By Charlie Johnston
I am in my mountain lair for a week. I don’t get cell reception up here, so if those who have my number call or text, I am not ignoring you, I just won’t get it. Send me an email. I will be back next Saturday evening. This is the first real alone time to reflect and contemplate I have had since last spring. I will be back in Denver for Christmas week, then will greet the New Year in the mountains for several weeks as I prepare for the way forward this year. Pray it will be as fruitful a year this year as it was this past year – and that we may have to joyfully get ready to welcome a flood of people turning back to God and joining His family in the next year.
As waves of new readers come on, sometimes I have to go over things I have already said before about our little community here.
Of late, I have been getting a few comments helpfully informing me of what an idiot I am for believing various things…that the Pope is actually a good man, or the fundamental authenticity of Medjugorje, or several other innocuous matters. These commenters tell me they have the REAL facts and that if I want to be enlightened I should call them. I used to get some of the same sort of overheated conspiracy intimations when I was in media – from holocaust deniers, the Ku Klux Klan and (believe it or not) Black Nationalists. All of them are long on dark, fevered imagination stated as TRUE FACT – and woefully short on actual knowledge. I don’t mind – I don’t begrudge people their pet conspiracy theories (though it is much healthier for them if they know it is a quirky flaw in their character, not a strength – like a penchant for supermarket tabloids or romance novels. In my case, my little hobby horse is detective stories and video baseball. I know it is a welcome distraction that clears my head, not a vocation) Rather, it is the insulting, ugly tone of many such missives that seek to “enlighten” me. We don’t talk to each other like that here.
Oh we argue, sometimes vociferously. But we assume each other’s good will and treat each other like family. The tone here is like the British Parliament of a century ago…often animated, sometimes witty, at others acerbic. Always, though, we treat each other as valued friends who are serious about our faith, serious about building each other up – and fellow workers in the Master’s vineyard. I know that newcomers, in particular, are used to comment sections that just involve combatants coming at each other with meat axes – or are so insipidly boring they put you to sleep. We talk about serious things, we speak candidly about what we think – and use facts, evidence, logic and faith to back it up, while learning from each other and seeing from perspectives that are sometimes dramatically different from each other. I am proud to have so many serious people here – doctors, theologians, lawyers, business executives, clerics and other gifted writers. I have often learned from them – and more than a few people here have helped refine my thinking and correct mistaken notions I have had. We are children of the living God – and treat each other as the family we are. So argue all you want, but put the meat axe away before you try to comment here. We make our cases, stand our ground, and always remember that all will know we are Christians by our love for each other – that we argue to build each other up rather than tear each other down.
Occasionally I get someone I do not know offering to collaborate with me on writing about a particular subject, assuring me of their deep knowledge of the subject that will “burnish” my credibility. Again, I am proud of the brilliant and erudite readers who treat this as a sort of home. But if you have particular expertise on a subject, write a piece and submit it to me or in the comments. There are now quite a few people here who, if they submit a piece, I will publish it – regardless of whether I agree with it all or not. They have already established their bona fides by their comments and consistent insight. Do not assure me you have deep or secret knowledge: show me by what you write.
Occasionally, I get someone who send me an enigmatic note thinking I need to call them for some unstated mystical reason. I am a very plain guy – the apostle of the ordinary, if you will. My constant hymn is acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you. I don’t trust things that are darkly mysterious or laden with portents. That is usually a fantasy or deception. Just do the work in front of you. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. When people start worrying about how important or big something is, they usually are ready to go down a rabbit hole of self-absorption and fantasy. Just do the work right in front of you and all will work out. I am a very blue-collar kind of mystic. God reveals the people who are and will be important to me by ordinary means: how they approach the work right in front of them.
Again, I get some people who claim to have locutions or visions for the world who want me to advise them or confirm them. I can’t. Not my job…and whenever I try to do what is not my job, I mess up. Go to a priest, get spiritual direction – and live obedience. If you do those things, you protect yourself from deception. If you won’t do those things, your locutions are, at best, a delusion and, at worst, a demonic deception.
Before commenting here, you would do well to first read the “Comment Policy” link at the top bar and then to read the comments on several threads to get a feel for the tone here. Most comment boards today are brawling biker bars where the object is to see how much blood you can draw. Here, it is more like a sometimes raucous Irish Pub…arguments, to be sure, but plenty of laughter, wit, and affection. If that appeals to you, welcome to our little community.
Finally, if you have submitted a comment that didn’t get cleared and it was courteous and within the guidelines, try again. As traffic has risen, I am bombarded by spam each day. I try to check each spam message so as not to lose any genuine comments, but I have no doubt one occasionally falls through the cracks.