Striking the Tent

Striking the Tent July 30, 2014

Dear Readers:

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. Commentators have lately begun using the term “struggling” on Catholics who find the Church and its teachings wrongheaded or inhumane. I’ve never cared for it – it’s always looked like a thrown bone, a grudging euphemism for “backslider,” “apostate,” or “not a true comrade.” But, as Calah Alexander noted a few weeks ago in an interview with Sam Rocha, plenty of readers love a good struggle:

Most people don’t like to talk about the struggles that are the hardest for them, whether it’s NFP or struggling with anger or getting off drugs, but that leaves the rest of us who struggle with the same thing feeling totally alone. I hate feeling alone. I’m ridiculously, sometimes stupidly, honest because I genuinely hate feeling like the worst sinner on the planet. Knowing that other people are where I am, or have been where I am, gives me hope that I’m not stuck here forever. And honestly, hearing from other people that I’m not alone gives me the courage to keep going, and keep trying,

There’s nothing stupid or even artless about Calah’s honesty. But as soon as she falls back on the language of struggle and motion – “where I am,” “the courage to keep going” – she reveals that the fix is in. Calah already knows where she wants to go — the Catholic heaven – and she’s struggling against everything blocking her path. My version of honesty would sound very different. It would give more space to questions like “Do I really believe these thing?” and “Do I wish everyone believed them?”

More importantly, my brand of honesty would leave room for a “No” to both of these questions.

Maybe some writers would love to dig for answers in real time for the benefit of a partisan readership, but not me. I am too eager to be liked and approved of, and – see above – this makes me play to the galleries. No, choosing a side in the great cosmic game of Capture the Flag is something I shall have to insist on doing in private.

Thanks once again to all of you for spending time on my blog. Most of those who took the trouble to comment impressed me as intelligent readers, not to mention big-hearted people. You all deserve the highest quality blogging, and you have my apology for failing so often to provide it.

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