Thank You

Andrew Sullivan's The Dish has been my favorite blog. I read The Dish every day. I especially loved Sundays with The Dish when the content, much of it curated by Matthew Sitman, turned toward the religious.

So it was a sad day today when The Dish came to an end, Andrew and his team feeling it time to move on to other projects and endeavors. It felt like losing a dear friend. I'll miss The Dish. And I'll always cherish the fact that The Dish linked to a couple of my posts.

As I pondered my emotional connection with The Dish and Andrew Sullivan, someone I only know through his blog, I began to think about you, the readers of this blog. Over the years I've received so many emails, letters, comments and gifts from you sharing with me and thanking me about how much this blog has meant to you, how it has saved your faith, how it carried you through a dark place. I imagine that the connection you've felt with me is similar to the connection I felt for Andrew Sullivan.

So, similar to what Andrew did much of this week wrapping up The Dish, I want to take a moment to share with you how important you, as readers, have been to me. I might have saved many of you, but you have saved me as well.

When I started this blog back in 2006 I was in a pretty lonely place. Yes, I had friends but my thoughts and struggles and beliefs about Christianity were so unique and peculiar I never had found anyone who deeply understood where I was coming from. I felt alone.

But I also felt some of the things I was thinking and some of the conclusions I had reached about the faith could be of help to others in the church. But I had no outlets to see if that was the case. I was, and remain, a psychology professor who mostly taught statistics. Why would anyone give a book contract to a statistics teacher wanting to write about theology? Why would anyone invite a statistics teacher to preach or speak?

In my faith tradition the preachers were the ones with a voice. The preachers wrote the books. The preachers were the ones who were invited to speak to large audiences. Me? I had lots of thoughts about what the preachers were talking and writing about. But I spent my days in classrooms talking about the standard deviation and the correlation coefficient. No one cared about my theological musings. Why would they? I wasn't qualified to have a theological or biblical opinion.

And then I started a blog.

Suddenly, I didn't need to score a book contract. I didn't have to wait for the speaking invitation. I could talk to the church directly through the Internet. And amazing things happened.

Before the blog I would be awed when I saw preachers getting to speak in front of thousands. There was so much I wanted to say to the church, so much I wanted to share. But who was ever going to give me, an unknown statistics teacher, that chance? 

Thousands of people now read this blog every day. Many millions of people have visited this blog. I can't get my head around that. Millions. I don't need a pulpit or a publisher. I don't need a speaking invitation or a book contract. I have this blog. I have millions. I have you.

I'm sharing this not to share a success story of how a lonely, marginalized voice found its way around the gatekeepers that controlled and curated the conversation of a particular faith tradition. I'm sharing this story because when I found you and when you found me all my alienation and loneliness ended. Here on the Internet I had found my people. We were sprinkled across a hundred different faith traditions. We were lonely, minority voices from a thousand different churches.

And we found each other.

We struggled with the same questions and resonated with the same answers. Before we had been alone. We were the crazy heretic sitting in the back of the Sunday School class or stewing through the sermon. But here we felt known and understood. Here we felt normal.

So thank you. Thank you finding me. Thank you for reading. Thank you for encouraging me. You have saved me. Since 2006 I've felt normal. And known. And loved.

I hope I make you feel the same.

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26 thoughts on “Thank You”

  1. I feel the same. I've been headbutting with the gatekeepers recently, and you help me cope.

  2. I've been reading and commenting here since practically day one. As an active participant in the blogosphere no one has been as consistently thought-provoking and inspiring (including the DISH which I read daily) as you have been. I still rank Unclean as one of the best works of theology of the decade, perhaps longer. Moreover, the sense of mutual respect and affection I have felt for/from you transcend this digital relationship. You have a guest bed in my house in Portland anytime. It would be an honor to feast you and Jana lavishly.

  3. I've been reading along with you for a couple of years. Thank you. In all areas I prefer to read people who share their process instead of just conclusions, but it's especially rare in faith and theology. So thanks for being so honest and open.

  4. If somehow reading your blog means joining in God's saving work in your life, then I wonder if I've been completely missing the point. See, I thought I was just learning to waste time on better internet sites! I can get stuck on my sports teams' sites in a dead-end search for something meaningful, as if a little more knowledge might do the trick (winning as transcending). Then my brother Charlie told me about you and I ventured out. But venturing out for me goes against my instincts--for my love of security in the familiar is strong--and yet in retrospect can turn out to be steps of faith. Glad I said yes to reading your blog Richard. Glad you said yes to creating it. Creation through consent.

