In some ways the question is like asking why I breathe. It can be answered on different levels. I could attempt a scientific answer, and talk about the importance of oxygen for the body. I could provide an existential answer, and say that breathing is not something one chooses; it is something one just does. I could attempt not breathing for a minute or so, and then answer that when it comes right down to it, I breathe because I really want to.
But the analogy breaks down at some point because I could survive a cessation of blogging. After all there were many years before there was any such thing as blogging, and as far as I can recollect I did okay. In the 1970s I did not wake up every morning with these vague yearnings. So if the environmentalists get their way, and we all find ourselves back in those halcyon days with no electricity to be had, or with commie brownouts, the question of why I blog would be a moot question.
So with those tempered qualifications, why do I blog? The short answer, as well as being the most direct, is that I have been called to it. This thing is a vocation for me and, as with all vocations, I know that I was made for it, and that it was made for me.
I remember when I was around ten years old, I wanted to make books. I didn’t just want to check them out of the library, I wanted to make them. I didn’t just want to read them, I wanted to write them. And I didn’t just want to write them, I wanted to make them. Books were out there in the world, obviously, and somebody had to make them. Why shouldn’t I get to make some?
But the cyclic patterns back then were quite different. It was almost 30 years after those first desires when I wrote my first book. And when I first started writing seriously, I would have to finish the writing, edit it, transfer it to a floppy disk, take it downtown to a typesetter, have them print it out on a long roll of special paper, cut it up into appropriate lengths, wax the back of each page, and press it down onto paper with special blue lines on it. I was in heaven—I was making books. Then after that you would ship it off to a printer and would begin the agonizing wait (weeks) for your carton of books to arrive.
Earlier I had gotten a taste of what quick turnaround was like when I started writing a weekly newspaper column in the early eighties. I would go down to the newspaper office, they would loan me an empty terminal and keyboard, and I would type my column there. This is when I learned to type — I looked up in a book what position the fingers were supposed to be in, and then went in headlong. Fixing mistakes was easy, compared to those pre-Cambrian days of paper and whiteout. What I had typed would appear a few days (whoa) later.
And this is when I first began to discover the truth of William F. Buckley’s observation: “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”
This is also where (I think) I began to develop my basic rhetorical stance. Who is my intended audience? Who am I writing for? This stance characterized my writing for the newspaper, all through the Credenda days, and down to the present. Who do I write for? Who do I want to “get” it? I write for the conservative, evangelical Christian, who is dissatisfied with the way life tends to go in the monkey house of the contemporary church, and who does not quite know how to express the nature of his dissatisfaction. I write to give that man or woman a voice.
And I also have had the privilege of traveling a bit, and so I have met many people from my intended audience over the years. This has given me an important cross-check. If all the people who loved my writing had three heads, with all of them drooling, this would certainly give me pause. Did I pick the right intended audience? Or, if I did, is my writing communicating the way I want it to communicate? “I mean, everybody who likes my stuff is a freak show.”
But no. The people who like the way I commit my brand of thought crimes in full public view tend to be people who are faithful in their churches. They have happy marriages and delightful families. They love the Lord, and laughter comes easily. They live in the last homely house, on the edge of that howling wilderness of the cool. They hate social justice, but they do love, you know, justice justice.
I am skipping over a lot here, but fast forward to 2003 or thereabouts. The Internet was gathering force, and becoming more and more of a thing. Not only so, but as it went, it became more and more of a different kind of thing. The Internet was this protean reality—you would hear about something and by the time you checked on it, it was a bit different. So when I first heard about blogging, I had to go and check with somebody. What was it exactly?
I found out that you could establish a blog address, write something, edit it, click a button to publish, and there it was. (!!!! And I hardly ever use exclamation marks.) And you could, if you wanted, do the very same thing the very next day. (!!!!) That did it. I was home. I became a blogger almost instantly, as soon as I could figure out how to do it. Figuring out how to do it did have its challenges because I was born in 1953 and computer-technical stuff makes little beads of cold sweat stand out on my brow. But all of that was worth it.
Do you people realize what a close call that was? This technology, which did not exist for thousands of years, could have been developed twenty years after I was dead and deep. But no—God in His kindness allowed it to come into being after I had a computer, and after I had learned how to type. I mean, what are the odds?
The best way I know how to explain all this comes from a scene in Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell is explaining to his pious sister how his running is not a distraction from the mission. “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” And that—mutatis mutandis—is how it is with me. Not the fast part, the pleasure part.
God made me for a purpose, but He also made my head overflow with metaphors, and my shoes are always wet from standing in the slop, and there are never enough paper towels. Kind of like that. Just like Liddell, only different.
So I am called, and I believe my calling is to write for the people I described earlier. My calling is to provide them with a voice, and I have good reason for believing that I am doing so.
Of course, publishing on a blog means that people who are not part of that intended audience are free to read it, and equally free to misconstrue it. But that’s all right. They are also free to attack it. That’s all right also because Pippa still passes. “The lark’s on the wing; The snail’s on the thorn; God’s in His heaven— All’s right with the world!” There are also critics (and friendlies) who feel that it is important to inform me, every time it comes up, that they don’t read my blog. “I don’t read your blog, but someone just sent this to me . . .” What follows may be a well done or a strategic criticism, but the important part was that I find out that they don’t read my blog. But that is more than all right as well. They are in marvelous company. Do you know that the number of people who don’t read my blog is up in the billions? The person who markets not reading my blog is a genius, and hauls down the big bucks.
But the fact that my vocation is a tiny one doesn’t keep it from being a vocation. The fact that I am a sentry at a particular post does not make that post a strategic point. But it does make it my post, and so even if is a tiny post, deserting it would be a huge dereliction. My part is to be here; I am supposed to be here. And here I will remain until the Joint Google/Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Free Speech shuts me down.
After that, we will have to be content with Bible studies in my living room.