Platforms, Blogs, and Why We Write
November 10, 2015
The responses to my last blog about the lack of older women who are writing and speaking in our Reformed and reformedish circles have been encouraging. The fact that my combox is filled with refreshing and engaging interaction testifies that there are women over 40 who would like to contribute more in this way and that are indeed serving with their gifts in the local body of their church.
I am most encouraged by the consensus that we crave to read more from women on the deeper matters of theology. While mommy blogs and devotional material on women’s issues serve a good purpose, we don’t merely want to be sidelined to “women’s ministry,” but also be valued for our perspective and contribution to the areas that concern both men and women.
Deb Welch has followed up with a thoughtful and enlightening explanation for what has happened to the women’s voices that used to share a platform with many of the male bloggers today. The blogging atmosphere has certainly changed over the last ten years. When she first began blogging in 2005, The League of Reformed Bloggers and Jollyblogger facilitated a space for articles to be shared simultaneously, between men and women, so-called “top bloggers” and ordinary lay people alike, who contributed thoughtful insight. And bloggers wrote with passion on the issues facing the church, not just because they had a book coming out or needed to build a tribe to buy tickets to their next speaking gig.
Welch pinpoints a major shift in 2009, when some of the facilitators became ill and two key factors changed the blogging atmosphere:
1) an increase in tribalism, on the one hand, and
2) a move toward commercialization and consumer-oriented approach on the other.
I think Deb hits on something big here. There are also some insightful comments in the thread where she linked her article on Facebook that women who would like to write publically feel insignificant now, like they need to be “somebody” important or married to a big name to matter. And yet, the comments continue that it’s the ordinary voices whom they want to hear more from because they don’t have an allegiance to the commercialized tent of evangelicalism.
Persis Lorenti also wrote an article reflecting on the importance of the context of the local church. Women are thriving where there is Word-based study over and against what the market is delegating us to.
Interestingly, the timing of this discussion coincides well with tomorrow’s Mortification of Spin podcast. Over the summer, we interviewed Hannah Anderson to further discuss a topic she brought up in an article about the place of women in the parachurch culture. I’ve been looking forward to airing this important discussion. Why are there so few women speakers at Reformed, evangelical conferences? Do speakers at conferences hold some kind of ecclesial authority that extends beyond the church? At what level can women participate in the topics concerning the church? Has the commercialization and tribe building in the parachurch overshadowed and muddled the authority of the local church?
This conversation is encouraging to me and I want to offer some encouragement to all those who have been contributing to it. I entered the blogging scene after the culture that Welch enjoyed. And when I began writing, it wasn’t because I had an ambition to be an author or was craving speaking gigs. I wrote out of my own loneliness as a woman who wanted to grow theologically. My kids were younger then, but I wanted more substance than the typical Christian mommy topics. I wrote because I wanted to motivate women to recognize their joy and responsibility as theologians, and I wanted to provide a tool to help churches disciple them in that way.
I was not a "somebody." I am not a wife of a big name pastor. My husband is a public school teacher. I didn’t know anyone with a writing career or in the publishing industry. I was just a housewife in West Virginia. But I have found that if you’re not seeking a inner-circle position, you do have the freedom to say what you really want to say. And as we plug away in areas that we see a need and want to contribute, we tend to find like-minded people.
I’ve never been a fan of the tribal language and constituency. But as I study God’s Word, read good books, participate in my church, and try to live the life of faith and obedience, writing has helped me to process what I am learning and communicate that with others. And what I have found is that there are other women like me. But not only that, there are men, pastors, and even professors who care to communicate with ordinary housewife theologians. Preachers and professors don’t go to seminary merely to be educated to talk to one another. The theological study in the seminaries should trickle down to the everyday housewife.
Some of the comments on my last blog lamented how women over 40 missed the boat to build the platform of fifteen thousand followers that publishers are supposedly looking for. I want to say that I do not have an agent. I do not have a platform of that size. And I certainly didn’t have a huge number of followers when I signed my first book contract. I just had something to say, a lot of passion to communicate it, and a hope that others would want to join the conversation. People do still care about content.
As my thinking is being sharpened by this ongoing conversation, I propose that we adjust the way we look at platform. The definition of platform is not “how many people click on your blog.” Properly identifying it as “a body of principles on which a person or group takes a stand in appealing to the public,” I would align myself with the confessions of my local congregation. If we do this, then people don’t get reduced to numbers and all this confusion about authority can be put back where it belongs in local church office. Maybe then we can pull up some more seats at the table for women to participate in discussions. Maybe then we won't confuse conferences with our worship services. Because they certainly shouldn’t take the place of them.
And maybe then we will stop looking at people as brands.