Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Methodist Blogger Profile: Joel Thomas

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Joel Thomas* of Connexions

Why do you blog?
I began reading blogs in August, 2003, starting with Josh Claybourn’s old blog, which I discovered when I was doing some non-scientific research on why people leave the United Methodist Church . That research led me to another blogger’s interview of Josh (who is a former Methodist, but whose views seem fairly Wesleyan to me), which then led me to his own blog. For a month or so, I just read, without leaving comments. Then I became a regular commenter. While Josh was on break from law school, he invited me to guest blog for a day and I really enjoyed the experience. Not too long after that (a little over a year ago), Richard Hall of Connexions invited me to be an on-going guest blogger.

What has been your best blogging experience?
When, via e-mail, Richard Hall suggested (successfully), but didn’t require, that I delete one of my posts on his blog. The experience taught me that blogging is about community as well as just spreading one’s views.

What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
1. Consider guest blogging first, unless you are both a prolific writer and confident that you can put up at least one substantive post a day. 2. Be familiar with etiquette rules, spam problems, the probability of hate e-mail, what to expect in the way of costs, what your comments and disclaimer policies will be, etc. If you get to the point where you don’t enjoy blogging anymore, quit. Because I guest blog only, with no site maintenance duties, I’m not the best person to ask for advice about blogging anyway.

If you only had time to read three blogs a day, what would they be?
Group blog (including Josh Claybourn) “In the Agora”, Donald Sensing’s “One Hand Clapping” and Shane Raynor’s “Wesley Blog” because if I’m limited to three I want blogs that offer theologies and philosophies significantly different than my own. However, I read and enjoy several “progressive” blogs.

Who are your spiritual heroes?
John Wesley, Phoebe Palmer, Hans Kung.

What are you reading at the moment?
“Trojan Odyssey” by Clive Cussler and “The Conspiracy Club” by Jonathan Kellerman.

What is your favorite hymn and why?
“O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” because the music is upbeat and the words speak both to our wretched condition separated from God and our hope for redemption and freedom in Christ.

Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind?
I’ve changed my mind about homosexuality. I think the causes may relate to genetics, environment, pre-natal hormones and other factors that we don’t know about, yet. Regardless of the causes, I no longer believe homosexual relations per se represent rebellion against God. Rather, I think we in the church can do best for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for church and society by encouraging monogamous, committed relationships for those who do not choose celibacy. I also believe in the freedom of and dignity for anyone who chooses to exit a gay lifestyle and/or participate in conversion therapies. I’m not personally convinced that more than a small handful of those who are truly gay (as opposed to bi-sexuals who elect to engage in opposite sex relations only) can change their orientation, but they have the right to be respected for their choices and to self-identify as they wish.

What philosophical thesis do you think is most important to combat?
Objectivist-type philosophies such as those of Ayn Rand because they conflict with Christ’s command of “love of neighbor.” Although I disagree with libertarianism, which seems a distant cousin to objectivist philosophy, libertarians can and often do feel there is a moral obligation to help by private means those in need. Objectivist philosophy, however, seems centered around the created, as opposed to the Creator.

If you could affect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
That politicians of both parties more clearly matched their service in office with their campaign promises.

If you could affect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?
I would change the 50-50 clergy/laity voting split in Annual Conferences and General Conference to one-third clergy, two-third’s laity. That would result in many of my own positions being defeated or even some portions of the Book of Discipline that I favor being rescinded, but I think laity empowerment is necessary for survival of the denomination.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
Suicide is a very permanent solution to a very temporary problem. Don’t go from the age of 13 to 22, like I did without seeking help or telling friends or family you’ve got a problem.

What, if anything, do you worry about?

Botching funerals. There’s always another week to make up for a bad sermon, but survivors are looking for what the Gospel says about death and resurrection in both meaningful and powerful ways.

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
San Antonio, Texas.

What do you like doing in your spare time?
Reading novels, attending movies/theater, dining with family/friends, playing tennis, hiking, swimming, telephoning friends, e-mailing friends, playing with my dog. (For many years I enjoyed working on political campaigns, but I’ve withdrawn almost entirely from that endeavor. I had a blast, though, skipping seminary for a week to work on Bill Clinton’s campaign in the 1992 New Hampshire primary. (That was my first time to hear the word “grinder” for a type of sandwich.)

What is your most treasured possession?
A poem that my paternal grandfather wrote for me in 1963, the year before his death and the engine from my boyhood toy train. (OK, I cheated; pastors are sinners, too.).

What talent would you most like to have?
To be able to read music.

If you could have any three guests, past or present to dinner, who would they be?
Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, John Ross, and Oklahoma Civil Rights Activist Clara Luper.

*Photo circa 1977.

1 comment:

Trixie said...

Oh look!! I remember that guy! Interesting to see all of your answers to these questions all in one place, too.