Some Changes Here at Theoblogy

As you can see above, I had an epic weekend of hunting in and around Huron, South Dakota with my new friend, Jorge. I also preached at Grace Episcopal Church in Huron and met many of that church’s wonderful people. And if Albert looks tired in that photo, it’s cuz he is. We arrived home at noon today, and he’s not moving.

There are few things in the world that I like more than hunting. It has become a real focus of what I want in life: time in the outdoors, with my dog and friends, and soon with my kids (once they’re old enough).

Recently, Courtney asked me if there’s anything else in my life that is like hunting — that is, something that’s all-consuming of my mental capacities, something that totally absorbs me and allows me to leave everything else behind. I thought about it and said, No, nothing else has that effect on me.

As I’ve struggled to understand myself better — and the controversies on this blog have played a role in pushing me to do that — I’ve been focusing on what I can learn about being an Enneagram 8. On the drive to and from Huron, I listened to Suzanne Stabile’s lectures, “The Aggressive Stance.” It’s only a part of the puzzle that is me, but it’s been very helpful to embrace the doing center of an Enneagram 8. I’ve talked to Suzanne about this on the phone as well, and she’s encouraged me to start thinking through how my writing sounds to those in the thinking and feeling centers, and to those in the withdrawing and reflective stances.

This all comes as I am in the home stretch on a book that is due on January 1. I don’t think I’ll make that deadline, but I’ve really got to have the bulk of the book done by February 1 — more on that in a minute. The book is ostensibly about the atonement — the death of Jesus — but it’s really a book about God. Because when you peel away the layers of the question, Why Did Jesus Die?, you’re really looking deeper into the question, What Kind of God Lets this Happen? It’s a big question, and it’s going to be a big book. And I have high hopes for it. I would really like it to provoke a wide-ranging conversation about the nature of God and how so many atonement theories are so harmful.

Then, in February, I will be teaching two classes at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. They’re two classes I’ve never taught before, so that will take a lot of time and effort to prepare. Meanwhile, Doug Pagitt, Sarah Cunningham, and I are planning two large events early next year. And working at sparkhouse, and cherishing a marriage and kids and dogs and parents and friends…

A person only has so much creative energy, only so much creative output. A response to the weekly Questions That Haunt series, for example, usually takes me about two hours to write. That’s 1,000+ words of creative output every Friday, and Friday is a day blocked off on my schedule for working on my book. That means that I usually don’t get around to writing my book until 9 or 10 in the morning, and I’m running on intellectual fumes because I’ve poured a lot into the QTH post.

This is obviously not a sustainable way of life. I feel spread too thin.

Over a year ago, having been rejected by several publishers, I decided to commit to blogging in a new way. I posted twice every weekday and once on Saturday. As a result, my blog climbed in rankings and traffic. Since then, I’ve gotten a book contract, and I’ve pared down to about six posts a week — one per day, Sunday excepted. But even this rate of posting I cannot manage.

I’ve got friends who make their full-time living as bloggers, including a couple of my colleagues here at Patheos. I do not. Someday, I’d like to make the bulk of my income from writing — books and blog — but I’m a long ways off from that. In fact, I recently re-negotiated my contract here at Patheos to make less, in part because I knew that blogging was going to take up less of my life.

All of this to say that I will, for a time, be posting somewhat less. I am in no way quitting the blog; I am simply paring down to a more manageable output each week. I love writing, truly. It’s the best part of all the things I do professionally, and the medium of blogging is one that suits me. But maybe I’ll only be posting three or four times per week, instead of six or eight.

As I was driving to South Dakota on Friday morning, I was excitedly anticipating the hunt. But I was also anxious about not having had answered Tuesday’s QTH. That’s an anxiety that I just can’t handle right now. So I don’t know the exact future of the QTH series — it may be monthly instead of weekly, or maybe semi-monthly. I’m open to suggestions.

I’m also open to your suggestions, as always, about what to write about. Why do you come here? What do you want to see more of, and less of?

I am deeply grateful for your readership. I feel a community with you — even those of you who lurk and don’t comment. 🙂 It is a great joy to meet reader when I travel, even to places like Huron, South Dakota.