  5. I can't speak my gratitude enough for this blog, nor can I adequately describe what it has meant for and done to a faltering faith I had gladly relinquished, so I will try to be brief. To hear that our reading may provide you with some of what your blog provides me - the surprise of the idea makes it even more of a challenge to respond.

    As for how you describe the "your people" that you found: that we "were sprinkled across a hundred different faith traditions. We were lonely, minority voices from a thousand different churches. And we found each other.... before we had been alone...": First of all: beautiful. Second: reminds me of the various "but now" statements throughout the letter to the Romans (in the NIV, at least). Third: I observe the phenomenon to be true on this blog, and you and your relationship to it, and the way it is true for me remind me of these lines from A. R. Ammons' poem "Sphere:"

    I/ know my own -- the thrown peripheries, the stragglers, the cheated,
    maimed, afflicted (I know their eyes, pain's melting amazement),

    the weak, disoriented, the sick, hurt, the castaways, the
    needful needless: I know them, I love them: I am theirs:
    I can't reach them through the centers of power: the centers

    of power aim another way from them: I reach them out in the
    brush in the rangeful isolation, night: I touch them: I
    turn my face into the rock walls and say sayings: the rock

    jiggles with magic: the black grass burns darkness: fries:
    the brush dances:...

    In other words, your faith and questions, as described here, and many of the resulting discussions, move many of my mountains into the sea. It's not all wonderful for me, of course: I'm still stuck in tangles of (mulberry) trees, but something new is happening for me because of this blog. I find far less need to call to mind the former things, "to ponder the things of the past." To read that you at one point felt so much isolation and to now realize that many other readers may also have begins to thaw the edges off of some of my own. To my own great surprise I find myself placing occasional membership in this eclectic, rich, warm, and welcoming "e-"congregation. Many thanks.

  6. Thank you! I appreciate your work on Stringfellow and the Slavery of Death has been an exciting read for me. Keep up this wonderful blog!

  7. As usual, Richard, you and my fellow readers have said it before and better than me. But let me add my own 'thank-you' to the quiet chorus.

    “So here I am...trying to use words, and every attempt
    Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
    Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
    For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
    One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
    Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate,
    With shabby equipment always deteriorating
    In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
    Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
    By strength and submission, has already been discovered
    Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
    To emulate - but there is no competition -
    There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
    And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
    That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
    For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."

    T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

  8. There is no other teacher who has done so much to uncover a path where I thought there was none. Thank you, thank you.

  9. Richard. Sometime during the year of 1959, my Freshman year at Abilene Christian, I found the courage to make an appointment with the head of the Psychology Department. After all, he had said that any student who wanted counseling should come to see him. I did, and with a trembling, small voice, told him that I believed that I was a homosexual. I won't go into what he said, but I never saw him again. You might say that my inner protective device went on full alarm. After many, many years through some somewhat interesting and sometimes dark pathways involving my alcoholism and later recovery, I found your blog. I don't even remember how or why I discovered you, but let's leave it at that. I practice no organized faith system, though have my own somewhat vague belief system. However, today, while reading this post, I have wept. I just want you to know that. Thank you.

  10. Hi Richard, you're one of the few blogs I read every day because of your thoughtful, kind, and creative way of understanding Christianity. "Unclean" is one of my favorite books about what Jesus' message really was. Thank you!

  11. There are four blogs bookmarked on my laptop that I check daily: 1) Ann Althouse, 2) The Volokh Conspiracy, 3) Andrew Sullivan, and 4) Experimental Theology. You've only had to carry a quarter of the weigh of my blog intake, but now with Andrew's exit you've got to carry a third. Good luck with that Richard!

  12. I read at least two dozen christian blogs these days but if I could keep only one, it would probably be yours.

    Which I suppose is a very weird way of saying: thank you for everything so far.

  13. Experimental Theology is the ONE PLACE where people (such as YOURESELF) WELCOME those on the OUTSIDE (sick souls such as myself) to enter IN - thank you once again, still and for however long you can continue!

  14. My psychologist told me once that I needed to find people in 'my tribe'. Well, I certainly consider you one of my tribe Richard. And many of your thoughtful readers as well. To come and read your musings is an oasis when I feel like I should stop wasting my time on church and Christianity. My sincerest thanks.

  15. Thank YOU. Few, if any of us know where you were in your journey back in 2006, but I suspect most of the readership here has faced similar challenges to their faith and this blog has be a safe haven. You enable us to look at the Bible and Christianity in a healthy way, rather than seeing the Bible be used as a weapon against us. Thank you.

  16. Thank you for doing this blog. It's my favourite one, so either God speaks through you or I just like you. Take your pick of whichever is more encouraging.

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