Musing on blogging

/ 14 February 2013

A class that I teach with Gary Simpson on media and religion just got going this week, and in the class we ask students to keep personal blogs as well as commenting on the class blog. It brought me back to the very beginnings of my own blog - nearly 10 years ago - and the way this space has become a place where I can share what I’m thinking with a little bit more freedom than I feel in a classroom.

And isn’t that interesting? So many of our students this week are pondering boundaries, and wondering what it means to hold a class in a public space. Can they speak truth, or will it come back to haunt them in a search process? What kinds of truths are appropriate for sharing?

I think about all of the times in this blog when I’ve written passionately about extending the sacrament of marriage (I’m Catholic, it’s a sacrament) to GLBTQ people. I’m certain that that writing has kept me from engagement in specific Catholic communities — but I’m also certain, because I’ve heard from people for whom this is true, that my writing has kept them in the Catholic community, giving them room to inhabit their questions.

I started this blog so that I could express publicly the things I care deeply about — at the time, back in March of 2003, that was opposition to the war — without having to force my students to engage them. That is to say, they could easily find out what I believe about something if they chose to go to my blog to read about it, but they didn’t have to. They could be in my classroom without having to engage certain issues that were not immediately germane to what we were learning together.

So my blog began as a space of personal freedom. That’s why my blog lives on my own server, not at Luther Seminary. Sure, there’s a link to my blog from my professional site, but if anyone wants to complain to Luther about what I write, Luther has at least some ability to note that it’s clearly my personal writing, and NOT reflective of Luther’s stance on anything.

On the other hand, there are very many things that never make it into this blog. My experiences as a parent raising a child with physical disabilities rarely if ever comes into this blog. I suppose that’s partly because it’s not just my story. It’s also my son’s story. And it hasn’t felt right to share it.

There are lots of other things I don’t share. Clearly I don’t talk about specific students much in this blog — when I do, it’s usually in affirmation — and although my institution (that is, Luther Seminary) is in the midst of a horrible financial crisis, that’s not been part of my reflections here, either.

I think these choices have evolved for me over time, and will continue to do so. Maybe that’s what “boundary management” is all about?

I think that part of what I love about the arena of blogs and blogging, is simply that it’s a way to have a digital presence, a way to build context more proactively in the midst of what often feels like context collapse. So… ten years on, there’s a lot of context for me in this space.