Tuesday 8 March 2016

Thanks to commenters, and reflections on blogging and Christian evangelism

Thanks to everybody who commented yesterday - this generous response certainly inclines me to keep going a while longer with this blog: knowing that there are a significant number of people out-there who find the blog worthwhile.

It isn't a matter of stopping writing - since that is how I think; indeed an aspect of how I meditate. But the blog is a medium with a certain style and expectations - actually quite a delicate matter - IMO probably more blogs have been somewhat spoiled by their comments (e.g. Steve Sailer, Unqualified Reservations) than were enhanced by them (e.g. View from the Right). But comments are part of the medium. 

When I began blogging I did so without allowing comments, because I found the whole business distracting - but after experimentation I found value in the interactive aspect; and it was a major factor in developing the ideas of Thought Prison (especially) and Addicted to Distraction. However, the need to 'manage' comments (and commenters!) is difficult for me, since I am not and do not want to be any kind of manager!

However, part of the problem is laziness - I never managed to get myself to learn the skills required to do web pages (probably this aspect has changed); while blogging is as easy as typing, cutting and pasting. I have only managed to tinker with the HTML facility of blogging in the past few months - to fix it when, for mysterious reasons, the blog post comes-out with wrong and ineradicable-by-normal-means formatting) - but I find it extremely soul destroying work!.

The truly wonderful thing about blogging, for someone whose creativity is somewhat pressured and fecund (I could fairly easily - and would want to - post three or even more times a day, on most non-busy days, on a wide range of subjects - but have found it somewhat counter-productive for this type of blog; not least because it seems to feed the media-frenzy way of thinking and behaving - rather than encouraging contemplation)... the wonderful thing about blogging is its immediacy and that fact that it removes The Editor from the equation.

I used to do a fair bit of journalism - in the early 90s I was writing for the New Scientist, Times Higher Education Supplement and peaked with regular well-paid stuff in The Times (of London) - and that worked for me essentially because the editors printed everything I sent with minimal changes! However, these outlets were cut-off by changes in personnel and policy, and those situations are much rarer nowadays - or else extinct (in my experience) except in very small magazines where a relationship of trust can be established. And anyway, blogging has been much more rewarding and creatively stimulating than any journalism I ever did - money has its price.

But the turn-around time to close the loop with readers with small magazines is terribly slow; and of course there is no small magazine which would take the range of things I blog about - or which would indeed be interested in my notions.

Furthermore, the heart of this blog is Christian evangelism - that is why I keep-on writing it. And the fact is that I am such a odd kind of Christian (through nobody's fault but my own!) that there is no audience in small magazines, or small publishers, for what I do. I am grateful to be included (recently) at the Junior Ganymede group blog, which is essentially a conservative Mormon blog - on the basis of having developed a pen-friendship with the blog-Meister; and to participate, albeit from outside the CJCLDS, with the community there. I think they could benefit from a higher rate of commenting; but on the whole there is a 'feel' about that blog (warm hearted and/ but tough minded) which is something positive that blogs can do.

So - the reason for this blog, and what keeps me going, is the attempt to bring people towards or into 'Mere' Christianity - mainly aiming at those whose metaphysical set-up (fundamental assumptions) are preventing this. As with any kind of evangelical work, each individual counts, and one 'success' is sufficient to justify a lifetime of effort - so from that perspective I have apparently been richly rewarded.

Beyond that, the matter of salvation (accepting the gift of eternal Heavenly life which Christ has already gained for us, but which we personally must accept - with its conditions), is theosis - the matter of becoming a better Christian by becoming more God-like during mortal life.

I still have work to do in developing my own understanding about how this might be possible and 'how to do it' in ways that 'work' for introverted, antisocial, wilful, irritable people such as myself - who have compulsively been picking fights with institutions for decades, and who can barely get themselves even to attend church services from time to time.

Nonetheless, I always recommend picking a real Christian denomination, a specific church - in light of oneself and the avaiable possibilities in a particular time and place - joining it, and living in and by it, as the best Christian path for most people. (I haven't given up on this, by the way - but keep trying intermittently.)

On the other hand, not everybody is most people, there are few 'real' churches available to choose from, and even fewer of these (in my case currently zero) which one is eligible to join - and there are also many 'ways' of being a real, self-identified, faith-full but 'Mere' Christian outside the churches; and that is, I think, my core role here.

