An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

By John Pierce

My entry into blogging a couple of years ago was primarily a push from Bruce Gouley, the online editor for Baptists Today. Another friend and colleague, Tony Cartledge, was less reluctant.

Soon, however, I found a groove and Tony (my blogging partner) and I’ve been posting blogs to the Baptists Today site on a rather consistent basis. Tony has been more faithful to our agreed-upon schedule, I confess.

However, both of us tend to write our blogs even when not officially working — though I did take a little break during the recent holidays.

Overall, blogging has been a good experience and an opportunity to share some ideas and to engage in conversations beyond the writing of opinion pieces for the news journal.

A big change came when Tony suggested linking my blogs to my Facebook page. I did and it brought a larger and much more diverse readership.

Facebook is odd in that it meshes my personal and professional worlds. I have “friends” from every place I’ve ever lived, gone to school and worked.

The reconnection with old friends (and relatives) has been and is the greatest benefit to being in a Facebook community. And, in reality, I’m pleased that many of the people with whom I have professional relationships are also considered to be friends on a personal level.

All of that to say, I enjoy blogging about various subjects and do so now with a realization that my ideas reach a broader set of eyes than readers of the news journal that employs me. So the exchanging of ideas through this medium seems worth the investment of time and effort.

Sometimes Tony and I stir up debates when blogging about issues of the day that might be considered controversial. Both of us have been writers and editors long enough to see our skin thicken over the years. So that’s to be expected and is OK with us.

At other times, we may be nostalgic, lighthearted or even quite personal. Most readers seem to appreciate the human side of writers who don’t set themselves apart as experts they are not. Writers, I believe, are at their best when they put into words what others may feel and wish to say.

Blog entries — for better or worse — come from a variety of places. They may arise from the news or an overheard conversation. Sometimes an idea gets scratched out on a brown Panera napkin that is tucked away to germinate.

The biggest challenge to ongoing blogging comes at those times, like now, when a pressing publication deadline, a long “to-do” list and a pile of mail from the holidays all scream for attention.

But pushing aside from those tasks to think about a Saturday morning blog got me to thinking about blogging in general. I asked myself what lessons have been learned from this odd, new, personal/professional, digital, sometimes-controversial form of expression and dialogue.

Here’s how I answered my own question about some lessons learned from blogging:

One, if getting a lot of comments on a blog entry is the goal, just mention Mormons. The Internet is full of LDS defenders of the faith. The current GOP political skirmishes have raised the Mormon public profile a good bit and so-called “social conservatives” seem to be on the warpath, so this is understandable.

(For the record, my writings related to Mormonism have centered on the ideas that having a religious test for public office is a bad idea and that debates about Mormon doctrines should be theological rather than political.)

Two, Bible proof-texters abound as well — and they have no doubts. Write something about the complexity of faith, challenge some traditional thinking about Christianity or express doubt in any way and you don’t have to wait long. Those who have God neatly packaged into their tiny boxes will start shooting Bible verses and doctrinal certitutudes at you like BBs.

(For the record, I’m quite comfortable with a good bit of mystery and doubt. And few things are less attractive to me than what is offered by those who have God, and therefore all truth, securely nailed down and allow for no re-evaluation.)

Three, religious liberty is frighteningly misunderstood. I am often stunned that so many Christian Americans want the government to give them special privileges or deny equal freedoms to those with whom they have differences.

(For the record, history — if we will simply read it — clearly reveals the genius of how full religious liberty creates the best environment in which faith can flourish. And history also reveals the great tragedies that result when government tries to give a particular religious tradition a helping hand.)

I’m sure there are more lessons. But deadlines loom. The pile of mail is high. So this will have to suffice for now — from a once-reluctant blogger.

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