Chasing a Platform / Why Do I Blog?

I have always enjoyed writing, and when Covid hit I suddenly found myself in front of a computer far more than I desired. Like the local rivers swollen with the frequent Spring rains and overflowing their banks, words and thoughts tumbled widely and freely . My weekly preaching platform had been taken away and I sensed that there were a lot of people trying to think through the same things that I was. I could knock out a blog post in twenty minutes without running out of thoughts or words and be reasonably pleased with the results.

black and gray microphone on black stand

Circumstances have changed. I have a day job (lighting rep) that is making every increasing demands and I have pastoral responsibilities and I have a growing family. Now I find that both words and thoughts run slow and shallow like the Finley River in August following those dry, sultry summer months. So I have been thinking about what it is I hope to accomplish with this blog and whether it is worth the effort, and whether it is actually helpful.

One thing I know is that blogging is not the platform with which God is primarily concerned. When you sign up for a site blog on a site like WordPress, they want you to build your platform because that increases their platform. More online traffic results in more online revenue, and so I get periodic emails encouraging me to improve my blog or monetize it. The internet rule of thumb is that it takes 1000 loyal followers to earn a living blogging. And while there is nothing wrong with earning a living blogging – I would enjoy that! – there is something wrong with replacing more fundamental “platforms” with an online platform.

God is more concerned with how I affect the people closest to me or the people that He has entrusted to me. All believers have a platform that was referred to in my childhood as “personal testimony”, which is something like a reputation but connected to Christ. What is the testimony of your life? Do you show by your words and your works that you have been changed by the grace of God so that you are being cleansed from sin and becoming useful for every good work? You don’t need a blog for that platform.

I also have a platform as a husband and father, and both of these are time consuming investments. I confess that fatherhood is sometimes an effort for me. My daughter brought home a Barbie book from the library that was easily and without a doubt the worst example of literature I have ever read and I long for the days when I can read to them about the Princess and Curdie. But I’m building a platform for that day and that means investing quantity time now.

Pastors have a God-given platform entrusted to them. Every week my congregants sit still for something like forty-five minutes and just listen to the words coming out of my mouth. How many people get that kind of platform? Of course, that platform is not for dispensing advice or telling cute stories but for proclaiming the eternal truth of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any preacher who uses God’s platform to build their own platform is headed for a fall.

So why do I blog? Is it helpful to others? Is it helpful to me? Is the juice worth the squeeze? These are questions I’m considering. I know that the line from the character of Eric Lidell in Chariots of Fire comes to mind, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” I enjoy putting words to thoughts and I feel the pleasure of God in that. Blogging is a relatively easy way to practice my writing skills in some sort of public way.

I also enjoy blogging because there are some topics that are easier to address in a blog post than in a sermon. I enjoy reviewing books and posting recipes as well as delving into more serious matters concerning politics and economics. Blogging is more substantial than a social media post but doesn’t require the commitment of writing a book.

Blogging is also humbling because writing is hard. I have about 19 blog post drafts started and I just lost steam or couldn’t organize my thoughts into something that is readable. Writing consistently over time is difficult and makes me appreciate even more my literary hero, Chesterton, who was once accused of having no unpublished thought.

I plan on keeping the blog going as long as it does not significantly detract from the more important platforms in my life. I plan on writing about topics that interest me or that I feel are significant. I hope my writing improves to a point that people want to read the next paragraph and the next post. And I hope that some good comes of it in my life and in yours.

Hamiltonian Wisdom: Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton

My wife suggested that I watch Hamilton when it became available to stream on Disney+, but just as I was about to start it I realized that I was potentially in danger of ruining a good book (think of the poor wretch who watched the movie Jurassic Park before reading the book!), so I grabbed my kindle and nabbed a copy of Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. This is my second round with this historian having polished off/consumed/struggled through/conquered his biography of George Washington a couple of years ago. The PR blurb suggests that the book inspired the uber-popular production of Hamilton, so I was glad that I started with the book. Below are 5 takeaways.

Alexander Hamilton is more important than we think

The obvious purposes of Chernow’s work is to prove that Hamilton has received less credit than he deserves compared to other founding fathers. George Washington is etched in our national psyche. Franklin and Jefferson are (or were until five minutes ago) darlings of the Enlightenment and proof to the secularists that America is not a Christian nation. Samuel Adams has a beer company named after him. You get the idea. But Hamilton is largely ignored. Chernow charts the course of Hamilton’s ascension from modest beginnings in the West Indies to a personal aid of Washington to the main force behind the Federalist papers to the architect of the United States government as we know it. Chernow states that “if Washington was the Father of the country and Madison the Father of the Constitution, then Alexander Hamilton was surely the Father of the American Government”. A significant portion of this book is dedicated to crediting Hamilton’s Herculean accomplishments in conceiving, producing, and nurturing a functional government out of the chaos that was the United States of America in the 1780’s.

Alexander Hamilton never seemed to wander around in a normal human muddle. With preternatural confidence, he discerned clear solutions to the murkiest questions.