Certainly not by being an exemplar of the mainstream and most-useful-for-most-people path - but helpful for a minority of Christian oddballs and eccentrics (in that respect similar to myself) on the one hand - and on the other hand indicating some more individual, intuitive and inward,  subjectively-transformative-possibilities for those who are in churches.

Because I think this is the destiny of Western man - the divinely intended direction of Christian life which has so far been rejected or else thwarted. We are not supposed to be contented with a life of obedience and virtue (which is anyway, unattainable); but Christianity ought also to be transformative of the inner Man, of consciousness - albeit partially, intermittently and mainly as an ideal.

Christianity (and salvation) comes first, and acknowledgement of the validity of the rules and practices is essential; the church as an institution (as well as mystically) is essential - and without the institutional church (found in several and various denominations) Christianity will surely die; but Christian thinking ought not to be mundane.  We should strive to be 'not of this world' in terms of our innermost experiences.

In sum, too many Christians are stunted by an exclusive focus on morality - because The Good also includes beauty and truth, and the transformation of being a Christian should have as its ideal not only (nor for everyone primarily) the goal of being ever-more-virtuous. That just isn't enough of an aim - especially in a world permeated with evil thought structures - as ours is.

Aside from a micro-minority, virtue is too small and partial to be the primary goal of life. Attempting primarily to be virtuous leads, too often, to a hard-hearted and shallow morality of legalism. Our minds, our very way of thinking - as deep inside us as we know, need to be different and distinct from the mundane, autonomous of the mundane, and a source of purpose, meaning and real (spiritual) relationships.

Everyone can work on this for himself and in himself - and need not wait for the world to change first. But to recognize that this is a valuable thing to do itself requires a metamorphosis of the normal and enforced assumptions and practices of thinking - normal and enforced just as much within Christian churches as outside them.

We are - almost all of us - self-trapped in a self-imposed prison of the dull, materialistic and ultimately nihilistic; but (properly understood) this is not a matter for despair because the Christian is in an uniquely hopeful and strong position to do something effective about this - starting here and now.

In sum: Modern Man is sleepwalking through life - and Christians are not exempt, indeed they are (on the whole) in this regard, no better than anyone else. We all need to wake-up. To wake-up from our state of ambulent sleep we (probably) first need to understand what we are trying to do, start doing it, then we may experience it - and only then will we know it. 

So, there is work still to be done with this blog - work in-me, and perhaps from-me. 


JP said...

an aspect of how I meditate.

I'd like to know more about this - and in particular, how to meditate in order to increase one's awareness of / openness to spiritual influences. If there has already been a blog post on this, just point me to it...

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - I have certainly posted on several/ numerous occasions about meditation. The only way I can find posts on a theme is to use the word search facility - and it comes up with this: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=meditation.

In general I find that writing is thinking; mostly my meditative writing (and creativity) is with a notebook and a pen and a coffee; but to some extent, sometimes, as I am actually doing the blog post (usually early in the mornings, before breakfast) I am in a kind of elevated state in which the words come to me and I learn something from what appears on the screen.

pyrrhus said...

Believe it or not, I found "10% happier"by media star Dan Harris, excellent. It depicts his long road to understanding and mastering meditation, with many bumps, and the positive effects it had on his life. I'm embarrassed to say that my wife had to nag me for months to get me to read it....

Anonymous said...

Dr Charlton: "In general I find that writing is thinking; mostly my meditative writing (and creativity) is with a notebook and a pen and a coffee; but to some extent, sometimes, as I am actually doing the blog post (usually early in the mornings, before breakfast) I am in a kind of elevated state in which the words come to me and I learn something from what appears on the screen."

Yes, and it shows.

Your writing is never boring, but it is easy to tell when the content has mostly been intellectually created, and when it has been spirit created. The first prompts an analytic response from this reader, but the second prompts a feeling of revelation and wonder - its obvious and real, no analysis necessary. Sometimes there is both in the same post, as though you suddenly took off from the mundane and soared into the air.

For me, the experience as reader is like air and light expanding within - a freshness. I also have the distinct feeling that it is similar to your state as writer as you wrote - an exhilaration of rightness being achieved.

The result is a sharing of vital knowledge - a wholly connected understanding.

This is why I like your blog.