Andrew Sullivan trying to go it alone as a blogger is the type of story that hits almost all of the parsons curiosity zones. First, there is a great business case drive story. Can someone who has something to say actually make a living saying it? Felix Salmon runs down some of those numbers. Within the LCMS (although he wouldn’t say it is just the LCMS), Pastor Todd Wilken was forced to do something very similar when the synod axed his radio program. Wilken runs a smaller scale, but the decisions that Sullivan will have to make are the story: mission vs. staff, salary and perks. Same decisions that every small business owner in America must make, but being made by someone who can tell the story and has a built in audience. Tyler Cowen comments, and his comment stream always worth a browse is as caustic and hyper-critical as expected.
That basically covers the finance and business curiosity, but as with the mention of Pr. Wilken, this also hits my theological and social curiosity. Why? Sullivan drifted off my list of consistent reads a short time into his stint at the Daily Beast. The man who understood conservative principles (even if not living by them) got consumed under a standard issue member of the chattering class. I think the pressure of making payroll along with not trying to please Tina Brown anymore might allow/force some of that older Sully to return. The new creatives, long allowed to live exempt from the laws of reality because of OPM (other people’s money), in Sullivan will confront having to make it themselves. A social change notorious for bringing out the Andrew Mellon/Alexander Hamilton in all of us.
That leaves theological curiosity, why theological? Well, a church and a popular blog have a bunch of similarities and one giant difference. All popular blog writers refer to their blogs as communities. Those communities will follow the writer from platform to platform. All of that takes place in the virtual world, but that is not the big difference I’m thinking of. Many congregations in the United States follow the same strategy as a blog. Find one interesting voice. Create a platform to attract as many curiosity seekers as possible. Get a small amount of revenue from each low commitment person while relying on a core of rabid fans to build the hype and “work the mission”. Sullivan is starting a mega-church. The big difference I think is the look at what is in the center. That is easy to identify with a blog – the blogger or Sullivan. In a mega-church? How many mega-churches to you know that have a crucifix front and center? And I mean a crucifix and not a cross, something with the Good Friday corpus. An independent Sullivan community allows one to ask the question, what is the difference between The Dish and Willow Creek or Community Church? Who is at the center?