friends — truly friends — make it impossible for me to be closed in my thinking. They don’t let me get away with that.

I must think about how I am saying things and how different people will understand what I am saying.

More than that, I have learned from all of them. I have learned that none of them are out to harm me. They all want basically the same things in life, even if they disagree about how to go about seeking it.

[Not surprisingly, both of these bloggers are black men who have moved in white evangelical circles. From my experience, these guys get hit the hardest and every one of them should get some kind of medal.]

So here’s to radically different social contexts. To all my widely divergent friends out there, I’d like to say a big thanks for hanging with me and shaping me.

How blogging has tweaked my life?

A few weeks ago, Eddie Arthur tagged me with a meme on how blogging has changed my life. This is the first meme I’ve been tagged with in my ten months of blogging, so for some reason I’m not as quick to dismiss it as I always thought I would be. I never have anything profound to say, and this time is no exception, so I’ve sat on this post for a couple of weeks now.

Let me begin with a quote from my wife, Christi:

If you journal in a notebook with pen and paper, everyone commends you for being spiritual. If instead, you blog in a more communal way, you are wasting time. 🙂

Has having a blog changed my life? :

  1. Like many others, I have “met” some great people in the blogosphere. Then again, I was already following most of their blogs. The only post-blogging difference is that now my name might sound vaguely familiar to some of them. On the other hand, there are some wonderful people I’ve met only through comments they’ve left on the blog or e-mails they have sent me personally.
  2. After reading the blog, a few people have looked me up here in Kenya. Since they already “know” me through the blog, I haven’t had to give my background story; we can cut right to my “interview” of them – far more interesting.
  3. The blog has provided a venue for some of my friend’s ideas and experiences to be enjoyed by a wider audience – by far my best posts (for example):
  4. During our recent stay at Tyndale House, my friends enjoyed telling me what to blog about (see the month of September), and laughing about things they hoped wouldn’t appear in the blog (you’ll never know 😉
  5. Blogging has helped me find my voice. (Or have I simply become more obnoxious?) I’m a lot more willing to put my unformed ideas out there more quickly  (see below), and I haven’t hidden my own views as much as I originally expected.
  6. Blogging has probably helped me think about what might be my niche. If I’m not mistaken, people most appreciate when I try to bridge Western and African theologies and worldviews. Am I right here? This is what I enjoy, and it is likely to be where I my post-doctoral career takes me.
  7. Blogging has helped me with some of my perfectionist tendencies. Some things you just have to get out there. (In the blogging world, timing can be everything.) Sure, the post would have been a whole lot better with a few hours more editing, but . . .
  8. Blogging has helped me track how quickly my tastes and interests can change.
  9. I’ve been surprised at some of the places people visit from – e.g. Egypt, Iran, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Kuwait, Yemen, and India.
  10. Blogging has shown me that blog statistics are meaningless. My most popular posts statistically are more or less meaningless: snow in Kenya, an out-of-character sarcastic rant on an article by a certain seminary president, and Kenyan cartoons about Obama.
  11. Blogging has spared the inbox of many a friend. They can read my family updates if they want to, not because an unwanted e-mail showed up in their inbox.
  12. Blogging has been fun.
  13. I’m most happy when someone says, “I found X on your blog, and I [enjoyed it, it helped me with . . ., it made me think about, it led me to . . . ]
  14. Blogging makes me wish I didn’t have writing deadlines and had a lot more time.

Speaking of blogging, sometimes I leave a tab open in my browser for days – through several cycles of laptop sleep – hoping that I will eventually get a down moment to simply enjoy it at my leisure. Recently, Ben Myers (Faith and Theology) rewarded this practice and put a smile on my face. (I was riding the bus to Heathrow airport, when I finally got around to reading it.)

The (new) ten commandments for bloggers:

. . . 5. Thou shalt not confuse thy blog with the Holy Scriptures. No one cares whether you’re infallible and inerrant. You can change your mind as often as you like – sometimes, you can change it two or three times in a single post. . .

