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the risk(s) of writing. at all.

It's been a while since I've written and posted on my website. I've been withdrawn within myself for over a year wrestling with some things. Those things, if I write about them, belong in other posts. For now, the longing to write rises in me. I don't respond to this feeling enough. So, today I write a blog post. But, what to write about?

Immediately, the problems of writing theology and ethics come to the fore. They concern faith and politics. Writing on these issues means communicating in a minefield.

One of the difficulties of writing about God and ethics is finding a common frame of reference. Just finding the right words to use is a problem. Should I use the term ‘theology?’ Is that word too academic and alienating? What about ‘faith’ or 'religion?' But, many prefer ‘spirituality.’ Perhaps, "spirituality" is too broad. And, when I use ‘God,’ what exactly do I mean?

"Christian" has also become almost undefinable. Christians who believe Christianity is the only true religion don't agree on what Christians must believe. Other Christians are so repulsed by fundamentalism or conservative Christianity, they may revere Jesus but no longer define themselves as Christian. Such words can lead a reader off into misinterpretations.

Then, there's the problem of difficult topics. The intersection of theology, ethics, politics and society is riddled with loaded subjects. I concern myself with sex, money, race, freedom, power, truth and injustice.

Lack of a shared context and assumptions makes communicating on these topics nearly impossible. It takes care and discipline to write and read about these matters well. Writing about intense issues takes patience and trust many don't have or want. Overcoming these barriers can be a barrier to writing at all.

Our communication platforms also complicate things. I live in a "free world" of free speech and freedom of ideas. In practice, this means a world of for-profit media platforms. In the U.S., freedom organizes itself around monied interests and 'pay-to-say' media platforms that vy for our attention.

Faith and politics entwine themselves in propaganda. The platforms and propaganda are part of the minefield. Neuroscience documents our tendency to confirm our biases. Religious and political propaganda exploits this. We are easily manipulable through repetition and emotional appeal. It takes funding to not only be heard in America. Well-funded messages drive how we think about faith and politics, as well as how we feel.

This means writing on theology and ethics takes risks. I must risk. Writing theology and ethics about faith in politics in ways that go against the norm and against the dominant voices means specific risks - misunderstanding, being mislabeled, and making enemies.

For me. it's about time.

Historically, it's a profound privilege to write and speak into the world without risk. Minority voices and unwanted perspectives have been suppressed, silenced, and sabotaged for centuries. Jesus and other prophets died for the sake of speaking their truth. Black truth, women's truth, queer truth, costly and uncomfortable truths, have always required risk. Whatever you want to call the world today - postmodern, late modern, "free". etc - it redistributes the risks. It seems to me that avoiding the risks of communicating, making meaning, and seeking connection through writing is something I can't afford, nor should assume.

So I write. Writing a blog post, voicing perspective, and entering dialogue all mean hazarding who I am and what I think needs to be said. Writing is one of the only ways I make sense of the world. So, I risk even more by avoiding it.

Thanks for reading. :)

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Julie Steele
Julie Steele
Jun 22, 2023

Thanks for writing, Matt. I recognize the wrestling you're describing and have found that more writing--more leaning into the struggle--somehow helps.

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