The End of Civil Religion

That post title sounds a little ominous, doesn’t it?  Let me explain.R.I.P. graffitti image courtesy artworldsalon.com

In the spring of 2009 I saw an announcement in the religion section of St. Louis Post Dispatch.  The paper was seeking to add new writers to its online site, Civil Religion, in an ongoing effort to build a diverse coalition of bloggers.  Blogging sounded like fun to me, and I replied with information about myself and my particular spot on the religious spectrum.  To my surprise I was selected, and entered some very impressive company.  I joined several clergy members, heads of religious organizations, a law professor, an author, people with advanced degrees – and as for me, I brought my own vast store of expertise.  Joking!  When I attended the  training session at the newspaper office I was greeted by one of the veteran bloggers, a no-nonsense conservative Catholic.  She had the information sheets on each of us and after she glanced at mine she said, “It says here that you are a Christian and an anarchist.  I think your have some explaining to do.”

That was the beginning of my blogging adventure at Civil Religion.  It was a bit like learning to swim in the deep end of the pool.  I quickly learned that some of the atheist readers were going to treat me like an idiot for being a Christian.  And some of the conservative Christians were going to accuse me of heresy.  And some of the political conservatives were going to accuse me of being a “loony left-wing liberal” (one of my favorite comments).  But the important lesson in all of that was that I could do very little to change those perceptions.  Certain people cannot be cajoled out of their animosity.  They will hate you on principle.  That was actually a freeing realization, once I got past the “Wah!  There are people who don’t like me!” stage.  Having a voice in the world – through writing or teaching or simply being engaged in relationships – means I will be disagreed with, sometimes strenuously.  I may even be disliked.  It is not, contrary to what I used to think, the end of the world.

Yesterday we Civil Religion writers received notice that the site is being put down like Old Yeller.  I wasn’t surprised, because for whatever reason, readership had dropped sharply in recent months.  On some level, I’m even relieved.  I haven’t been living up to my commitment to Civil Religion in the last couple of months – partly because of my heavier involvement at church, partly because I started this blog for pleasure.  But I’m also feeling a pang of sadness.  On a purely selfish level, Civil Religion gave me a platform that I didn’t have to create.  There I could get hundreds, even thousands of views and dozens of comments on a post.  Here I get excited if I have ONE comment.  There I felt that I was writing for an audience.  Here I am learning to write as a discipline regardless of whether I have an audience or not.

That’s enough pining.  I’m sharing this news with you (my small but precious readership) because the end of Civil Religion is going to make only slightly unhinged get very weird, very quickly.  We’ve been advised to move any posts we want to keep, and I will be relocating many of my old posts here.  Most of them will seem dated (because they are), but they are worth keeping and, I think, worth sharing.  So prepare for a jumble of old and new posts in the days ahead.  I won’t cheat on my postaday2011 commitment, though.  I’ll continue to put up something new every day.

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