Striking a balance

The influence of the blogosphere on how some people live out their faith becomes more and more palpable. Today, the New York Times has a feature on Pastor Dan, the UCC minister who writes on faith and politics for Daily Kos at a community blog called Street Prophets. The article notes Pastor Dan’s primary challenge: living out a “strikingly unlikely double-life, one part as the small-town preacher in a socially conservative spot of the Midwest, the other as an abrasive and confrontational voice of the religious left in the blogosphere.”

True to the take-no-prisoners style of blogosphere discourse, Street Prophets traffics more in calumny and condemnation, though with an extremely learned theological intelligence behind it.

“If Conservative Christians are looking for salvation,” Mr. Schultz wrote in one characteristic post, “they ought to start looking to save themselves from themselves. They have much to repent for, like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, they have a unique level of judgmentalism and separation to get out of their system.”

Besides decrying the religious right on issues like gay rights, abortion and intelligent design, Mr. Schultz has also disparaged even seeming allies like Jim Wallis, probably the most prominent liberal among the evangelical Christian clergy. Mr. Schultz has reviled Mr. Wallis’s “patronizing lectures.”

Somehow this balancing act seems to work, meeting the needs of two wildly disparate flocks and reconciling Mr. Schultz to himself. As someone who suffers from, and is medicated for, bipolar disorder, Mr. Schultz has, of necessity, become an expert on reckoning with extremes. “There’s a part of me that’s been angry since I was a kid,” Mr. Schultz, 39, said in an interview. “Part of that is my illness, and part of it is a deep sense that the world isn’t the place it was meant to be. I had to find a productive place to put that anger or it would swallow me whole. And part of my spiritual journey has been to claim that anger as spiritual.”

In choosing the blogosphere as his pulpit, Mr. Schultz forms part of a trend in which liberal members of the clergy are using the Internet the way Christian conservatives used cable television and talk radio in earlier decades. Diane Winston, a professor of religion and media at the University of Southern California, points to such similar figures online as Mr. Wallis, Rabbi Michael Lerner at Tikkun, the Rev. Tim Simpson at PublicTheologian and Rachel Barenblat at Velveteen Rabbi.

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