Yesterday I spent a few hours hunched over my laptop screen, waiting for a number to arrive: the 250,000th hit on this blog.
250,000: A quarter of a million. Imagine.
The hit counter said that number was near, and it felt like a major milestone for me. Sure, I realize that big time blogs can get close to that many hits in a day or two; but a Quaker blog speaks to what they call a “niche market.” And the blogging here, active and archived goes back to 1998, but has been significantly active since 2009.
I started out in February 1998, with one of the shortest posts, one which noted some, um, uncertainty. Here’s the whole thing:
I need a blog like I need a hole in the head.
But it’s clear that these days, it’s an increasingly important way of getting one’s views and convictions into the broader public discussion and debate. And before it is too late, there are some things I’d like to get into circulation.
My overriding concern now is the mad course down which my country’s rulers are headed, and what faith groups can do about it. My perspective is “sectarian,” rooted in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers.) As the saying goes, I’m proud to be a humble Quaker.
But my sense is that people from other faith groups, or none, can learn things from our experience and discussions — and we can learn from others.
So let’s do it.
This hesitant opening was soon followed by what is beyond challenge the longest post ever: 45800 words, with several thousand more added in followups. It was a nearly-book-length investigative report called “Fleecing The Faithful.”
In the late ’90s, two major church frauds stole tens of millions from Evangelical Friends. It could happen again. (It has, to others.) This shocking report, which took four months of intensive research & writing, showed how.
Not long after that, blogging lagged behind outward events, particularly September 11, 2001, which jolted me out of my routine in central Pennsylvania, and saw me shipped off to be Director at Quaker House, the peace project next door to FortBragg in North Carolina.
With two big wars getting underway, I was pretty busy for several years. But the net kept developing, and by late 2009, the pace picked up.
Since then, along with the hits I’ve accumulated 626 “items” on the blog.
In this outpouring, topics varied, though religion was often nearby. In fact, it was the focus of what is undoubtedly the very shortest post of all 626, from May 21, 2011, Here it is, in full:
Since the world seemed likely to persist for awhile, I went ahead and retired from Quaker House in late 2012. Meantime, the blog had had its share of scoops; it unearthed two official letters from Kenyan Quaker officials endorsing brutal treatment for LGBTs in its country and region; internal budget documents from Philadelphia YM detailing its budget struggles; breaking the news of appointments to various major Quaker positions; etc.
Soon I began foraging for new blogging subject matter. By late summer, 2014, a dominant new subject dropped into my lap:
The Quaker trouble in North Carolina lasted three full years, and I ended up covering it in three ways: in print and online in the journal Quaker Theology, and through the blog as both a reporter and an engaged member of one of the monthly meetings targeted to be purged. There are too many of these posts to list here, and I won’t try to summarize their many twists and turns. (A summary/review is here.) It ended in August 2017 with the body involved, North Carolina YM-FUM, committing corporate suicide and going out of business after 320 years. At the same time, purge fever spread to two other yearly meetings, with new splits beginning to boil over.
Some readers who were intrepid enough to keep up with this reporting might think I’m something of Quaker conflict junkie, and I can understand how that impression develops. But just this morning after worship at my meeting, I was prompted to mention to one of our stalwart members that in only a few weeks it will be a full year since all that agony in North Carolina YM-FUM finally went up (literally) in smoke. She and I were both overcome with relief.
Besides, in this struggle’s last year, the catastrophe of Eleventh Month 2016 pushed most of our intramural Quaker squabbling to the margins. (Not entirely; because Quaker divisions here in NC mirror many of those in the larger culture; we still have our discernment and work to do among Friends in this new and very gloomy context.
The evolution of technology also made it possible to be “active” in struggles physically located elsewhere. Say, for example, Standing Rock. I cheered on the pipeline protesters there, but had no leading to join them.
Then, just a few weeks after the 2016 election, I read that the paramilitary contractor TigerSwan, based near Fort Bragg and run by veterans of secret military units, was doing “security services” for the pipeline backers and possibly various police agencies. Beyond the name, few in the outside media knew anything about it.
I knew of it from my time at Quaker House, and dug up a batch of background on the company from public sources, then put up a substantial post on November 26. In 24 hours it drew more than a thousand hits, which is a lot for me — but such independent remote exposure could also be vulnerable to electronic pushback: suddenly, the post and my whole blog disappeared.It took a week of insistent appeals to the host to get the blog back up — and when it reappeared, the TigerSwan post was still gone, completely scrubbed from its files.
Fortunately, with the help of readers who had saved copies, we reconstructed the suppressed post, and uploaded it again; it is still there.
Yesterday, the “All time” counter, which updated fitfully, abruptly jumped ahead a dozen or so, and flipped right past the number I was waiting to see. Whatever.
I’m still busy, as way opens, keeping up with more recent stories I broke in the “blogosphere,” about the two teachers at Friends Central School in Philadelphia who were fired for inviting a Palestinian pacifist Quaker speaker. That, plus the resistance, the resurgence of racism, and other topics, yield a continuing stream of blogging subject matter, some not so controversial. I’m hoping the blog can still build its readership and that I’ll last until the next big milestone (500,000) is reached.
If this post is of interest, pleased pass it on.