Relevance, and blogging on current events.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 October

Earlier this year something happened in the Christian blogosphere. I won’t say what; you’ll see why in a moment. I’ll simply say I have a few readers who were looking forward to me writing one of these Rants about it, but instead I didn’t write any Rants for three weeks. (Had other things I wanted to cover.) When I finally returned to Ranting, the issue had passed, the Christian blogosphere had moved on, and for the most part so had they.

Well, until recently. At church yesterday—

SHE. “I remember when [that issue] happened. I waited to see what you were gonna write about it.”
ME. “I wrote nothing.”
SHE. “You have no opinion?”
ME. “I have an opinion, but it didn’t provoke me enough to write a whole blog post about it. I don’t think I even tweeted about it.”
SHE. “You gotta feel it before you post it.”
ME. “I don’t gotta feel anything. It’s not about whether it makes me happy or mad. It’s about whether it draws people to Jesus, or drives people away.”
SHE. “Well, but you gotta comment on current events in order to stay relevant.”

Yeah, that last comment provoked this Rant.

A few years back, on one of my previous blogs, I started to post some of my old newspaper columns. Didn’t take me long before I stopped doing it. The main reason was these columns aren’t relevant. They were, back when I originally wrote ’em. But time passed, and their relevance faded, then vanished.

News is relevant because it’s new. It’s stuff we haven’t heard yet, or stuff we only just heard about and are processing. But once we’ve processed it, it’s not news anymore. Doesn’t matter if the story’s continuing; doesn’t matter if there’s new data coming in: Once the news audience has collectively decided it’s done with the story, it’s old news. It’s time for the news media to move on.

This is a fact which really irritates reporters. Particularly when they’re trying to tell the story—and they’re not done yet! Like reporters who covered the Afghanistan War, who couldn’t get their stories aired or published because the news media was too busy with the Iraq War. Or even when they weren’t busy with the Iraq War, but to them the Afghanistan War was old news, even though it’s still going on.

Wait, did you forget the Afghanistan War is still going on? That’s right, it’s still going on. But you don’t care about that; you want me to get back to my point. So I’ll move on. Even though it’s still going on.

See, the short attention span of the news-watching public means that nothing in the news is gonna remain relevant for long. It’s gonna be really, really relevant when it first happens. It’ll remain relevant for maybe a week or two; often a month at the most. And then the public will move on. The media will follow. ’Cause contrary to conspiracy-theorist belief, the media goes where the audience wants ’em to. Not the other way round.

So if I decided the way to make TXAB relevant was to keep up with, and blog on, current events, it’d certainly work. Plenty of Christian bloggers do it.

But it’d also mean that everything I write is quickly disposable. It’ll be relevant, but only for a week or two. That’s its lifespan. Then it’ll sit in the archive, where nobody’ll read it, ’cause nobody’ll need to.

Yeah, I decided that’s not the kind of relevance I wanna develop.

Old news kills relevance.

Disasters happen all the time. So it’s not hard to tie a theodicy article to whatever disaster is among the current events.

It’s just once I’ve done so, I’ve anchored that article in time. Two years from now, if someone looks at that piece, it’s gonna contain references to Hurricane Irma, and a part of their mind is gonna respond, “Hurricane Irma? That was 2017. This piece is old. Why’m I reading an old article?”

’Cause old news isn’t relevant. And people seek relevance. So much so, they’re willing to dismiss an article despite its always-applicable ideas about evil in God’s universe, ’cause they imagine it was only applicable to 2017. A number of people won’t even bother to read beyond the date: If it’s old, what good is it?

Now, writing on the Wheat and Weeds story: That’s Jesus’s parable about the future, y’know. Future’s always relevant. Doesn’t matter if I wrote it in 2017, 2007, 2027, or even 1717. Jesus told it somewhere round the year 32, and it’s been relevant ever since.

So that piece’ll stay relevant for a good long time… unless I made what I like to call the Lindsey Goof. End Times prognosticator Hal Lindsey (1929–2020), author of There’s a New World Coming, was a big fan of taking bits of the bible which deal with the End, overlaying current events on top of them, and claiming this proves the rapture will take place any day now. Which made his books super relevant once they were published… and for a few years thereafter. But now bookstores can’t even give ’em away. The older their current events got, the more irrelevant they became.

And the more irrelevant Lindsey’s later books became, ’cause everyone knew the dude was batting .000 in the predictions department. But that’s another digression.

Point is, current events are only a temporary relevance. In the long term, they’re poison. People are so conditioned to believe newer is better, they’ll even use that mindset to justify twisting Jesus’s teachings 180 degrees away from what he actually says. Visible age ruins a teaching’s value. Shouldn’t, but does.

So really, it’s better that I stay away from current events. Keep these articles timeless. No need to update ’em if there’s nothing in them to date ’em.

Although I’ve sorta given up on that idea when it comes to these Rants. They’ll be the exceptions.