It’s also a great joy to climb in a truck with a couple guys who’ve never heard of me or my blog, to talk about the corn harvest this year and the best hunting dog we’ve ever owned and that one time that I shot a pheasant with a Hail Mary shot at 65 yards.

Thanks for bearing with my ramble. And for reading. Much love to you, and friendship.

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  • Em

    This. Thank you. Take the space you need. We’re excited about the book, and we stay around (even when we don’t comment, and even when we don’t write the guest posts you ask us to write, and even when, well, the rest of it). Take your deep breaths, and your long walks, and by-god take the time to write your book. And before people start throwing shit in your general direction, know that the rest of us really do prefer a deeply-at-peace you rather than an over-stretched and stressed you.

  • Sounds like the right call, as if you need blog commenter to tell you that. Really though, I’ve recently come to enjoy your blog and your ebook on the atonement and I’ll be keeping an eye out next year for your work on that. Peace to you in all these endeavors.

  • One thing I’m thinking about is using my Facebook page more to post shorter items of note, brief theological thoughts, etc. Stuff that doesn’t warrant a full blog post. I’ve been impressed at how Nadia has used her page recently, so I might follow suit. You can find it here:

  • Jon M. Sweeney

    Well put, Tony, as usual.

  • I think the Facebook idea is interesting, perhaps even better. Not that I don’t enjoy reading you here, but FB always feels more accessible and less about simply driving up the stats. Anne Lamott blogs her thoughts from her FB page as well. I rather enjoy it!

    Take your time, but know that a lot of us really enjoy your thoughts (and advocacy) that you publish here.

  • Scot Miller

    I always enjoy hearing what you have to say (or reading what you have to write), so I’ll be reading your blog even if you only post one a month. Do what you need to do to be productive and healthy. I think even your harshest critics will benefit from a productive and healthy Tony Jones.

  • Larry Wilson

    First things first. Get Albert some vitamin C. It’ll help him recover from his muscle soreness.

    Second, You bless us all the time with your words, your blogs and your books. If you run out of “spiritual vitamin C” so that you are as worn out as Albert, we all lose. So take time to simplify your life, refresh and renew. Spend time with your family and God. Let the wells refill.

    We’ll be here. Hungry for more.

  • Thank you for the work of blogging and it is work. We benefit from it very directly and appreciate it.

  • Roger Flyer

    You sound prudent and wise…and may I say even…sensitive?

  • Roger Flyer

    I get the hunting bit, sort of.

  • I’m a lurk but don’t comment. For what it’s worth, I think you’ve made a wise choice. Bless you.

  • Bob Carlton

    The 19th century humorist Josh Billings had a great quote:

    Words are often seen hunting for an idea, but ideas are never seen hunting for words.

    You are truly gifted at making ideas come to life. You have a calling for translating those ideas to words.

    The wisdom you got on the road to South Dakota seems spot on.

  • Mr. Rundquist

    First off, I wish to congratulate you on what looks like a glorious hunt. Secondly, I’d like to point out that you couldn’t shoot so many birds had you been in Minnesota, or used walkies, but that’s why people hunt in SD. I hope some pheasant soup is in your future. It’s so very good. Thirdly, I’m going to try my darnedest to take one or both of those classes. I’d be the first student you’ve taught for both undergrad and grad classes…

  • Richard H

    Thanks for sharing, Tony. I can’t really imagine having something as absorbing/distractive as hunting in my life. I CAN imagine wanting something like that. My current day job (full time teaching – 5 classes at an open enrollment undergrad institution where it is our job to MAKE students succeed whether they want to or not) is pretty exhausting. To help make up for the low income I’m also pastoring a small church. The church has great, easy, non-demanding people. But their trajectory is toward closing, and I hate that idea, and feel I ought to be able to do more, but there’s only one of me. Like you I think regularly of the things I’m neglecting – like dropping everything to spend more time with my soon to die father and my children in need.

    Some of us could use a clone (a non-demanding clone, of course).

  • Charles Cosimano

    As someone who took three months to write a very short article for an anthology, I am always amazed at bloggers who can keep up the level of work they do.

  • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

    Good for you, Tony.

  • Kathryn A. Helmers

    More about Albert, please–on your new, sustainable schedule, that is. Awesome photo. Help me understand why am I troubled by the sight of a bird dropping dead out of the air while admiring your love of hunting.

    • I don’t know that I can explain that. Come hunting with you, and that trouble may drop with the first bird! 🙂

      • Craig

        Heroin junkies give a similar reply.

  • Mich Barry

    Tony whatever and whenever you write I will read it. Just keep writing.

  • Lausten North

    You’re an enigma wrapped in a seven-layer salad Tony. Looking forward to the changes.

  • Aaron

    Hi Tony,

    You might have covered this previously, I’m coming to your blog just today, but I’m curious as to your opinions on the enneagrams origins, particularly in relation to Gurdjieff. Certainly modern personality theory draws heavily on Jung’s work, but it was developed through many other psychologists and put through scrutiny in order to better validate it. Enneagrams really haven’t been scientifically scrutinized and validated, and yet people are quite accepting of the theory. Looking at what happened in Gurdjieff’s own group, as well as offshoots, the “ranking” of people’s enneagrams was every bit as controlling as what happens in churches surrounding theology. I think there’s a potential for people, particularly the ones assigning others enneagrams, to claim a knowledge of others that they don’t actually have. I think it’s great to really be introspective about oneself, to find one’s personal faults, and to work on them. But the thinking that people can be reduced to particular “types” I find dangerous, and something that has been abused in different contexts, where enlightenment was the spiritual objective of a group.


    • Aaron, I don’t know much about that history, except that Gurdjieff was hard to live with. I agree that reducing someone to their number is bad, even sinful. But I think the fact that Enneagram resonates so deeply with so many people shows that it’s helpful and insightful.

      • Craig

        How does one get into the Enneagram stuff? Outside of your blog, I’ve never encountered it.

        It’s plausible that there are psychologically natural groupings of desires, aversions, fears, hopes, vices, virtues, etc.–and that awareness of these groupings can greatly increase and shape one’s understanding of oneself and others. It’s highly doubtful, however, that the Enneagram categories are a complete or sound representation of these groupings.

        This isn’t to deny that the Enneagram categories are helpful and insightful; it’s rather to suggest that one ought to use them with a great deal of caution, and to only regard them as at best a kind of starting point for thinking carefully about psychological groupings.

        I’d be especially wary of the tendency to latch on to the Enneagram categories because of the insightfulness they initially contain, and thereafter seem to contain only because they now shape one’s interpretation of the data. Be careful, in other words, of the freshman’s tendency to latch onto the first ideology he encounters. Libertarianism, e.g., has such a following for just this reason. Initially it seems to add such depth to his understanding of issues for which he had previously lacked any theory, and about which he previously hadn’t given much thought. Thereafter it seems insightful because it shapes his interpretation of every related issue and experience.

        • Aaron

          I definitely don’t want to come across overly critical, but I do think Craig raises a lot of good points.The origins come from Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way metaphysical school, Craig, and the personality components were developed by Oscar Ichazo, who founded Arica. They both purported to have esoteric teachings promising, essentially, salvation. There’s a lot of “baggage”, so to speak, in where the enneagrams came from, and I just think it’s important to be aware of that.

          I do understand that you and many others are deriving value from it, Tony, and I’m in no way looking to introduce yet another point of divisiveness into the blogosphere. If it’s a tool used like, say, love languages, or other constructions that spur conversation, I don’t think it’s a a problem.

  • shawnsmucker

    Well said, Tony. Good luck with all your new adventures.

  • Tony, I have always appreciated your words, your honesty and your willingness to be so generous with both. Honestly, I don’t know how you (and others) manage to write so many quality posts as it is. Grateful you’ll still be blogging and this sounds like a wise decision brought from reflection and looking ahead. Also, hoping your new book on the atonement exceeds your expectations.
    Grace and peace to you and yours.

  • Elisabeth M

    Well that was interesting. I just found out which enneagram type I am.

  • Kien Choong

    Go in peace, love and serve the Lord and be full of joy in God’s spirit. Peace, love and joy.