Wednesday, July 05, 2006

About Blogging

Mark Goodacre is challenging other bloggers to answer Francis Ward's questions about blogging. I see Loren Rossen has taken part. Here are my answers... For those of you new to the site, this may be especially helpful.

1. How long have you been blogging?
I started almost six months ago. I began February 21, 2006.

2. What got you started?
Three things made me want to start a blog. First, I realized I needed to have a place of my own on the web—a place where people could easily find me. Secondly, I saw a need for a Catholic blog devoted to theology and biblical scholarship. There are many informative Catholic blogs, but very few regularly keep in touch with the scholarly community--many are simply devoted to apologetics. Non-Catholic scholars such as Scot McKnight, Mark Goodacre, Michael Bird, Peter Leithart, as well as many others have contributed a great deal to the academy and to the faithful through blogging. I wanted to add a Catholic voice to the discussion. My aim is to contribute to the scholarly community and to the spiritual lives of ordinary believers who never plan on earning advanced degrees. Third, I thought that I could add helpful information to Catholic news stories. For example, when the Pope appointed the last group of new Cardinals it seemed very few knew who Fr. Albert Vanhoye was. I did. I thought I could provide helpful background to such stories.

3. Do you have a history of diary/journal/log writing beforehand?
No. This is an entirely new venture for me.

4. How in your own mind do you negotiate the boundary between private and public? E.g. are there things that you would not put on your blog that you would put in a journal?
My blog focuses on biblical-theological issues and, sometimes, Catholic news stories. I try to keep other issues off the site. For example, I love the Dodgers and The White Stripes, yet they don't merit a place on my blog.

5. How do you decide? What criteria do you use for inclusion/exclusion?
I refrain from negativity. My goal is to build bridges. I can’t stand for negativity or combativeness. I want to engage in honest discussions. I believe most disagreements stem from misunderstandings. We need to be sensitive to that fact and be careful not to allow ourselves to confirm stereotypes and false impressions.

6. How much time, on average, do you spend blogging each day or week?
My general rule is to try to spend about 30-45 minutes a day working on the blog. Some days I don’t get to it at all. Other days I spend more time on it.

7. How many other people do you actively engage with – e.g. are part of your blog community?
I stay on top of a number of blogs—Catholic and non-Catholic. In fact, ecumenical discussion is a large part of what I do. As someone who is both a professor at John Paul the Great Catholic University and a Catholic Ph.D. candidate at Fuller Theological Seminary, that probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I frequently interact with people from different perspectives. I read non-Catholic biblical and theological sites on a daily basis and frequently interact with such blogs. At the same time, I read Catholic sites regularly as well. I really try to stay in touch with both the world of blogging scholarship (which is mostly non-Catholic) and the Catholic blogosphere (which mostly deals with Catholic news items).

8. Who is your readership – literally; as far as you know?
I have tried very hard to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. I want a truly “catholic” site. I think, in this regard, Singing In The Reign is a unique blog. I get mentioned on sites that describe themselves as “conservative” as well as sites that label themselves “progressive.” I want to de-politicize our discussions as much as possible.

Moreover, not only is SITR frequently mentioned on popular-level blogs such as Amy Wellborn’s, it also gets mentioned on academic blogs, such as I try to keep a good balance of posts that would appeal to lay people in the pews with posts that interest academic readers. Scholars stop by as well as ordinary Joe-six-pack Christians. I hear from lay people as well as clergy. Many of my readers are Catholic, but many others are not. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard from who ask me, “Why would a Catholic study at Fuller?” I love answering that question.

Ecumenism is a big part of my goal for this site. I want to engage in discussion with the world of blogging biblical studies—which, at present, is dominated by non-Catholics. I want to show what contributions a Catholic perspective can make to the discussion. I think open and honest dialogue in the scholarly world is one of the most exciting avenues of ecumenism. Scott Hahn and Scot McKnight are two scholars who have really been at the forefront of this discussion.

I want to appeal to as many people as possible. I am a Pope-Benedict-loving, Catholic academic—but I believe I can learn things from people from almost any perspective—Catholic, Protestant, laity, clergy, ordinary believer or academic. In fact, what else would it mean to be “catholic”?

9. and metaphorically? Do you imagine someone to whom you write/with whom you engage?
I always assume I am speaking to people from different perspectives than my own. In this, it is my goal to remain both respectful and informative. My goal is to build bridges—not walls.

10. What counts as successful blogging?
These are a few of the things that signal that I am achieving my goals for this site. When something I say helps clarify an aspect of Catholic thought. When someone tells me that a post made them eager to participate in the liturgical life of the Church. When someone thanks me for recommending a book that they had not heard of before. When a popular-level site picks up a post dealing with an academic issue. When a post helps someone with their prayer life. When a post gets mentioned by a blogger I respect—especially when it gets picked up by a biblical scholar I regularly read. When the site is mentioned by a non-Catholic blogger. When the site helps introduce someone to John Paul the Great Catholic University, the Saint Paul Center, the Catholic Resource Center or any other organization I am proud to work with. When I can manage a post concerning an academic issue and find a way to make it fun to read. (I’ll let me readers determine if I’ve been able to do that). When this site gets mentioned by Pope Benedict in an encyclical—hey it could happen! Not.

11. What does blogging offer as a method of theological reflection?
What potential do you see for blogging as a method of theological reflection?
Blogging is great because it allows for interaction. I know a lot of people are concerned that if they post their ideas they may get stolen. To me, that’s being overly cautious. Moreover, it’s silly. We need to be interacting with one another so that we can refine and polish our ideas. Constructive criticism—made with charity—will only help us in our attempt at doing theology and exegesis.

13. Do you know of examples of theological education programmes where students are required to keep a learning journal and blog as a form of journal?
No, but now that you mention it I might think of working it into my courses at JP Catholic.

14. Blogging and gender: do you think gender makes any difference to any of the above questions?
Yes—I’ll just leave it at that. Men and women are different.


Loren Rosson III said...

Good answers, Michael, and thanks for your consistent contributions. It's good to have Catholic representation in the biblioblogs.

Anonymous said...

I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet. But I am very uncomfortable with the current ecumenical movement.

My hope is that through the ecumenical movement, some people will become so atomized that they will throw up their hands in disgust and go in a completely different direction.

Instead of a false unity of hyphenated Christians, I pray for a true unity of un-hyphenated Christians. Christians who realize that they have access to God through Christ, and then live accordingly.

Realistically, I believe that the two "churches" will co-exist. The monolithic institutional "anything goes" ecumenical church, and the particulistic "house churches" that will be the response to the monolith.