At the height of my blogging days, I never imagined there would be a season where I took so much time off from writing and blogging– but such a season there was.
In hindsight, I realize this long season didn’t have to be as long as it ended up being. But it was as if the longer it went the harder it became to return– not so much because I’d lost that “thing” inside me or my love for writing, but because I’d felt a progressive degree of shame for needing to take time away from this to begin with. As I sit with myself today I realize I’m not even sure how all those feelings started in the first place, or why I somehow thought that after writing a 60,000 word dissertation and an 80,000 word book in the same year and a half, that I’d expect myself to need anything other than a break.
They say if you love something to set it free, and I suppose that’s what I needed to do with this part of myself. Somehow I knew that I couldn’t force it, will it, rush it, or hold it too tightly. I knew that if it were to come back to me in a way that would be life-giving and sustainable for a new season, that it would have to come back to me in its own time and of its own will.
Thankfully, I feel like that time has come– and I couldn’t be more excited to be back on the blog again.
However, as I re-launch my blog, you’ll notice that I am no longer at Patheos. I am not there as an employee, nor am I there as a writer. After spending many years passionately writing on the platform and eventually serving as the manager of the Progressive Christian channel, there’s no authentic way to begin blogging independently without acknowledging this more glaring fact. I loved blogging, and its come back to me. I loved Patheos, but it will not be.
When I first joined Patheos, it was a tremendous honor to be invited. Patheos was a foundational presence and host of some of the most important discussions in Progressive Christianity. Patheos was a professional organization with a reputation for quality writing, quality discussions, along with leadership who deeply valued both the writers they invited to the platform, and the change we were attempting to bring about in American Christianity.
That, unfortunately, has changed over time. The new Patheos is not the old Patheos, and I was probably in denial about that for longer than I should have been.
Early in the transition to new ownership and management, some good and necessary changes were made– there were improvements. Yet, along with those improvements, over time there were also notable changes in Patheos culture that were quite the opposite.
It was clear that instead of a reputable host of Progressive Christian discussions, the new Patheos didn’t seem to understand what Progressive Christianity even was– and still doesn’t. Instead of a leadership team who knew and valued their writers (i.e., I had a situation with a stalker who was threatening me years ago, and the former president of Patheos quickly got on the phone with me and initiated legal action on my behalf) the new Patheos seemed far more resistant to writer’s needs and requests. A deep value and care for the individual writer ultimately changed to the point where writers were primarily seen or valued, and their requests granted or denied, on the basis of their monthly number.
Imagine loving a company because of a quality product you believe in, and realizing that a big part of what made the product great was working with and for leadership who truly knew and cared for each of the individuals who produced the company’s product. And then imagine how dramatic of a shift it would be if those folks moved on, and those who replaced them adopted the posture of, “Oh, Sally wants what for her office? Um, we looked at her numbers and she doesn’t really mean much to us. Just tell her no– it won’t be a big deal for us if she quits over it.”
And then imagine that word starts to spread about how the company has changed to where those who would make the very best product as it once was, have no interest in working there– not only does the mood of the place change inside, but you no longer have the same degree of pride you once had in the product’s reputation and quality.
It is that kind of dramatic culture change that makes one feel progressively more and more troubled being at a company. But as the next-to-last one standing from the original Patheos team, and as a believer that sometimes organizations can only change if someone stays behind and tries to change it from the inside, I still fought for the Patheos I once loved and prayed it wasn’t gone forever. I don’t know if I was idealistic or in denial– I was probably both without the right balance of either.
My wavering trust and confidence all came to a head with the deletion of Warren Throckmorton’s blog from Patheos. As a fellow blogger on the platform, nothing about this one felt right to me, and felt even more wrong as time went by. Every Patheos blogger knows it’s next to impossible to get one’s blog deleted from the site, as they can share the hell out of your old content but no longer have to pay you any royalties after leaving. Plus, deletion of even a single article can hurt your standing with Google, let alone an entire archive of them. It didn’t take a master dot-connector to know that the only plausible reason for it was that it was more profitable to remove that content from the site than it was to keep it. The only question is, “Who, or what organization, had enough money– likely advertising dollars– to make it disappear?” I don’t know that any of us, including me, will ever know the truth behind the question.
It was also clear to me after being kept in the dark on multiple decisions that had explosive results with the very people I was tasked with recruiting, that I didn’t actually have the kind of influence one would need to adequately address a culture that had inexplicably become hostile toward the very people who generate the revenue.
I defended Patheos when they were accused of things I knew or sincerely believed were untrue. I spoke up behind the scenes countless times over decisions that fanned flames of mistrust in writers and our core audience. And I gave them the benefit of the doubt, until I just couldn’t anymore.
The final blow for me, even though it took a while for the implications to sink in, happened in my role as a blogger. I told the new director of content that I was sick of some of the more absurd rumors and intended to disprove allegations that we were limited in our ability to criticize the NRA. I’d told him I was going to write a post calling the NRA a terrorist organization and that NRA leadership should be tried for capital crimes. (It is, and they should, FWIW) I had expected to hear “Hell yeah, that’s a stupid rumor and is so baseless– go for it”, but instead I was surprised to be met with a nervous laughter before being told, “Don’t do that. Please don’t do that. Seriously, don’t do that.”
Nothing about that won my trust back, but instead was the moment of no return.