. . . 8. Thou shalt not confuse thy blog with a university. No one expects your posts to be the product of years of careful reflection. The purpose of blogging is to express hasty, half-formed opinions, and to eliminate the customary time lapse between thinking and publishing. . .

Thanks Ben. Read the rest of his (non) commandments at The (new) ten commandments for bloggers:

I tag – all people I’ve “met” through their blogs.

  1. Jim West, because he loves memes (likens them to satanic torture), and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make him jump with glee. It might also have the therapeutic effect of taking his mind off politics, the election, the economic crisis, and the other forms of human depravities he tends to obsess about. I love to see him rant about how he totally ignores memes. ;-).
  2. David Ker (Lingamish), because I was surprised that he hadn’t posted any results from yet, and I don’t want him to feel left out – especially since he loves to blog about blogging so much (despite rule #3). Also, it might give him an opportunity to say something of substance instead of posting about the latest wiz-bang gadget to impress us with – (or disimpress us like tutus). [UPDATE: see comment below. I tried to be mean, I really did.]
  3. Brad Wright – because he is one of the greatest guys I’ve met in the blogosphere.
  4. Celucien Joseph Christ, My Righteousness – because he seems like another really great guy, and I’m guessing that he might say something profound.
  5. What an African woman thinks – because I’d love to goad her into blogging more. (Believe it or not, I once sat in the same room with her long before I knew she had a blog.)
  6. Wow, that actually makes 5, so let me add any of you who have blogs are reading this, and think it would be interesting to reflect on how blogging has changed you.

Here are the “anti-rules”, which you are welcome to break – see rule 5.

  1. Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively.
  2. link back to the person who tagged you (Skip it: I read all your posts anyway, and I could care less about my Technorati rating).
  3. link back to this parent post (L.L. Barkat is not so much interested in generating links as in tracking the meme so she can do a summary post later on that looks at patterns and interesting discoveries. UPDATE: I’ve procrastinated long enough that the results are now at: blogging good for the heart, brain and pocket book.)
  4. tag a few friends or five, or none at all (only if you feel like it)
  5. post these rules— or just have fun breaking them

The blogging world, state of the blogosphere (Technorati Report 2008)

Technorati is beginning a five part series on the “State of the Blogosphere 2008 report.” (HT: Doug). Blogging is:

  • A truly global phenomenon: Technorati tracked blogs in 81 languages in June 2008, and bloggers responded to our survey from 66 countries across six continents.
  • Here to stay: Bloggers have been at it an average of three years and are collectively creating close to one million posts every day. Blogs have representation in top-10 web site lists across all key categories, and have become integral to the media ecosystem.

Global Snapshot of Bloggers

Demographics U.S. Bloggers
European Bloggers
Asian Bloggers
Male 57% 73% 73%
18-34 years old 42% 48% 73%
35+ 58% 52% 27%
Single 26% 31% 57%
Employed full-time 56% 53% 45%
Household income >$75,000 51% 34% 9%
College graduate 74% 67% 69%
Average blogging tenure (months) 35 33 30
Median Annual Investment $80 $15 $30
Median Annual Revenue $200 $200 $120
% Blogs with advertising 52% 50% 60%
Average Monthly Unique Visitors 18,000 24,000 26,000
Personally, I feel like I’ve hit the “six month bubble” – a Jim West comment on someone elses blog – Matt’s? (I’ve stretched the bubble out for eight, but I’m a little slow on a lot of things.) It’s certainly not the first time I’ve felt this way; it’s almost cyclical. I’ve noticed that I tend to lose interest over the weekends, and about every two weeks I feel like saying, “I’m out; I’m done” (or some variation of that). I know it takes regular postings to keep even the few faithful interested; I like blogs that post regularly. I want it to stay at least somewhat interesting – the kinds of things I enjoy reading – and maybe a little useful.  I guess I’m trying to say that I feel like i will be moving more towards a couple of posts a week – just a hunch – no promises. 
What am I enjoying most? First, the interesting connections I have been able to make with people i would never otherwise “meet.” Second, having a place to share some of the interesting things I get to experience with my “real-life” friends.

