I announced last month that I would be taking a short hiatus from the blog because I learned that some of the heat I occasionally get has been singeing other people. (You can read the full post here.) I was planning on a much shorter break, but I got bogged down with an essay I was submitting for an academic journal. Over the course of what turned into a month, I did learn some lessons.
My plan in this post was to explain some of what I would be doing differently, including learning to stop feeling responsible for the way others write, to stop allowing individuals to post links that focus more on my “ulterior motives” than my arguments. But after writing all that I kept coming around to one basic point.
My critics and I are writing for the same reasons.
Sure, I disagree with their logic. In my opinion they have misdiagnosed the problems with society. I also think they need to learn to read less prejudicially (which, of course, I never do), and they need a less vitriolic tone. But I think I get where it comes from.
(Let me say for context that I am talking about my critics here because my “intel” suggests that it was not my writing that affected those I care about as much as it was what other people were writing about my writing.)
Some quarters of the Orthodox Church have taken a hard right in recent years. I think this has a lot to do with the convert phenomenon. (Being a convert myself, the irony of this comment is unavoidable). Many people have come to Orthodoxy because they felt their old traditions were too theologically /politically/socially liberal. I think they might be afraid that if I do not parrot the same culture-wars tripe as them, then the inevitable result will be to make the Orthodox Church become what they left behind.
I worry about the same thing – that the Orthodox Church will become what I left behind. My old church was in many ways just a wing of the Republican party. One of my first visits to an Orthodox Church was during the run-up to the Iraq War. When the priest called his congregation to “pray for sanity for our leaders,” it was like a breath of fresh air. I knew Orthodoxy was not “liberal,” but it need not be “conservative” either. I saw that Orthodoxy can transcend shallow binaries of Culture-Wars Evangelicalism.
So my “opponents” and I write for the same reasons. Neither of us wants the other to make Orthodoxy into what we left behind. It makes sense to me that some will want me to stop writing because they fear I will make us like the Episcopalians or something. But I will keep writing for a similar reason: I don’t want us to become Evangelicals with incense.