Somehow I was still torn. I loved my fellow bloggers and wanted to stay and be their advocate, but I also felt gross and was struggling to both put out fires of hostility and keep up with recruiting demands placed on me. The love was lost– and I soon realized it was lost in both directions when I was terminated for not having high enough numbers. (Straw? You don’t need straw– just go make more bricks.)
It was important in my own conscience to leave peaceably and in a way that honored my own integrity instead of making a stir or leading a mass exodus from Patheos. But of course, I still had to face hostile and accusatory emails attempting to see if I had enticed folks like Nadia Bolz-Weber to leave– even though I’d not done anything of the sort– and was told I “screwed them over” when they recently found out I would not continue writing for Patheos. All that, however, was just added confirmation that I could not be more happy or more relieved to no longer have anything to do with the new Patheos– because the new Patheos isn’t really “Patheos” at all.
At least, it’s not the Patheos I will forever remember with deep fondness.
They say if you love something to set it free…
Well, I did.
I may be gone from Patheos, but I am back to blogging– and I have missed you all so very much!
I have read so many posts about the blogger lovers howeverthis post is really a good piece of writing, keep it up.
Welcome back, Dr. Ben! It’s been quite a while since we’ve “seen” each other… This liberal old Jew has missed your erudition, knowledge, and just plain old-fashioned decency.
I’ll be proud to be following you here, good sir.
(as an aside, I had wondered about Dr. Throckmorton, and a few of the other blogs I’d followed there… now that I know the reason for their absence, it makes a perverse sort of sense, and I’m grieved that the Patheos umbrella has become as it now is. FWIW, from me, you did the right thing.)
Ben, welcome back. I miss your writings.
So good to have you back!
Ben, you have been sorely missed! I’m very, very happy that you’ve survived to shed the corporate bottom line. Let’s get to work learning better together to do to all others as we would have all others do to us!!!
You’ve been missed as well– your name was one of the first who came to mind when I hoped to hear from folks in the comment section. Good to see you found your way here to the new blog!
Good to see you back, Ben.
So glad you’re back!
Your blog was the main reason i joined Pathos. I thought it was just me when I found myself reading less and less of their content. I was just considering unsubscribing when I got your email. Now it makes more sense. Welcome back!
Ben, I’m curious why you think the NRA is a terrorist organization whose leadership should be tried for capital crimes? I don’t consider myself a terrorist, nor do I consider my fellow NRA members to be terrorists, so I am curious where this idea comes from. It would be like saying Muslims are terrorists or Islam is a terrorist religion, which they are not. Yes, some terrorists are Muslims, and some are Christians. I don’t hear the NRA advocating for door to door confiscation of anyone’s property, although it seems like many of our presidential candidates think this is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate thing to do to law abiding citizens. Who are the real terrorists?
Welcome back! I’m looking forward to more of your writing. The only (slightly) disturbing thing is that in the first ad slot, under the 4th Para, the right hand book (provided by Amazon, it says) is FG’s “Through My Father’s Eyes”. Ewwwww.
Welcome back old friend : )
Ahhh, I’ve missed seeing your name 🙂
Hey Ron. You asked me about where to find info on the historical context of Revelation. Off the top of my head Elaine Pagels book: Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation. See some of her work here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWjtXasqPFM
as well as http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/revelation.html and the blogs on this site (It’s great for all ancient documents).
A lot of my early thinking was on this site https://signposts02.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/4-big-myths-of-book-of-revelation/
Good to read Benj Corey again. I have missed his voice during these troubled times
Happy to read Benj Corey again. We need his voice during these troubled times
I was not a reader, but someone mentioned this at Fred’s column (Slactivist). Yikes! Seems like you’re well rid of Patheos. Personally, if they treated me like that, I think I’d go full hellspawn on them: “Why yes, I did screw you over deliberately and lured all your best writers away, by forcing you to make the environment so hostile and unpleasant that they all spontaneously left. Oh, wait, you did that yourselves. Bye, Felicia!”
ETA: If you are still somehow using Patheos’ dogshit filter designed by goatfuckers, please dump it. It’s evil and kills conversation. Also, whenever tossed into moderation now, I add an obscene postscript in protest.
Somehow I was and didn’t know it, but I have removed the old commenting system for now with a more simple one, until I find something more permanent and ideal. Thanks for helping me discover that bringing over Disqus somehow brought over their filters.
I am very much not happy to be proven right about the NRA moratorium. will be putting your blog in my feed now. also too expand on Bob Shiloh anyone of the bold-ed word would have my comment deleted/”under moderation” now on pathoes’s filter::
A fierce wind blows like a monster outside the iPhone factory where monkey has a job, he’ll screw in the screws day after day grinding to the bone but all he really wants is to fling poo.
Looks like my disqus account must still be linked with theirs somehow, because it did the same here. I’m either going to have to figure out how to unlink it with them, if I can, or switch back to a standard commenting system. Thanks for pointing this out.
Ben, so glad you are back. I now realize how much I missed your blogs.
The latest at Patheos is the censor. Now you do not know when you respond if your comment will be shown or not. It tells you the censor has to review your comment first. This is rather silly as it stops most comments not just inappropriate comments and ruins the process.
I would say I have missed some of your more colorful respondants as well but I don’t want to inflate thier egos anymore than they already are.
I appreciate it, Bob. Never thought I’d miss a faithful critic, but I’m pretty sure I’ve missed just about everyone. Glad to see your name pop up and hope you’re well.