So, Max Lindenman, one of our earliest bloggers here at the Catholic channel, has folded up his tent, for now. He’s gone all Bedouin on us, and is going to be wandering the heated deserts of the secular freelance world:
After a long hiatus and a lot of hard thought, I’ve decided to close up shop here at Patheos. With all the loyalty and generosity you’ve shown, you’ve earned an explanation, so here it is:
I’m not enough of a Catholic to blog about being a Catholic. At best, my faith is an on-again, off-again thing — nothing I can evangelize for with a straight face. This has been true, more or less, since I first started blogging here. Initially I tried to put my marginality to good use, by documenting it, along with its discontents. But, looking back, I see I rarely did them justice. Without consciously meaning to, I ended up playing coy, producing writing that now feels, in many spots, profoundly dishonest.
Honesty would of course have been the better policy from an ethical or spiritual point of view. It might even have been better for traffic.
In a Facebook post (must “friend” to read) he makes clear that he is not apostatizing, and I’m glad of that, but I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed. Max’s heart hasn’t been into “Catholic blogging” for a while, but I had tried to convince him that — for all of his ambivalent feelings about the often-fractious state of the Catholic Internet — he still had a great deal to say that could speak to Catholic sensibilities in a nuanced way. But then I would think that, because in my mind every story is a Catholic story.
From his current perch in Bursa, Turkey, Max has posted some wonderfully observant stuff that, to my way of thinking, could have just as easily been blogged, like this:
In front of Zaafer Plaza, Bursa’s major shopping mall, I saw a woman in hijab leaning heavily into her palm, watching her two young sons lap up their vanilla soft-serve. My surmise is that she’d been fasting, whereas the two boys, both being below the age of religious responsibility, hadn’t had to. On seeing the soft-serve stand, they’d raised a chorus of “MOM, CAN WE HAVE SOME ICE CREAM? MOM, CAN WE HAVE SOME ICE CREAM?” Lacking both the heart and the strength to resist, she gave in.
They say the mama pelican feeds its young with its own blood. That’s gross. What this woman went through for her boys — now that’s touching.
I loved that. A snapshot from Muslim-dominant Turkey that gives a perfect sort of Catholic instruction while discreetly illustrating the commonalities of faith in this very divided world.
That little note is evidence to me that while he heads toward a more secular writing plane Max will be unable to stop himself from “writing Catholic”, because it’s in him. Like an antibody, his Catholicism will visit and investigate anything he observes and absorbs, and that will always show up in his writing. Poor Graham Greene couldn’t do anything about that, and Walker Percy never wanted to, and I can see Max dealing similarly in his work.
I am sad to see him go, and he’s always free to come back and will be welcomed, of course, but I think Max needs to do this. He’s been writing in one sphere for a couple of years, now, and it’s time to broaden his scope a bit — flex his muscles and see what kind of lifting he can do. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him head toward fiction; the need for a new renaissance of Catholic literature has been identified, and someone has to fill the “haunted-by-and-fighting-off-the-Hound-of-Heaven” slot.
Please wish Max well, with me. The boy can write, and we will be seeing him around. And his archived blogposts will still be here, at Patheos.
Meanwhile, Sam Rocha has thoughts on Max’s departure and the whole business of blogging-while-Catholic:
I read mommy blogs with gusto because, most of the time, these weepy and grouchy women, whom I don’t find as funny or amusing as they do, take their clothes off and show us the body of Christ. Even their fictions and projections often tell more about life than my proportional attempts to balance the scales perfectly and save the world in the process. If only I could explain things perfectly, I say to myself.
Max Lindenman, who has just announced his departure from Patheos, was a daddy blogger on my reading because he chose this path and never strayed from it. In his absence he remains true to it. I will miss him dearly. I aspire to be a daddy blogger, too.
The rest of us junk-yard dogs are mostly chihuahuas. We are very earnest in our work and have pastoral instincts that wield a pen with some facility, but we are swimming furiously next to the ship, trying to mend its course. It’s fun, sometimes, but so is heroin.
Of course, Sam is dealing with being a musician while Catholic, which comes with its own antibodies and hauntings.
Farewell, Max. Fly, little bird, be free!
Yes, I feel a little like a mother, waving bye-bye from the nest. But this is life, after all. We only get the one, so we make of it what we can.