So says Rod Dreher, after a year of blog sabbatical. Your mileage may vary.
As the late, great Justin Wilson would say, “How y’all are?” Things have been pretty good by me this past year, all things considered. A short explanation for where I’ve been is in order. Basically, the online magazine I was hired to blog for and to help edit shut down after a short run. I was unable to blog elsewhere, under the rules of the John Templeton Foundation, where I worked until just recently. The Templeton Foundation is a truly remarkable place, and I loved the people and the ideas I got to work with there. But in the end, I’m a writer, and I wanted to return to what makes me happy and gives meaning to my life. Plus, our country is in crisis, and it’s getting worse. I want to participate in the debate and discussion in the public square, especially because the things that I believe in and care about the most are under increased threat. Mine was an amicable parting from JTF, and I can say in all seriousness that my year and a half there changed me for the better. It broadened my mind and made me think of things that had not occurred to me before.
Driving home from work one day, I listened to a news story on the radio, and it occurred to me that after a year of living in Philadelphia, I had had maybe two political conversations, period. I think it’s so easy for pundits and others who live in a bubble where conversation is driven by news and current events to forget that many, probably most, Americans don’t live their lives according to the daily news cycle. I know, I know, this is obvious, but it’s so obvious many of us commentators don’t notice it. Leaving the New York-Washington bubble for Dallas showed me how cut off the people who run our country and media are from the lives of most Americans. Leaving the newspaper bubble for a job that specifically ruled out writing about politics and current affairs compelled me to see the world in a different way — in a way that I think is more like the way most Americans see it, to be honest.
Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with thinking and writing about politics. I wouldn’t be working for a magazine called The American Conservative if I thought there were. What I’ve learned is that politics has far too great a place in the minds of many of us who labor in these particular vineyards. What concerns me most, as a conservative and as, well, a person, is the meaning of life, and how people find purpose, order, and happiness. It has seemed to me for some time — and readers of my book “Crunchy Cons” (now out in Kindle and Nook forms, if you like) and my old Crunchy Con blog know this — that American conservative thought and activism is far too caught up in politics. We need a less ideological, more holistic and philosophical conservatism — and I think TAC is poised to be the flagship journal for this kind of reform conservatism. When the mag asked me to consider coming aboard, I was honored and pleased to have the opportunity. But thanks to my time at JTF, I will be writing even more about ideas that emerge from the world of science — ideas and research that have a lot to do with faith, family, and other things that traditional conservatives care about, or should care about.
One of the editorial tasks I’ve set for myself at TAC is to seek out more pieces about culture for the magazine. And I mean “culture” in a broad sense, including religion, art, architecture, food, morals, places, ideas — basically, the meaningful aspects of life that aren’t entailed by the usual areas of focus of opinion magazines, namely politics, economics, law, and foreign policy. I had come to believe before my year-long sabbatical that culture is more important than politics, as my old readers will remember, but this time away has convinced me of that even more.
One more thing: so many of you were incredibly kind to me and my family back when my old blog was up, offering to pray for my sister Ruthie, who was diagnosed in the beginning of 2010 with lung cancer. I am pleased to be able to tell you that she has beaten the odds, and is still with us. She is so overwhelmingly grateful for your prayers (as are we all), and she still needs them, as she has been unable to keep weight on lately.
There’s lots more to say about so many things. So let’s get to it. Thanks for reading, welcome back, and let’s get to it. Oh, a last thing about our comments policy. Old readers from my Beliefnet blog will recall that I run a pretty tight ship on the comments policy. I welcome dissent, even vigorous dissent, but it has to be civil. I don’t tolerate abuse toward myself or anybody else. I don’t have the patience for it, and I strongly believe I owe it to my readers to offer them a comments section that is a pleasure to read and to participate in. My comboxes are troll-free zones, and I don’t apologize for it. Because I’m the Mean Daddy, that’s why. You have to wait for me to approve the comment before it appears. I’m going to watch the site diligently to get your stuff up as fast as I can, but sometimes there will be a significant delay. Sorry about that, but it’s what we gotta do.