Two Are Better Than One

Like the superiority of water over the individual elements of hydrogen and oxygen, Chernow shows how the two persons of Washington and Hamilton combined to make an incomparable pair. According to Chernow, Hamilton’s dynamic ideas and near sighted zeal would have prevented much of his success had it not been linked to the steady, ethical, patient hand of a farmer, George Washington. Washington was the man our nation needed, and no history I have read has convinced me otherwise. Washington was not brilliant. He was not a great strategist. He did not understand the intricacies of government. But he really was the only one who could bring the nation together and by all human definition, he really was a great man. Hamilton, on the other hand, was brilliant, industrious, sometimes flamboyant and vain, but always bursting with plans, ideas, and words. Some historians have suggested that Washington was Hamilton’s pawn, but Chernow dismisses this idea. Washington and Hamilton were perfectly suited to complement each other, and both admired and appreciated the other, despite times of (somewhat understandable) tension between them. Together, they managed a successful war and two presidential terms and taught our toddler nation how to walk.

Politics Is a Dirty Business

Because my generation tends to think of anyone older than us as somewhat prudish, I think many would be surprised at the political ruthlessness of our founding fathers. Jefferson, while Secretary of State for Washington, essentially founded a newspaper to attack the sitting president and his Secretary of Treasury. The two party system became evident early on in our nation as the Republicans and the Federalists – neither of which is to be confused with either parties today in any meaningful way – attacked one another. The Republicans conjured nightmarish visions of a despotic government reminiscent of the British monarchy they had recently fought against, while the Federalists feared mob rule. Like today, both parties tend to have blinders to their own weaknesses. For example, Jefferson and Madison remained stubbornly optimistic about the French Revolution far beyond what was reasonable in light of what was actually taking place. In the end, it was Monroe who broke Hamilton’s confidence regarding his affair with Mary Reynolds and it was a Republican newspaper that made sport of it. It was a Federalist newspaper that printed of Jefferson’s rumored affair with his slave, Sally, and that he fathered many of her children.

Each side possessed a lurid, distorted view of the other, buttressed by an idealized sense of itself.

Depravity is Universal, Forgiveness is Precious

Every generation is blind to its own sin. The conditions of slavery in the West Indies as well as in the United States was truly despicable. The founding fathers who managed to craft one of the greatest statements of human liberty often lived in schizophrenic tension with that document. Of all the founding fathers who owned slaves, George Washington was the only one who released them, and that was upon his death. Hamilton, for his part, opposed slavery and probably never owned slaves. He fought for abolition and took political risks to pursue its demise, also earning some of the ire of the politically powerful Virginians. Perhaps growing up in the West Indies gave him clearer insight than others. But all men are sinners, and Hamilton is no exception. Despite being blessed with an excellent wife whom he loved, Hamilton inexplicably involved himself with a married woman named Marie Reynolds and was subsequently blackmailed by her husband. In order to clear his good name (irony!) he published a pamphlet about the affair so that his political opponents could not claim that he had misused government funds.

Eliza Hamilton forgave her husband but never forgave James Monroe for sharing the confidential details of this episode in Hamilton’s life. Eliza fought for half a century to preserve the legacy of her husband while seeking no glory for herself. Hamilton was adored by his children as well as Eliza’s family. If that is more than he deserved, he might remind us that it is more than anyone deserves. Jefferson and Adams both lived long lives and had time to shape their legacies. Hamilton, besides dying relatively young as the result of a duel with Aaron Burr, not only missed this opportunity but was also the subject of much degradation at the hands of others. Had it not been for Eliza’s faithful stewardship of his writings, eventually collected and organize by his son, we would only know Hamilton by what his enemies said of him.

Even Good Historians Write Stupid Things

This is a good biography, replete with original sources and quotations. I imagine that there is a pretty strong rivalry between Jeffersonians, Hamiltonians, and various other -onions in the scholarly community. I would think that Chernow can hold his own. And yet he wrote these words concerning Hamilton’s adultery:

The problem was that no single woman could seem to satisfy all the needs of this complex man with his checkered childhood.

Ron Chernow

I snorted out loud when I read this. Furthermore, it made me take some of the more analytical statements that he makes with a grain of salt. But if there is anything I learned from the life of Hamilton, it’s that no one is perfect. Even good writers make words put together badly, and even good historians lose themselves in baseless philosophizing. Despite this truly terrible sentence, the biography as a whole is well worth reading and I highly recommend it.

Book Review: CR Wiley

I first encountered CR Wiley during Season 1 of Man Rampant where he was featured on Episode 4, “The State vs Your Family”. Intrigued, I found his book The Household and the War for the Cosmos. It was available to read for free through Kindle Unlimited so I plunged in. Much of the modern world has suffered from decades of philosophical schizophrenia as materialism and post-modernism incubated cultural Marxism. Wiley presents a coherent and holistic worldview, so it should not have been a surprise to be plunged back into the Greco Roman world of history, mythology, and philosophy from the outset. Before Wiley tells us what he believes about anything, he tells us what he believes about everything. Unfortunately, Wiley almost lost me here and I would have surrendered (probably due more to my own lack of understanding than any deficiency in writing) had it not been for the sense that he really is getting at something. That sense was paid off with dividends down the road.


