Monday, January 15, 2018

End of an era: after 14 years I have closed down my freelance theology website

You may have come here as a redirect from - don't panic! That was meant to happen.

In January 2004 I launched a Typepad site (remember Typepad? No? Oh well) which I called 'freelance theology'. The idea was that people could submit a question and get an answer from a 'real, live theologian' (i.e. me), which would be non-partisan and give all the different angles on the subject.

The Typepad venture was quite successful. In 2006, with a lot of help from my friend Ian,  it was transferred to a Wordpress blog. Another friend, Matt, designed my logo, with a heavenly cloud one end and a hellish flame the other. The F had a halo. The G had horns and a devil tail. The idea was that somewhere between heaven and hell was freelance theology. After a couple of years, I transferred the web hosting to Dave, who has been a great help with technical stuff ever since.

Freelance theology got me into some interesting things. I wrote a chapter for a book about Jesus. I had a regular interview slot with Paul Hammond on UCB radio and even went to their lovely studios a couple of times as their live Friday morning guest. If you are one of the people who read my freelance theology posts, who commented, who asked a question, then thank you. Thank you for being part of it. I appreciate it.

The site has been on hiatus since November 2016 and I didn't post at all last year. I had been thinking for a while whether it was time to wind up the project and with the web hosting renewal bill coming in, I have decided it is time to call it quits. In 14 years I answered 222 questions, and I apologise to the handful of people who had questions pending, which I won't be answering now.

It has been a wrench to close it down. I was 'Jon the freelance theologian' for a long time, but I don't really want to be him any more. I started with lofty aims - possibly even pretentious, arrogant aims - of providing impartial knowledge, sharing all the sides of arguments that are often much more complex than people realise. I still think there is a place for that on the web. I just don't think I am the person to do it any more.

It got hard to be impartial. Being blunt, there is so much in the modern Christian subculture that is either toxic or just plain stupid, I found it really hard not to be sarcastic and / or damning. I was asked a few questions that left me rolling my eyes. And I started to drift away from answering questions and posting excerpts from talks, or comments about other things I saw in church life. Those weren't what freelance theology was about. I could feel the drift and I didn't like it, even though it was my website and my rules.

Rather than let mission-creep overtake the site, I decided it was just time to bring it to a halt. I remember a conversation I had years ago with my dad about church-related activities and he said that people found it easy to start things, but hard to stop them. It is hard to stop. But it is the right thing to do and now is the right time.

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