Honesty and blogging; as long as it doesn’t become a litmus test

This week, Chris Brady (Part 1 and Part 2) and Jim West have been having an interesting discussion on why we blog and how we write when we blog. See other responses here [Chris Heard and Drew – do we blog for fame?]. (Warning: This post breaks both the brevity and succinctness rule.) It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time, and it probably kept me from starting a blog for well over a year. On the whole, I agree with Brady when he writes, “there are different contexts and communities and not only do we behave differently in each context but we ought to do so.”

My problem is that some of my radically different contexts can all read me on the same blog. I can no longer contextualize and nuance myself for them. (At least I don’t have to worry about my other friends who have never touched a computer.)

I’ve actually been a little surprised about how open I’ve been here in light of my chameleon predispositions. Still, there are a few instances when I will “whiff” on total openness: 1.) Someone I love would get upset, and it would damage the relationship unnecessarily (keep them off the blog). 2.) I don’t feel like fighting someone with whom I have very little in common (ignore). 3.) I don’t want to unnecessarily risk future opportunities. (Yes, the very reason you’ve all mentioned; bury a controversial post or hope they get to know you first.) Let me take them in reverse order.

3.) In one of the comments on Jim’s post, Drew writes: “The way I look at it, if some employer in the future decides not to hire me because of something I have written in any medium, I would not have very much enjoyed working there anyway.”

I’m not sure that’s necessarily true, Drew, and here’s why. Continue reading

Links of the Day: Blogging, translation and the world

NT Wright – “God in Public: Reflections on Faith and Society” Speech at the London School of Economics 14 Feb 2008.

Lingamish (a bible translator in Mozambique) updates his “about” page and lists his 20 most popular posts from the previous year. What are people looking for in a blog? Wacky, humorous and a touch of irreverence. What we all really want is a touch of the tabloids from someone who seems a little bit like us, or maybe a little smarter and more righteous. He is a bible translator in Africa after all. His list says it all and is worth at least a quick look.

John Hobbins discusses bible translation – responding to Karen Jobe’s article . “Faithful translation is about taking risks, not avoiding them . . .

The Bible, I’ve noticed, is a resolutely non-superficial text. A faithful translation of it will be taxing on a contemporary reader in ways it was not for its original readers. It is a classic case of “no pain, no gain.”

Jobes’s full paper is here.

I always like to say, “It’s easy to get the main messages of the Bible. It’s a lot harder when you get to the the details.”

[There is something here for everyone, but unless you are in the bible translation world, there are some insider terms and acronyms. Feel free to list acronym or term you want some explanation for in the comments section below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.]

On a separate note, a new English translation of the LXX (Greek OT) is available free on-line.

Chris Tilling reviews what looks like an interesting book by Tom Sine of “Mustard Seed Conspiracy” fame – The New Conspirators.

A new paradigm in development economics

Until very recently, if you spent anytime thinking about development policy, the chances are that you fell into one of three groups. One group believes the problem with developing countries is lack of resources. So the solution is a vast increase in foreign aid. A second group believes the real problem is lack of incentives. So the solution is more and better markets. The third group thinks the problem is lousy governments, so the answer lies with improved governance. . .

But there is something new afoot. Increasingly, some people are saying the right way to approach development policy is to start with the view that we actually don’t know where the problems lie, to acknowledge that the key problems may differ from setting to setting, and to adopt an explicitly experimental attitude to policy selection and formulation so that you can learn about the environment in which you operate. In this approach, monitoring and evaluation are key, as you want to pull back from mistakes and improve policies over time. Indeed, you build the monitoring into the policy process itself so that learning becomes part and parcel of it–rather than something you leave to your researchers or economists. This way of thinking about development policy is radically different from the three schools I summarized above, as it admits much greater diversity and heterodoxy. It is humble about the extent of our knowledge but optimistic about our ability to learn.

Thanks again to Michael Kruse who has great posts almost every day.