Last year I had the pleasure of sitting on a book review panel with James McGrath at the Stone-Campbell Journal Conference. James, of course, writes one of the most well respected blogs in religious studies and I introduced him as such at this particular conference session. Tongue-in-cheek, I mentioned that James would likely blog about the conference in the next few days. A cheap laugh followed. James quickly pointed out that “the next few days” was almost an eternity in the blogging world; to say that he’d get to it in a “few days” revealed my lack of confidence in him as a blogger. On the contrary, it revealed my utter ignorance about blogging. As you will see, the last laugh is his.
I must admit that I associated a certain degree of triviality with blogs. And while my impression was probably not entirely misplaced, I knew all along that I was a hypocrite. I knew all too well that a good blog review for one of my books was a good thing. While I was grateful for internet praise, I wanted to pretend that I was “above it”. When I confessed my hypocrisy to Padre McGrath, he (probably tongue-in-check) suggested that I might do penance by starting a blog myself. The seed was planted I suppose.
What happened to me over the next few months has been oft discussed. Due to a controversy related to my Historical Jesus, my career took an odd turn. Due to a placement of my signature, I am not at liberty to say much in the way of specifics. What I can say is that my situation was helped by the online support of Larry Hurtado, Jim West, Pete Enns, Ben Witherington, Mark Goodacre, Michael Bird, James Crossley, Judy Redman, Brian LePort, Jared Calloway, James McGahey, Joel Watts, John Loftus, Chris Skinner, Brian Fulthorp, and many others.
A few colleagues of mine took a list of blog URLs (complete with estimated page hits) to my former employer and preached of the ills of becoming a pariah institution. While I cannot write about the conditions of my departure from Lincoln, Illinios, I can write that I was offered my job back. This happened shortly after the religious studies blogosphere had its say on the matter. Had it not been for the internet support I received, this simply wouldn’t have happened. I declined to return due to ideological differences, but the offer itself is significant.
You see, my story is not all that unique. We can all name half a dozen examples of individuals who find themselves in similar situations. Where my story differs is in the end result. At the end of the day, ideologically driven institutions (especially those dependent on tuition dollars) must answer to a wider constituency than previously assumed. So I know a bit more about the value of blogs than I previously assumed. I would like to offer my sincere apology and gratitude to James McGrath et al. for working tirelessly to create this network of colleagues.