Origin Stories, Lessons Learned, and Favorite Posts over the years!
Origin Story Q&A
A friend suggested some questions to respond to, so here they are for this momentous post!
- Why did you start the blog?
- In the fall of 2002, I first dipped my toes into online discussion and advocacy. Sure, I had entered into online arguments about church and society and frequented several online message boards and forums. But unlike the Christian forums, which required assent to pages of beliefs to converse, I wanted to create a respectful space for interfaith online discussion that didn’t require people to submit to my idea of what their beliefs should be. Being a web designer and theology geek meant I created my own online community that became quite popular. That online experiment lasted for six years, teaching me a lot about managing personalities online and dealing with trolls.
- But I kept running into a problem. Everyone was pseudonymous, and that meant that I kept that community secret from the pastors, theologians, and activists I was meeting in real life. Something needed to change for my own integrity. So fifteen years ago, the forum was abandoned, and this blog began under my name in March 2008.
- Why “Hacking Christianity”?
- I called it “Hacking Christianity” because in Seminary, I had completed both a systematic theology class where I used the image of technology as a metaphor to explain theology AND a missiology class where I learned about going where the people are, like Jesus Christ did. Removing roadblocks to effect God’s intended program for humanity became a good way to talk about faith in ways fellow geeks could appreciate–and eventually progressive United Methodist commentary as well.
- Click to read our latest style update: Introducing Hacking Christianity 5.0
- What have you learned about the Church?
- The Internet has radically changed how ideas flourish and propagate. Good “hacks” of church systems that remove barriers to people’s participation can be applied from one place to another. The skill you need to learn is translation: adapting one idea from one context to your own. The Internet is amazing for that, so writing about and sharing ideas (and centering the voices of others who don’t have online platforms) became a joy of the work.
- What have you learned about yourself?
- I started the blog because I wanted consistency in my online and in-person persona. It seems like I have failed at that. People who meet me IRL after years of engagement online report their surprise that I’m far more mild-mannered and congenial in person than I appear to them online. I don’t intend to write or operate that way, but it led to jokes in my private accountability group whether I respond as “Pastor Jeremy or Blogger Jeremy.”
- What was the hardest post to write?
- My heart hurts for so many posts, but there are two that immediately come to mind.
- First, In Her Words: Reflections by Clergywomen on Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Church, because reading through 52 clergywomen’s stories was heartbreaking, and I’m so thankful to the team that helped produce it.
- Second, Wespath study reveals Traditionalist Plan cruelly targets Clergy Pensions, because its truth-telling was immediately opposed by the powerful upper echelons of the UMC institution–and the Traditionalists piled on as usual. I was vindicated, but it was a really stressful two weeks.
- What posts are your personal favorites?
- I’ve got more below, but if I had to pick a top post by category:
- Church: To Reach the Nones and Dones, Focus on the Ones, because it rhymes and a simple method to transform a church through discipleship.
- Theology: Primer on Atonement Theories, because everyone and their dog uses the simple graphic to explain complex theology in preaching and teaching and lets me know it has staying power!
- United Methodist activism: The Betrayal of Good News: Behind a 2004 Blueprint for a UMC Endgame. This one hit right before General Conference 2019, and it helped frame for everyone in the denomination exactly what was at stake and how long bad actors had been working on splitting United Methodism.
- United Methodist theology: Chiming in on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral , I know it’s two UM favorites, but I really like this one for its constructive contributions and how often I reference it since.
- Geek Theology: Jesus played 3D Chess, a fun and relevant metaphor that I’ve used repeatedly. I know everyone expects a Star Wars reference, but Star Trek wins just this once.
That’s the interview! Read on for the favorites over the years!
Here are some favorites by category for both longtimers to stroll down or newcomers to peruse. These include both the most read and my personal favorites.
- To Reach the Nones and Dones, Focus on the Ones. [focusing on discipleship one activity at a time]
- Exit Young Clergy, Stage Left [compilation of posts revolving around young clergy, including my favorite: Here, there be Dragons for Young Clergy]
- Is the Simplest form of Church just a Dinner Table ? [non-traditional church models]
- How many resurrections are in your church worship service? [classroom lesson]
- When Continuing Revelation becomes the Plain Reading of Scripture [interpretation changes over time]
- If Dying Churches have Community Gardens, what do Growing Churches have? [guest post reflections on affirming different types of church growth]
- Punching Down: Behind the Babylon Bee’s practice of “Christian” Mockery [The site has annoyed me for years, I finally wrote something about it]
- Should Sermons give better answers or lead to better questions? [Formative question for preachers!]
