Category Archives: media

The End of Civil Religion

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

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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Week One, 2011: I’m Going on a Media Diet

Note: I’m still looking for a new name for this blog.  I’ve got an idea in my mind, but I’m not ready to  commit.  Other ideas are welcome!  “Only Slightly Unhinged” has become a reproach to me, and I hope to be rid of it soon.

Resolution #2:  Media Diet

I am not going on a media fast.  I’ve been down that road before and I was not successful.  The problem could be that I lackphoto courtesy of self-control, as I most certainly do.  But for a number of reasons, I am just not motivated to give up media (radio, TV, movies, internet) entirely.  Some Christians have built careers preaching the evils of TV and movies, but I’ve never been among the culture rejecters.  I’ve also tried not to go to the other extreme of being a culture glutton.  Aaaannnnd I seem to be losing a little ground, to be honest.  I’ve become a bit of a culture glutton over the past year.  It’s cable, I tell you.  Well, that and wireless internet.  These are both recent acquisitions for us, and they have made moderation in all things electronic more of a challenge.  One of the odd side effects is that while I’m watching more TV and browsing more stuff on the internet, I’m seeing less things that I really want to see.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve read more blogs, but less books.  I’ve also seen fewer movies in the last year than is typical, even as I’ve watched more TV.  My viewing has become indiscriminate rather than intentional.

No more, I tell you.  That’s why I’m planning, starting today, to go on a Media Diet.  I want to cut down on the hours I’m looking at a screen, and I want to be more deliberate about what I do watch.  A few well chosen blogs, a few favorite TV shows, time left for books and movies I really want to see – and perhaps I’ll find more time other things as well.  Like exercise.  But let’s not get crazy.  The point right now is just to take back control of this part of my life.  There are many implications to this plan, but I can tell you at least one:  no more episodes of “Toddlers in Tiaras”.


Filed under media, television, Uncategorized