For example, the most popular recent post on my blog was "To Tebow or not to Tebow." It has been read 690 times. Another frequently read post was "Jesus vs. religion: a death match," read 423 times. Each post was riding a wave of media attention, and served as creative commentary on it.
On the other hand, recent posts on social justice have received much more modest views, including "Love in society is named justice" (124 views).
If I scroll back through, this trend is a persistent one. Posts that are timely, commenting on hyped or popular issues, are read widely. Serious and less flashy pieces, not so much.
Herein lies the rub. As a blogger, and someone who likes to cultivate a readership, this means I will naturally tend, now knowing the metrics, to post flashy commentary rather than creative substance. Not exclusively, mind you, but it does push in that general direction. Those same popular posts also attract more chatter and comment, another sign of cultivating a readership.
I want readers. Metrics teach me how to cultivate them, but also cultivate a childish approach to blogging, which I might call the "Look at me!" effect.
A prime example is my recent response to Mark Driscoll's silly gender remarks about the church in Britain. For those who haven't heard of him, Driscoll is a young, conservative, and macho mega-church pastor from Seattle who loves to reinforce gender stereotypes. In this case, I thought of responding on this blog to his remark in an interview for Christianity Today that men will not go to church in places where "guys in dresses are preaching to grandmas."
Instead, I posted this to Facebook:
Mark Driscoll, macho-Seattle pastor, claims that young men will not go to church so long as there are “guys in dresses preaching to grandmas.” Just for the record, I LIKE to wear a dress while preaching, and I love to preach to grandmas. And grandpas. And parents. And children. And pretty much anyone who will show up. Any guys out there with me on this? Hope to see you tomorrow, cause I'll be wearing my dress, and there will be a lot of grandmas! :)
This status update garnered 27 "likes" and 42 comments. So of course I was tempted to write the blog entry I am now writing.
However, I'm worried. I'm worried about the immaturity this can evoke in me. Of course I want the kind of attention and size of congregation and audience Driscoll has. So I could ramp up my rhetoric in response to his, posturing around with smarmy utterances to attract an audience all of whom is united in their disdain for the rantings of such a problematic preacher as Driscoll.
The problem? Aside from the fact that my response would then be identical to his, in the observe, and so fiercely macho and immature at the same level at which he is operating, it would also not address the root problem, one Driscoll is trying to address even if his method is deeply problematic. There is a root issue here about which both of us agree.
There are not enough young men in the church, and it is probably the fault of the church, at least in part, that they are not in our churches.
So if I am going to write a blog post that seeks to counter Driscoll's absolutely ludicrous gendering of Christianity in ways counter to the gospel, I need to argue with it at the proper points while also agreeing with his general concern.
I am inspired, for example, by preachers like Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul who, when encountering preachers preaching a gospel slightly off from the gospel they were proclaiming, took them aside and corrected them, and regularly argued with people of other religious traditions concerning the right understanding of the gospel (see Acts 18). It is not that we can't or shouldn't argue. It's how we argue that matters.
I happen to think, for example, that we have too narrowly constricted, to the point of a straight-jacket, what it can mean in our culture to be a man. And the church has played along with this. As a result, men feel out of place in many churches not because churches aren't manly, but because manliness has been so ill-defined in our culture that men are uncomfortable being the kind of men they are rather than the kind of men the culture demands of them.
To rectify this, we don't need to re-assert traditional gender roles, but rather open up space in our churches for the diversity of genderedness actually present in our communities. What else does Paul mean when he says there is neither male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus, after all?
So, Mark Driscoll, if you ever read this, I have this to say. Your cockiness is unbecoming, and it tempts me to be fierce and cocky back at you. Instead, I'd simply like to invite you to consider the possibility that the lack of men in our churches has more to do with the overly defined and constricting gender roles asserted in our culture and than wedded to certain forms of the gospel than it actually does to do with clergy being overly effete and feminine or preaching to churches full of grandmothers.
After all, it used to be, and still ought to be, quite masculine to have great respect for, and a warm relationship with, your grandma.
And there are some seriously righteous dudes who wear dresses.