Favorite Bible Commentaries
- The Widow’s Mite: Look What You Made Me Do [favorite piece of biblical commentary in 10 years]
- Table-turning is a matter of dates [activism informed by Gospels]
- The first Palm Sunday was a Drag Show [making sense of Jerusalem Processionals]
Christian Life in Post-Christian Culture
- The None Zone or the Abundant Zone? [re-framing the mission field of the secular parts of the country]
- “Do You Believe in God?” is the Wrong Question. [Pastoring in the None Zone leads to a better conversation than “Do You Believe in God?”]
- Pastors who say “If you don’t like us, then…” [One particular phrase that is helpful in post-Christian culture]
- The rumors are true: I officiated a wedding on “Say Yes To The Dress” [Fun representation of church on a syndicated TV show]
On supporting Women in the Church
- In Her Words: Reflections by Clergywomen on Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Church [compilation of 50 women’s stories of assault in church settings]
- Clergywomen are not equal to men [A churchy version of the excellent viral letter by Jared Mauldin on female engineers]
- Clergywomen Wage Gap [12 reflections in an epic post]
- Why do the largest UMCs not have female pastors? [consideration of megachurches’ lack of women senior pastors]
- Trials and Misconduct within the United Methodist Church [why women benefit from a more just UMC system]
- Empty Vessels no more: defending women in the abortion debate [guest post]
- Personal and Political in the Abortion Debate [chart!]
- Why is United Methodist Women’s $50k gift to the Trevor Project such a big deal? [It’s a big deal!]
- A Failure to support abuse survivors in The United Methodist Church [followup that things are not getting better]
- Why do we attack women and BIPOC persons with advanced degrees? [More obstacles should equal more celebration!]
Various Justice Topics
- Who will watch out for the Watchers?
- Justice is not a Sprint. Or a Marathon.
- Sin of Cain, Original Sin of America
- Amazon Smile, UMC Market, and other ways the Church can help the Empire
- Straight Ally? No problem. White Ally? Uh... [Race, LGBTQ]
- If/Then on Christian Responsibility in Orlando [LGBTQ]
- The Stain of Unworthiness, a Church Called to Love [LGBTQ]
- Why Christians shouldn’t make fun of poverty culture
- Madness leads to Memorials; Memorial resist the Madness
- Defining Grace, Harm, and Accountability at church gatherings [LGBTQ + BIPoC]
- 20 ways to practice Active Resistance & Intentional Welcoming in your Local Church
- There are no Vegetarians in breadlines…or are there? [Missions, hospitality]
On a Biblical Hermeneutic for LGBTQ Inclusion
- The Church, not the Bible, determines Sin
- What if the Church is Wrong on Sin?
- Will Better Catechism stop LGBT Inclusion?
- Journey to Affirmation: Writings by Asbury Seminary graduates of how they became affirming of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Here’s the tag.
- Varieties of Atonement [primer on what Jesus did. THE most-shared post of all time]
- Varieties of Soteriology [primer on Exclusivism to Universalism]
- Varieties of Inclusion [primer on the differences between inclusion, tolerance, and exclusion]
- What replaces Hell in Progressive Evangelism [if you don’t believe in hell, why do evangelism?]
- Chiming in on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral [various models of this Methodist archetype]
- Improving the Metaphor of God as a Mountain [critiquing this interfaith theology]
Against Creeping Orthodoxy
- Orthodoxy: It doesn’t mean what you think it means
- Are We Reframing Long-held Basic, Orthodox, and Other Christian Beliefs?
- Orthodoxy Purity Tests, from Karl Barth to the Internet Age
- Unity requires Flexibility, Not Rigid Orthodoxy
- Fearing Theological Innovation, Clinging to Orthodoxy
- The Paradox of Generosity and Orthodoxy when Reforming Christian Systems
- The Playground Problem for the Country Club of Orthodoxy
- WWJWD? The Problem of Wesleyan Originalism
- 2022 – We Called It: Looking back at the Rise of the Global Methodist Church [compiles our special focus on the Wesleyan Covenant Association 2016-2022]
- 2019 – How Did We Get Here? Massive Compilation for GC2019 [Compiles most of the United Methodist posts on this website]
Constructive United Methodist commentary
- The Rise of Methodism 2.0 – In 2014, we predicted that having two operating system versions of United Methodism would lead to transformation of the church. Here’s the original and here’s the followup 9 years later
- The United Methodist 10 [intro list for explaining United Methodism to newbies]
- Methodism is Best in Triplicate [“watching over one another in love”]
- Methodists: BOTH-AND People in an EITHER-OR World [Uniqueness of Methodism]
- Denominations are Dinosaurs, except when Disaster Strikes
- Methodism: Crowdsourcing before it was cool [populist principles and origins of UMC]
- American Nations and the UMC [novel application of Woodard’s thesis to United Methodism]
- Seeing Communion Again for the First Time [my re-introduction to the standard communion liturgy and my response]
Critical United Methodist commentary
- The Betrayal of Good News: Behind the 2004 Blueprint to end United Methodism [one of the most significant reporting on this blog about a 2004 strategy document that predicted much of what would happen in United Methodism for the next 20 years]
- Pensions & Traditional Plan – In 2019, Hacking Christianity took on Wespath and exposed that the Traditional Plan would cause losses for clergy pensions for those who would leave or be kicked out. Here’s the original and here’s the followup.
