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Coptic Martyr

The Coptic Martyr of Cairo

The latest international thriller from best-selling author Martin Roth

Four Americans in Egypt on an archaeological dig. In the blistering summer heat they are fighting amongst themselves. Then they unearth a body. It is an old priest who has been murdered.

The gruesome discovery sets in train a sequence of events that leads to a deadly Islamist attack on the ancient church where the Americans are working.

The leader of the expedition, Professor Rafa Harel, must decide whether to withdraw his fractious team or continue on a mission to unveil a controversial series of wall paintings, knowing that these images have the power to spark even greater violence.

Meanwhile, watching over all of them is a dreamy young Egyptian Christian named Amir. His only quest in life is to become a martyr...

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Blogging for the Lord

Christian bloggers are exploding.

No, let’s start that again.

The number of Christians with weblogs devoted largely to spiritual matters is soaring.

How do I know? Because little more than a week ago I compiled a list of every Christian blog I could find, and emailed questions for this survey of Christian blogging. Since then at least half-a-dozen new blogs have begun, and I’ve also become aware of plenty of others. Few are more than several months old.

It’s a trend that replicates what’s happening in the secular world—a huge surge in blogs: already half a million of them, by some estimates.

I reckon you can divide the Christian blogs into four very rough groups:

1. The Catholic bloggers, several of them quite prominent writers, who in the short time that I’ve been watching have naturally been pretty concerned with the sexual scandals in their church, though their interests range widely.

2. Emerging church bloggers. A crowd of generally younger Christians using the internet to debate ways of making the church relevant to a post-modern generation.

3. A group, perhaps mainly Evangelicals, who comment a lot on religion, but who also roam across politics, culture, ethics, science, society, sport and just about anything else. (I’d classify myself in this mob.)

4. Christians who use their blog as a daily diary of their walk with the Lord.

But of course there are others who span several groups, or who don’t fall into any category at all.

How did they get started? I can only touch on some of the replies I received. (I’m struggling to keep this article short in the face of some fascinating emails in response to my questions. Can I suggest to the bloggers who wrote to me that they follow the lead of Mark Byron and actually publish their answers to me on their own websites.)

How, then, did they get started? Generally people felt they had something they wanted to say, usually to the Christian community, and recognised blogging as a method of instant communication. Often they were inspired by the early wave of blogs, notably InstaPundit, Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus and James Lileks. Here’s a selection of answers:

Wanted to do something online, possibly modelled on Mickey Kaus’s “Assignment Desk”. Glenn Reynolds [InstaPundit] mentioned Blogger. The rest is history (after a painful stint on GeoCities).

I started blogging last year after reading a short article about Blogger. I checked it out and got hooked!

I kept noticing that most bloggers had a certain tendency to lump all religious people together under the label “rubes” or “potential terrorists” or whatever. None of the early blogs…were too friendly to religious conservatives. I got into blogging to be a voice against their mild bigotry, and to provide some other angles I thought I could and that weren’t being covered elsewhere.

For a while, I had had the idea of starting a site that would include links to news items of interest to Christians, with possibly some comments….Then late last year I noticed an article on by Glenn Reynolds which included a link to his InstaPundit blog. That’s how I discovered Blogger, which made my site really easy to set up.

I’m a bit of a web guy. I’ve started 16 websites. When I heard of blogging it seemed like something very powerful (potentially).

Where do Christian bloggers get their ideas? All over.

I get my story ideas everywhere, literally. I’ll see something on another blog from a different angle than the blogger and I’ll blog my take. Sometimes an idea will just occur to me…and I’ll just blog away at it. There’s really no limit to the sources for story ideas.

Breaking news can set the agenda for blogging and you have to be able to respond. Having said that, I’m trying very hard not to be driven by breaking news.

I’ll…do news searches from a couple of different search sites, which every once in a while allows me to turn up stuff from more obscure newspapers.

