Monday, October 08, 2012

Between God and Geek

You can see the year I started my Ph.D. by the number of posts here at Gotthammer. The yearly posts drop from 50, then 94, then 26. Before Gotthammer was a blog, it was a regularly updated personal website (remember those?). But when I started my research, I decided to keep my steampunk work separate from Gotthammer, because this was my personal blog, and I needed to affect a different persona as "The Steampunk Scholar."

That work is done now, and I've learned a lot about blogging and branding from running Steampunk Scholar over the past four years. I've learned that focusing on a particular theme is one of the keys to a successful blog: find a niche, claim it, and build an audience around that niche. Gotthammer has never had a focus other than "stuff I'm interested in."

That changes today. From today forward, the sole focus of Gotthammer will be as a space where I'll dialogue about the intersection between God and Geek. I've been pondering writing a memoir of growing up Geek in a Baptist church, about being Geek at a Baptist Bible college, about being Geek as a pastor. Now that I'm no longer a paid minister, I feel like I have the freedom to say what I really think, to talk about the struggles I had growing up loving Dungeons and Dragons but keeping it secret, keeping it safe. My original idea was to make a new blog called The View From the Balcony, which was where I sat in church through my teen years, but I own the domain name for Gotthammer and I think it's still a part of my journey.

I know the world doesn't really need another blog, but I feel like it could use one where someone like me, a Baptist-turned-ecumenical-left-leaning-Christian-who-is-also-a-geek writes about faith and fantasy, about spirituality and SF, the holy and horror. But this isn't going to be one of those sites where I blog about how the Matrix has spiritual themes. This is going to be me telling my stories, the ones I've told as a youth speaker, and the ones I never did because I'd never be asked back. I'll tell you why I hate Zombie Jesus, but like Cthulhu-mas. I'll tell you about the time my friends and I LARPed back before there was LARPing, and ended up in the South Saskatchewan river in Canadian Tire rafts, dressed in fatigues. I'll tell you about dating an atheist and seeing Jurassic Park for the first time. I'll tell you about how my views on homosexuality changed. I'll tell you about the time I nearly got fired for playing D&D with students in my first job as a minister. Then I'll tell you about how I actually got fired. We'll talk about the Bible, but also about the I Ching and the Ramayana. I will not be debating doctrine, but simply telling my story. Tony Campolo says that "theology is biography," and in my case that's very, very true.

My current bias remains Protestant Christian, but very ecumenical, and not terribly orthodox. I'm as informed in my views by mythopoesis as I am by theology. There's an actual word for this - theopoetics. I've read the material on it, and while I don't hold any hard metaphysical theories nor subscribe to any one person's ideas about it, I am convinced that literature tells us much about who God is. After all, the Bible is literature. As a child, I was as persuaded by Superman as I was by Sunday School to follow the Way. I think of both as foundational stories that have shaped who I am, and am no longer concerned with whether or not the story of Jesus is historical. I don't believe Superman is real, but in a very real sense, I believe in what his stories are about. Likewise, while I have a hope that the Gospels are true in a historical sense, I no longer feel a burning need for them to be proven so. I know this means that for many Christians I'm no longer in the club, but frankly my dears, I don't give a damn. I weep when Ian McKellen as Gandalf speaks of heaven in Peter Jackson's Return of the King. Just because that eschatology belongs to Middle Earth doesn't mean it can't speak to my desire for something more, as C.S. Lewis put it. But that more isn't restricted to hoping for heaven. Reading Gilgamesh, or the Tanakh from a Jewish perspective has helped me see the beauty in a world that ends. And Journey into the West has helped me look outside my Western frame to tread the balance between life and illusion. I no longer operate as the man of one book, but as a man of many texts, who synthesizes them. But I grew up in a very particular vein of Canadian Christianity, and one can never stray too far from one's roots, even if it's only to curse or hack at them. I embrace my roots, but my branches have stretched far from Evangelical thinking. 

So I'll be migrating my science fiction and fantasy reviews over to Triple Bladed Sword. I'll be adjusting the labels, and editing old posts to update my perspective on things (not changing the original text, but amending it with afterwords about where I've grown, so the site is never misleading). 

I don't plan on updating more than once a month, to ensure the posts are worth reading. I had plans to do this as a book, and maybe it will be that someday. But for now, it's just a blog, at the address I've had since I started writing on the web in 2002. But here we are, over a decade later, and so much has changed. I'll be here, telling my story. Feel free to come and listen, and join in the conversation.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Seven Sacred Seasons: Carnival

Well, the year of the Rabbit is coming to a close, and the year of the Dragon is just around the corner. This will be the last of my posts in the year of the Rabbit, and I wanted to ensure I got the final Sacred Seasons post in before the Rabbit descends and the Dragon rises. Carnival was the Gathering's answer to how depressing January can be in our hemisphere. It's dark: some days, depending on where you work, you don't see the sun at all. It's cold, as in the-ninth-level-of-Dantean-hell cold. It's Suicide Awareness month. And finally, it is the time between Christmas (yay!) and Lent (boo). That is to say, it's the time between a celebration of light and the observation of wandering the desert. Knowing Lent was going to be about giving things up, we decided that the season between Christmas and Lent should be opposed in some way to the dreariness of the weather and the doldrums following the common emotional mountaintop of Christmas.
Our solution was a season of festival, mardis gras, carnival. Rather than a single Shrove Tuesday, we wanted to eat pancakes spiritually for several weeks. So Carnival season at the Gathering was about holy parties: the kind of parties Tony Compolo encouraged us to throw in The Kingdom of Heaven is a party.