Gone Fshing

My final year of seminary, one of my classes was on the topic of Devotional Writing.  We surveyed various confessional and devotional writers from Augustine onwards through today.  I admire(d) the professor greatly, and though the course was a ton of reading – some of which I actually completed – I took the course anyways.  A relationship the prof had with a former student provided the opportunity for our class to submit some of our own examples of devotional writing for future use in a web site that was going to be launched in the Spring of ’08 – a year away. 

As a perspiring writer, I submitted some of my material.  Didn’t think much of it until early ’08, when I started receiving e-mails reminding me that I was part of the potential contributing community for this site, and seeing if I still wanted to participate.  I corresponded with the guy behind the web site for a bit, trying to ascertain the site’s intent and goals and methodology. 

The idea sounded cool.  An online fishbowl into the life of faith, where people could gather to watch the life of faith lived out through the musings of Christians associated with the site.  Not graphically or via webcams, but just through writings.  The goal was to create a community of both the faithful and curious, where the two could interact and see one another more clearly, like a child might observe a fish in a fishbowl.  I submitted some more of my writings (some of my blog entries, actually), and was informed they were in the editorial queue to be looked over before possibly being utilized. 

The site launched on March 1 of 2008, I think, and within a matter of a couple of days it was clear to me that the site wouldn’t ultimately accomplish it’s goals.  While it might create an online community of the faithful, there was nothing to draw the curious.  Nothing but orthodox writings by earnest Christians, discussions centered around assumptions of the faithful that the curious don’t assume and therefore can’t join into discussion with.  It looked like a site that, at best, would become for however long a period, a new ‘hip’ Christian website. 

But it would never engage the curious.  It would not appear to challenge the faithful to really examine the pithy sayings they wear on their t-shirts or plaster on the bumpers of their cars.  And since these are twin impetuses in my life, I e-mailed the guy my concerns.  He listened politely, but didn’t agree.  He had a vision, and I know what visions are like.  I hoped that I was wrong, but decided to rescind my permission to publish my works.  If and when I begin disseminating my writings more broadly (and actually begin writing in earnest so to have something to distribute!), I want to be careful about where they show up and how they’re used.  As much as I wished this guy and his associates well, it was clear this wasn’t going to be the sort of site that either he or I hoped it would be.  We wished one another well and that was that.

I got a group e-mail a couple of weeks ago from the site’s founder.  The site had been shut down because it didn’t do what they had hoped it would.  There were vague expressions of hope that the site would be tweaked and resurrected someday, but those sorts of hopes don’t seem to come to anything more often than not.  I was sad to get that e-mail.  Sad that a good idea had failed.  Sad that I had been right in my hunches.  Sad that a tiny part of me was doing the I-told-you-so dance inside my head and feeling pretty smug and clever. 

The world needs places where the faithful and the curious can interact and see one another more clearly, like a child watching a fish through a fishbowl.  But that’s a difficult thing to do.  I hope to help facilitate it in some fashion.  Not online, but in flesh and blood and brick and mortar.  And I hope that if and when that opportunity arises, there will be people around to guide me and help me think through it clearly.  Because I don’t want to have to send out an e-mail like I received a couple of weeks ago. 

It would piss me off too much to think of other folks out there – or portions of folks out there – doing the I-told-you-so dance in their heads.  Heaven help me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s