Just because it happened, as I started writing this little fiasco, my wife asked me what I was doing, and I told her, "I'm drafting the blog."
She looked at me and said, "You mean you're riding it too close to the truck in front of you again?"
Since she put it that way, yes.
Let me confess a few things about this topic before I start the disreputable and unhelpful blogging. The first is this: I had a hard time following the audio of the Band of Bloggers 2012 session because I only know Tim Challies' and Justin Taylor's voices, and I can't tell the rest of them apart by voice. Collin Hansen sounds like Timmy Brister, and one of them sounded like Tullian Tchividjian to me even though I know he wasn't on the panel. And you would think that I could pick Kevin DeYoung's voice out of the crowd, but honest to pete I just couldn't tell [UPDATED: Turns out KDY was absent that day, so I am not utterly deaf]. So the attributions in this and the next few pieces of bloggeration presented on this subject will be muddled at best because except for Tim and Justin, I can't tell who is who.
So why blog this audio? I mean: I simply couldn't be caught walking past the session, and I said my piece via GoAnimation the day of the event, and that should be enough, right? There's enough evangelical fire-power involved in this panel discussion to see to it that I never publish anything ever except via blog if I somehow irk them. And may it never be said that they somehow "overlooked" a finalist for best new author of the year because of his associations -- but it could in theory happen. It would be wrong of me to expect they would behave that way, but it would be foolish of me to think that these guys owe me any favors when I seem to be usually at odds with them and their flavor of edification.
That is to say: blogging this audio is marginally-dangerous -- and some would say, done simply for the controversy. It draws traffic, after all. But here's the thing: it seems rather ill-considered that a handful of reasonably well-known bloggers would chat about blogging as such and no other blogs would have anything to say about it. In some sense, if no one ever brought it up again, it would be too fantastically ironic. The Band of Bloggers assessed all of Christian blogdom and no one heard it? No one was edified? Or perhaps: no one cared?
May it never be: I cared. Or rather, I care. So let's begin: one of three posts on this interesting event.
The right place to start is with my dear friend and fellow blogger David Kjos who is one of the most gifted bloggers having at it. David gave his brief assessment of the event here, and it elicited Justin Taylor's response -- to the negative, if you can believe that. So while I didn't pay my $15 for Chic-Fil-A and the free books, I was a little intrigued to find that David would not think it was entirely satisfying and Justin would find David's comments worthy of disavowal.
The audio, it turns out, is stored at the Southern Seminary archive -- for which we are all grateful. I gave it a listen or three, and I commend it to all of you for review and discussion.
So here's the transcript of the first few minutes:
(Starting at 00:00)
Owen Strachen: Let's just kick it off with the state of Blogging. A few years back, I think it was in 2009 at the Gospel Coalition, at that iteration of Band of Bloggers, we wondered whether blogging would continue. There was a lot of talk in 2009 about whether Blogging was dead -- and Tim (Challies) for example said it wasn't and it seems that he was right. What is the state of blogging today in 2012 both in terms of the general market if you're interested in talking about that and in terms of the evangelical blog scene.
I start with Justin and go down the line. Any thoughts you have.
Justin: I'd rather hear from Collin first. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about that question necessarily. I do think it's right that blogging is not dead; it will probably never die as long as people want more than 140 characters. I think twitter is a great gateway into reading longer-formed content which blogs tend to specialize in. I don't think its going anywhere, I think Collin is more gifted at looking at the whole lay of the land. But it's what I like to do; I'll keep doing it as long as I still enjoy it and people continue to read it. And my blog is just more of a gateway to other things out there, so I think as long as people want content, blogging in some form will exist.
Challies: I just wanna ask a question - how many people here subscribe to the print version of Christianity Today? raise your hand if you would. (pause) How 'bout World Magazine? (pause) Blogs aren't going anywhere. Right? How else are you going to know what's going on in the Christian world? That's just the way ideas are carried. It's the way people are finding out things now -- through the blogosphere.Now, it would be wrong, really, to criticize them for speaking briefly -- the whole session is only an hour, and everyone there was really there for T4G which started hard upon the end of this pre-conference huddle, so what I'm not going to do is pelt these guys for keeping it inside the time they had available. Good on them, to be sure, for honoring other people's time.
