They say that you can increase the probability of accomplishing a goal if you write it down. I’m not certain who they are. For all I know, it’s the same people behind the idea that JFK was assassinated because he was ready to blow the lid off of the extraterrestrial presence here on earth. The idea has been spread all over the internet, in blogs, advice columns, and in books that were published despite their glaring lack of content (I’m speaking to the advice about goals, not about the UFOs, although the same facts hold true in both cases).
Despite the uncertain origins of this ubiquitous piece of advice, it’s certainly true that when one begins a task — or series of tasks — it’s a good idea to at least attempt to map out a plan. This is no less true for a blog than it is for cooking Thanksgiving dinner. The product of the planner and the non-planner could both turn out well, it’s just that one is more likely to turn out well than the other.
As for this blog, I’ve somewhat done this already simply by giving it the title, “Christianity, Culture, Criminology, and Criticism.”
They also say that a good blog with loyal readers develops content in 3-5 consistent, compelling subjects. Four falls within that numerical range, and as long as I write consistently in these four interrelated subject areas, I’m sure at least somebody out there (other than me) will find them and their inter-relatability compelling.
I write unashamedly from the perspective of a Christian worldview. Some might ask why it’s necessary to even point this out. It’s necessary for a few reasons.
First, there are a lot of professing Christians out there that, for one reason or another, attempt to hide their Christian perspective. This is motivated by a number of things. Some attempt to sneak their Christian point of view into their ideas, whether as a capitulation to another worldview or as some sort of guerrilla tactic of evangelism. I find both to be disingenuous and dishonest. I am not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16).
Second, I point it out because I am a Christian for a reason. I think that the Christian worldview has a legitimate contribution to make to my society, nation, community, and in the marketplace of ideas. I think it is a rational, defensible, legitimate position to hold along with all the other positions that compete and contribute in that same marketplace of ideas.
Finally, I used the word unashamedly above in lieu of unapologetic. My purpose in writing this blog is, without reservation, done in an apologetic fashion. An apology, in the philosophical sense, is the rational defense of a philosophical position. By relating my Christian worldview to the areas of culture, criminology, and criticism, I am engaging in an apologetic exercise by displaying, through application, my worldview’s rational nature. That’s not to be taken as meaning that I’m attempting to convert every reader who might happen upon this blog. Rather, I’d make the case that being open about this point of view has a certain effect of gaining understanding in a diverse and pluralistic society in which multiple points of view must share and engage one another within the same intellectual space.
Few things worth writing about occur outside of a specific cultural context. This is true of Christianity throughout its history. It’s true of criminology. And it’s true of criticism — in the manner in which I’m using it — which, if correctly done, is directed specifically at culture and aspects of culture.
What one means when they use the word culture has an almost limitless set of sub-categorizations and discrete nuances. Overall, I am writing within and to the culture of North American postmodern liberalism. That is to say that I am located in (and am a product of) North American culture. I grew up in and live in the postmodern age, and I am a citizen of a nation governed by liberal ideals (in the original sense of the term), i.e., a social polity organized around principles of openness, liberty, democracy, and republican governmental structures.
That does not mean that I subscribe to ideals of postmodernism, nationalism, or ethnocentrism. On the contrary, each of those terms represent ideas I can level a number of criticisms at. Rather, it is only a commonsense observation of the cultural environment I find myself in and wish to engage with intellectually and philosophically.
Of all the alliterative words in the title of this blog, criminology probably appears to be the outlier, the one thing that’s not like the others, as Sesame Street would have it. But I’ve included it in my list of 3-5 compelling subjects for three primary reasons.
One, I have spent most of my adult life either employed by (law enforcement & corrections) or engaged in the study of (B.S. in Paralegal Studies followed by a brief stint in law school) the American legal system. This combination of education and experience provides me with a certain level of expertise in this area. And every writer knows what they say: “Write what you know.”
Two, the above cited experience and education has allowed me much opportunity to reflect on the overall cultural meaning of criminology and criminal justice. It’s led me to conclude that there’s a lot one can learn about a society and culture by studying how that society thinks about, defines, and reacts to crime as well as how the coercive powers of government are used.
Three, there’s a very good chance that I will, after completing my current master’s level studies in the area of Christian apologetics and philosophy, pursue doctoral work in the area of either criminal justice or public policy. To that end, this blog will serve as a medium for fleshing out ideas I have in this area.
The most important public intellectuals in history have always fulfilled the role of critic. One could make a compelling argument that the Old Testament prophets were public intellectuals who engaged in cultural criticism. The list of cultural critics in Western history is too long to exhaust, but includes names like Voltaire, Locke, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Twain, Tillich, Niebuhr, Bonhoeffer, Arendt, King, Chomsky, and Peterson. Their areas of expertise varied among philosophy, theology, journalism, education, psychology, and linguistics.
A common denominator among them is that they did not respect those discrete areas of learning nor the cult of expertise. Instead, they applied all their learning and their minds to engaging their times and cultures through an interdisciplinary appeal to morals, ethics, and ideals that challenged not just institutions and structures but any interested reader or listener.
Of course, I do not make any claim to being on par with the Old Testament prophets, nor any other name listed in the previous paragraph. I also do not lay claim to the title “Public Intellectual.” What I do lay claim to is drawing inspiration and motivation from the people on that list to at least try to engage my cultural and intellectual surroundings critically, rigorously, and honestly for the greater good, even if the only place that greater good is realized is in my own thoughts and actions.
I’m confident that what I’ve written here satisfies the requirements for probability factoring for blog success suggested by whoever they are. And at this point, at over 1,200 words, this has far exceeded the standard word count recommendations they suggest for reader retention. And although I’m not particularly concerned with their recommendations, I can admit that it’s time to wrap up this introductory post.
Thanks for joining me on this journey.