Why do you blog?
For two primary reasons. One is that it is a way for me to connect with real concerns in the church despite not currently holding a pastoral appointment. In June of 2005, I left my church appointment to return to school. Since I knew I would not be preaching and teaching on a weekly basis, starting a blog seemed like a natural way to continue to engage faith issues in a public way. The second reason is that it offers me a way to elaborate on some of the issues I raise in my United Methodist Reporter column.
What has been your best blogging experience?
Actually, it was just a couple of weeks ago. I posted about the dearth of Gen X leadership in the church, from both laity and clergy. I didn’t expect to get a lot of feedback. But much to my surprise, it generated a lively conversation both on the blog itself and through e-mail with some of my readers. It made me realize how much people out there are thinking about this issue.
What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
Well, I’ve only been blogging since last August, so I guess I’m still something of a novice! But if I were to offer advice to others, it would be to orient their blogs toward issues that they are passionate about. I don’t think most people want to read somebody’s random thoughts about life, the universe, and everything. They want to read cogent, thoughtful commentary on issues of relevance. Related to that are two other small pieces of advice: post regularly and develop a primary subject matter. I think that those elements are key to developing a consistent readership.
If you only had time to read three blogs a day, what would they be?
Generous Orthodoxy Think Tank, Ben Witherington, and the Methoblog.
Who are your spiritual heroes?
John Wesley, Athanasius, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Benedict of Nursia, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Thomas à Beckett, John Fisher, Pedro Uchuya-Torres, the early Methodist circuit riders who rode themselves to death carrying the gospel along the American frontier, and the Methodist women in the 19th and 20th centuries who fought tirelessly to faithfully respond to God’s call into ministry in a church that did always recognize the legitimacy of that call.
What are you reading at the moment?
For school: Alisdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, Ambrose of Milan’s The Sacrament of the Incarnation of Our Lord, and Jean Miller Schmidt’s Grace Sufficient: A History of Women in American Methodism. For fun: Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Lauren Winner’s Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity.
What is your favorite hymn and why?
That’s a really tough one. I’ve actually got three: “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” because of its beautiful and poetic rendering of Psalm 23; “How Firm a Foundation,” because of its affirmation of absolute reliance on Jesus Christ; “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” because of its exaltation of the sovereignty of God.
Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind?
Abortion. I used to be pro-choice, and over the course of a few years, I came to see how inconsistent that position is with the sanctity of life that is communicated in Scripture. I do not believe an individual can be responsibly anti-death penalty and pro-choice, or pro-death penalty and pro-life. If all life is sacred, then we have no right to intentionally end it.
What philosophical thesis do you think is most important to combat?
Relativism. Its acceptance leads inevitably to atheism, abject hedonism, consumerism as the central value system in society, legitimation of various forms of oppression, and eventually, chaos. Plus it’s wrong.
If you could effect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
That the government would commit itself to developing and implementing the use of alternative, sustainable energy sources. Eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels would both contribute significantly to global peace (especially in the Middle East) and would combat climate change. It would give private corporations the economic incentive to pursue ‘green’ policies. It would contribute to much, much better stewardship of God’s earth. And it would free up so much of our national budget for combating problems like poverty and healthcare (primarily through a reduction in military spending).
If you could effect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?
The stringency of membership requirements. We should go back to quarterly tickets, with regular attendance at a class meeting, small group, or Sunday school required to maintain membership. I believe this would help us get serious about discipleship more than anything else.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
Start studying foreign languages at a young age.
What, if anything, do you worry about?
My willingness to fully and totally commit my heart and soul to Jesus Christ. It requires a daily repentance and renewal of commitment, and I fear that some days I am not up to the challenge.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you'd do differently?
Treat my friends and family with more love, respect, and forgiveness. Try to live with more humility.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
Back home in Arkansas.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
At this stage in my life, it is mostly reading. When I am able, my favorite out-door activity is hiking in the mountains.
What is your most treasured possession?
My wife! (“My beloved is mine, and I am [hers]…” (Song of Songs 2:16)
What talent would you most like to have?
The ability to learn and speak languages easily and well. That is a rare and wonderful talent.
If you could have any three guests, past or present to dinner, who would they be?
St. Paul, Harold II of England, and the Guy or Girl Who Invented the Wheel.