I like prowling the web, finding nifty nuggets that my regular readers might not have time to gather on their own.

Well, it’s kind of funny because basically all I do is find links. I try to find the things that people are interested in, they just don’t know it yet. A personal favourite of mine is marriage.

Whatever I’m reading or thinking.

However, one blogger sounded an important caution:

The one challenge about blogging in Christian circles is that blogs are a great way to deliver gossip and pick fights, neither of which is a Christian virtue—we must resist the temptation.

How much traffic do they attract? Some don’t know. (Some don’t even want to know, which will be a shock to those bloggers who regularly stay up until midnight just to check the day’s traffic numbers on their stats server.) For those who know, the range seemed to be 20 to 200 unique hits per day.

I didn’t really get into blogging to attract a bunch of readers, because attracting a lot of readers is not something I ever expected to do. I really do it because I have fun commenting on the news. If someone else is able to enjoy reading what I write, all the better.

A couple hundred per day. More if I get linked somewhere snazzy like InstaPundit or The Corner, but that’s rare.

Andrew Sullivan linked to my site one day and blew my hit counter up to 1,500.

Some make quite intensive efforts to promote their sites. Others are still struggling.

I am trying to promote the site a little bit. I’ve encouraged readers to share…with friends and I plan to place a couple of cheap classified ads in some Catholic publications.

My plan is to (a) get mentioned by other sites, ministries, groups…(b) make sure that 25 top Christian editors…are keenly aware of the blog.

Admittedly, I haven’t put much effort into promotion, the fault is my own. But how does one promote a blog? I’m open for pointers on that area.

I don’t do much at this point. I’m more of an introvert by nature, so I’m not a great salesman. I did email some other bloggers to get some feedback in the early days.

And finally, do Christian blogs make a difference? Are they starting to influence the Christian—and the non-Christian—culture? What is the future for Christian blogging?

I definitely think Christian blogging will make a difference in the long run, but it isn’t the focal point of our mission as Christians. Ultimately, personal meetings and face-to-face fellowship will make a bigger difference than any blog every could. (But it’s a start…)

We must be engaged in the culture and attempt to shape it while not being pulled in by it (in the world, but not of it), and blogging is a cutting-edge way to do that.

I can imagine a blog would be a great way for a missionary to keep his home community up-to-date on what’s happening. Lots of possibilities here.

I do hope blogging becomes a tool that Christians embrace and learn to wield effectively. It’s a great way to be in the culture and comment on it and maybe reach a few people. It’s also a great way to sharpen up your own ability to think about the arguments of others and make your own rhetoric more effective….Our blogs should be well-written, interesting and demonstrate a decent level of thought and reasoning power. There are plenty of Christians out there who can and should start up a blog and get in the game.

The idea of a Christian blog seems kind of boring to me, but a Christian who does blog well is kind of cool.

The blogs that I like…sometimes scoop established media or tell stories that aren’t being told—very valuable—[and] provide the personal touch that is now desired in this post-modern era—where people aren’t so concerned about the reporter holding up a veneer of objectivity, but rather “tell me what you think, I’ll decide for myself”.

I’ve found the “blogosphere” treatment of the Catholic sex-abuse scandals to be much more thoughtful, careful (unwilling to hijack the scandals for one’s own political purposes), and theological (treating the Church as the Body of Christ rather than as just another bureaucracy) than the coverage in the mainstream media.

Within Christian circles I do think some blogs could stand out and become quite popular. (I’m just not sure how far that popularity will actually reach.) But I do think, for instance, that if Cal Thomas were to start a blog, he would become almost immediately very popular.

“Christian blogs are explosive!” It’s not a headline that could be written yet. But it could come. Perhaps much faster than anyone can imagine.

Thank you to the following bloggers who sent replies to my questions.

deep dirt
Dispatches from Outland
JunkYard Blog
knees knelt
Mark Byron
Mere Madness
News for Christians
Sursum Corda
Urban Onramps

April 30th, 2002


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