- Echoes of Jim Crow in the United Methodist Church [comparing LGBT-affirming clergy to poll workers in racially segregated times]
- Time is Ticking on a UMC Tipping Point [are we already past this?]
- Most importantly, our ongoing series on the Wesleyan Covenant Association, a renewal group dedicated to preserving global LGBTQ Exclusion in The UMC and, failing that, siphoning off the capital, property, and people from The UMC to a new Wesleyan denomination. Click here for the category (and the key piece of reporting is this one)
United Methodist General Conference 2019 (most recent conference)
- What’s going on in United Methodism in 1000 words (2018 edition)
- Why Straight White Men Want to Close General Conference [This one merited 7 blog posts in rebuttal and online academics began an embargo/ban on future conversations with me since 2014. Good times]
- Who will have Power of Attorney to care for an ailing UMC?
- The Battle for Middle Methodism Has Begun
- UMC Schismatics are now in Plain View, but Why?
- A Hostile Takeover during a #UMC Ceasefire
- Practice the #UMC Covenant Before You Prosecute
- As goes Mississippi, so goes The #UMC, Part Two
- As go the Mormons, so go the Methodists?
- Reporting on the Traditionalist Plan for The UMC in 2019, given that it is a viable threat to the unity and sustainability of United Methodism. Various posts here: 1,2,3
- [More here in this category]
United Methodism Splintering (post-2019)
- What’s going on in United Methodism in 1000 words (2021 edition)
- The Traditional Plan turned #GC2019 into the Fyre Festival
- By the numbers: how the Resistance can remain in the UMC [Can we authentically do harm reduction from inside the Church?]
- United Methodism in a Fuddling Dilemma [on the folly of thinking progressives, centrists, and traditionalists can separate]
- 2 Articles on The Protocol: Understanding the Plan of Separation and Clarity & Curiosities
- The Barriers to a Virtual General Conference [while we learned a lot from the pandemic, our practices still don’t allow for virtual global conferencing]
- The Future of the Global Methodist Church is in the Past [showing what happened last time Methodists splintered off due to prejudice]
- Global Methodist Church: Where did it come from? [analysis of this persistent end-the-UMC movement]
- May the Fourth Be With You [Star Wars parody worship service]
- Look, Nerds, Jesus was NOT a Zombie. [being particular about parody]
- Last Rites with a Bullet [World War Z ethical conundrum]
- The Hulk’s Secret to Discipleship [Avengers illustration]
- Jesus played 3D chess [changing the game]
- Two articles on Batman (the Christian Bale one): The worst Hell is Hope and Fear. Batman. Chaos. Exile. Pain. Freedom
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Five posts on this series – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
- From the Snyder cut to the Sermon Cut! [what do preachers do with the leftovers?]
Online Discussion and Presence
- Disarming Internet Trolls [1of3]: Are they in the Arena?
- Disarming Internet Trolls [2of3]: Can you be a Honeypot?
- Disarming Internet Trolls [3of3]: Engaging the Tribes
- Facebook Guide for Pastors in Transition [1of2]
- Facebook Guide for Pastors in Transition [2of2]
- Why Academics have a hard time conversing online
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in America began a few miles from my local church, and consistently my church was a few weeks ahead of the rest of the country.
- What Shape of Church will escape the Maelstrom? [Asking what these COVID changes will wreak]
- Four ways to better practice Holy Communion online [Not “WHY” but “HOW”]
- How to have a virtual visioning session for your local church [what we practiced at my church during the pandemic]
- …Here’s the tag for the rest of the coronavirus writings.
Bonus: Three pivotal topics
- Methodist Kudzu: The Problem of Beth Moore [what United Methodists should do with the popular author and speaker — this one has the most comments and reads of any post; it was written in 2011]
- Mission Holiness Rankings of UM Seminaries [snarky piece that got HX first on the radar of the UM conversations online]
- Three charts that work well as classroom discussions for a local church: Atonement, Salvation, and Inclusion
Thank you for reading, commenting, and your shares on social media. It’s our community that has formed me the most the past 15 years, and I’m looking forward to whatever lies beyond.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Your turn: what did I miss that you really enjoyed?
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