Friday, May 13, 2005

The power of words: RLP, Evangelical Outpost

[If I keep breaking rules this blog ain't ever gonna get off the ground.
One of the rules is (probably) don't change the subject so often.
People who like one topic will not likely be attracted to another, especially if you go from jokes to multi-media to politics to dismal comments about obscure observations on Korean history...
I guess that's one of the benefits, too. Mostly I'm writing for myself, so if I like it I know at least one person is paying attention. ]

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Real Live Preacher is on my list of places to visit. There hasn't been much action there lately because Gordon got caught up in book publishing and getting to be a regular contributor to a magazine. But before that he had one of the most effective and compelling ministries of anyone in the clergy: his on-line weblog.
For a long time he kept his blog separate from everyone else in his life. The people in his church had no idea he was doing it, but judging from the comment threads he was reaching a lot more souls with his blog than he ever did in a church by the side of the road. His writing style is as scratchy as a hair shirt, but his heart is good as gold. I can't describe in a post or two the dynamic of his evangelism, but I am certain that it is every bit as important to the Kingdom as anybody else's.
A few days ago Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost finally got around to mentioning RLP in his blog. I was reading RLP almost from the start, but only became aware of Evangelical Outpost in the last year. The names of the two blogs tell as much as I can write about their respective missions. And I always make it a point to check the comments to see who is reading and what the effect of the writing is on readers. My impression of RLP is that he has a small but dedicated following of caring people with good hearts, many of whom can relate to his stories because something he said has touched them in a way that lets them know, somehow, that God knows who they are and He loves them anyway. Comments left at Evangelical Outpost are smart, informed and clean as a whistle. But the environment is too polished, too pious, too well-informed to make a new Christian feel comfortable, unless he has been cut from exactly the right cloth.
It is possible for a city dweller to be comfortable in the country, but it is likely that a country dweller is not going to be comfortable in the city. Typically, the city person in the country has the option of returning to the city. The country boy in the city, on the other hand, can't go back as easily. How can you keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree? That's why Crocodile Dundee is such an entertaining film. That's the appeal behind country music. And that's why, I think, the crowd at Evangelical Outpost is not comfortable with Real Live Preacher. it reminds them of a part of themselves that they thought had been left behind. (If they ever had it at all. Some people never cussed growing up. Just like they never peed outside or anything else that polite people just don't do. In some ways these are the ones who can be more tolerant than the ones who gave up bad behavior.)
For a study in motes and beams, I recommend two posts and their respective comment threads, one from Evangelical Outpost and the other from Real Live Preacher, both written within the past week, and both with enough comments to be interesting. I enjoy reading them both. I have as much respect for one as the other. Paul's image of body parts describing the church is appropriate. I will let others debate about what parts of anatomy are at work here.
As they say, I report, you decide.

Real Live Preacher...
People send me email regularly, asking how a preacher can use such language.
I don't know what to do with a question like that.
Sometimes I try to explain.

Sometimes I say, “I don’t know.”
Sometimes I say, “Why don’t you leave me the hell alone.”

Evangelical Outpost...
This mix of fideism and heroic existentialism probably appeals to the same immature crowd that appreciates a preacher who cusses. (“Dude, he doesn't know if God exists and he says F___ a lot. He’s my kind of Christian.”) Personally, I find such dumbing-down morally repugnant. When did Jesus say that we should leave our brains at the church door? Did I misunderstand that part about loving God with the whole mind? RLP's view of faith certainly seems peculiar.

By their fruits...
Don't neglect the comment threads.
That's where the rubber meets the road...

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