(Ends about 02:00)
But here's what strikes me about the fellows lined up here: they are all of one stripe. Here's the list of who was there (in Alpha order):
Tim BristerExcept for Timmy (who is his own brand among Southern seminarians, SBTS being the general host of T4G) and Challies (who is his own brand in the larger internet ecosystem, ranking about the same as the Sport blog for the Boston Herald, and just slightly ahead of this very blog), these guys represent "The Gospel Coalition" brand of Christianity. You should bookmark that for future reference in this series, but to say that these fellows are anything but one slice of bologna (let's be fair: probably a decent yard of beef and not some skimpy hors d'oeuvre) in the deli of Christian writers -- let alone Christian thinkers or Christian bloggers -- is unreliable. And in that case, it seems to me that the ice breaker here is a little much.
Kevin DeYoung-- Absent, so noted!
However, it does give us some stellar foundations by which to track the rest of this discussion. The core connection (that they are rather monolithic) is the first foundation; the second strikes me as rather obvious: Tim and Justin see this stuff as a rather conspicuous hobby. You know: neither one earns a living via blogging, but somehow they have both gotten into their current professions via blogging. They have somehow made a name for themselves which carries over into something else more lucrative, and I credit them for it. But they do this sort of thing because they like it -- which is an important motivation which we'll need to review in another installment.
The last foundation is that they don't have any illusions about the state of the medium: it is what it is, and it is here to stay. It is exactly like moveable type amped up on Red Bull and a megadose of B-Complex vitamins, and the great leap forward in terms of the democratization of information and ideas is more like a quantum jump. "How else," ponders Challies, "are you going to know what's happening in the Christian world?"
And that, I am afraid, is the first fantastic irony. If you read the blogs these guys publish and link to -- and because you're a Gospel menace you also read this blog -- tell me: what's going on amongst the 1200 Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship churches these days? Whither the BBFI and it's 1.2 million members in this day of trouble? How about the lowly Methodists or Anglicans?
What they must mean, of course, is, "what's going on in our corner of Christendom," which is not all it's cracked up to be. It's a pretty narrow and fallow patch of the harvest compared, for example, to what's happening in Africa and South America -- and a patch the world thinks needs more missionaries sent to it.
So is it a fun hobby? Sure it is. But it's a clever little hobby that makes us into something terrifying and untrustworthy: it makes us into the center of attention. And when we become the center of attention, we seem to forget that most people are simply not like us.
Anecdotally, as I was preparing to go to T4G a couple of weeks ago, one of the guys I worked with asked me how I was going to spend my vacation. "With my wife," I said rather coyly as I was seeking to get my desk sufficiently cleared prior to leaving.
"Ha." he said. "I mean 'where'?"
So I looked away from the customer car wreck in my In-Box and took off my glasses. "We're going to a conference called 'Together for the Gospel,'" I said simply. "It's hosted by a seminary in Louisville, and we're going to see some old friends and listen to a week of talks about whether or not we take the Gospel of Jesus Christ seriously. Al Mohler will be there; Mark Dever; John Piper."
He looked at me blankly, thinking. "Amy Grant?"
I put my glasses back on. "No." I said, returning to my work. "Bob Kauflin." I might as well have said, "Armin Shimerman."
My point being: even our heroes in that circle of influence are pretty much unknown by the world at large. And for us to think that our blog reading (let alone: our blog writing) is somehow expressing "what's going on in the Christian world" is, at best, poor accounting.
So maybe the first stop in my tour through the 60 minutes which was Band of Bloggers is this: let's not kid ourselves about the size of the teapot in which we think we are tempesting. It's not hardly the world -- and not hardly the whole Christian world. It's a narrow band of blogging, and would be better off expressed that way rather than as something more influential.
That's enough for today. Comments are open; mind your manners.