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.

7 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Thank you for being a thinking person.

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  2. I'm looking forward to it!

    Also, although my experience with pen and paper roleplaying is limited, it occurs to me that it involves improvisation in much the same way as the Christian life. There's a backstory, some confidence that the DM has an ending in mind (or at least a direction to go in!), and then there's the ongoing task of responding creatively to the present situation. And although you can game in different ways, for me the greatest challenge is learning to inhabit the story at such a level that your actions flow out of your character and assumed identity, rather than mere pretense or impulse. So too with Christian ethics, as least as I'm learning to understand it.

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  3. Graham5:28 PM

    I am really looking forward to this! It will be a good way of keeping in touch without really having to try too hard. You always make me think and you stretch my understanding. Thanks

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  4. I used to comment on your blog, long ago. Maybe I should watch this space again.

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  5. I used to write for my blog, long ago! I need to fill these spaces again for you to watch, Annien!

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  6. Quote: I weep when Ian McKellen as Gandalf speaks of heaven in Peter Jackson's Return of the King.

    So do I, Mike. So do I. "White shores....and beyond, a far green country, into a swift sunrise."

    Dammit. I just TYPED this and got teary. #snuffle

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  7. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Good thoughts Mike. I'm still running Judaism 2.0 - the one with the Jesus upgrade. It seems to work better than most of the other stuff out there but it has been in beta for a couple thousand years and there are still some stability issues. As long as it stays open source we can expect improvements.

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