Wiley encourages us to ditch the feelings-oriented individualism that characterizes so much of Western life in exchange for piety, which is pictured in Aeneas’ carrying of his father out of Troy. He rags on hymns like “In the Garden” (not cool, dude) to make his point. And despite his lack of appreciation for certain sacred hymns, it is a point well worth making. Because as we actually bind ourselves together in covenant type relationships, we form something of value: the household.

I went on to read an earlier book of Wiley’s called Man of the House, which is the more practical of the two but is based on the same philosophy. As some time has passed and I have not gone back and read both books, I am treating them as one for the purposes of this review. I didn’t make notes (shame on me!) so cannot say for certain in which of his books each idea was most clearly presented.

A Household Should Be Something

The first thing I remember jumping out at me was a line (not quoting verbatim) that went something like, “We tell men to be the head of their households, so what does that put them in charge of? The remote control?” Wiley’s description of the modern family as something not much more than roommates is unfortunately all too accurate. Modern families struggle to find time to eat together, much less do something productive together. But the first household was a union of productivity, not only in regards to the fertility of the womb but also the fertility of the world.

Generally speaking, modern storytelling presents any form of familial duty as negative. For example, the heroin is the one who turns her back on her parent’s wishes so that she can pursue true love. The young man is really brave because he doesn’t take over the family business that his grandfather and father worked to build. The wife who falls in love with the fella at work really deserves to leave her husband and find happiness. Wiley flips that script around.

Slave Wage vs Ownership

“Slave wage” is a phrase that comes up frequently in Wiley’s books and one that I believe can be traced back to Chesterton (Perhaps in The Everlasting Man or What’s Wrong with the World, but I can’t remember which. Clearly I have a problem taking good notes!) Wiley presents what so many dream of – getting a job at a big corporation that can provide a salary and benefits -as a terrible fate. Instead, he would have more people to be proprietors. Small business owners. Families working together to build a structure that can support their family, potentially for several generations. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to a parable of what it means to work for a large corporation which I will not spoil by recounting here.

In Praise of Women

The industrial revolution not only changed the way economies operated, it changed the way families related to each other. Prior to it, most families worked together cooperatively from their own property. Marriage was an economic partnership and there was no financial incentive to dissolve that union. Following the industrial revolution, the man would head off to work and live a distinct life from his wife, who would feel “stuck at home”. The secularists thought this would be cured by getting women into the workforce, which only unleashed further problems like the outsourcing of child-rearing and the further separation of husband and wife from each other’s daily worlds, resulting in higher divorce rates and sexual infidelity of all sorts. The idea of a productive household would mean that the “man’s world” was really a shared world between husband and wife and then children and down to grandchildren.

Feminists would doubt that anything Wiley says is in praise of women, but I would disagree. I am both an orthodox Christian with a biblical approach to the distinction and roles of the sexes as well as a man married to a gifted wife. Our commitment is to raise our own children and it falls to my wife to stay home with them, a situation for which we are both thankful. However, there is a daily sense of abandonment that we have to fight as walk through the portal of the business world. As I discussed the concept of a productive household, she was like, “Yes! I love staying home with the kids and getting to just be a mom, but I want to be helpful in other ways, too. That’s the perfect solution.” In theory, a productive household would allow everyone to contribute, even children.


As a pastor with a degree in Biblical Counseling, I have read a lot of books for men. Wiley’s books take a different approach and are refreshingly blunt and biblical. For a young man, I would recommend Man of the House as it is the more practical of the two. The events of 2020 have only heightened my appreciate for the need to establish households.

More than Social Media

I’m relatively new to social media so the last few months of Covid-19 followed by the protests over the death of George Floyd have been my baptism into the full fledged polemics of the 21st century. Even then, I’m acting my age as I tend to stay away from Instagram, Twitter, etc… I “get” that social media is not a great venue for having meaningful dialogue, especially with those who hold to differing viewpoints. But I wonder how many people rely on social media as their steady diet of news and cultural influence?

We are influenced by what we imbibe. Instagram even calls those with enough followers “influencers”. Isn’t that telling? Let’s say we could create a pie chart of what influences you over the course of a day. What percentage of that pie chart would come from social media? My suspicion is that a lot of people are about 90% influenced by social media, which is absolutely terrible. So below are some suggestions for places you should spend more time getting “influenced”, in no particular order.


I spent about 20 minutes the other morning listening to someone say stuff that I didn’t completely agree with. But it was still a good conversation. It was good to know how this person thought and a little bit of the life experiences that had led him to his beliefs. Social media allows us to hide behind the anonymity of a screen and say things that we might word differently or state more thoughtfully if we were face to face with an actual person. It prevents us from asking good questions, smiling to take away the sting of a sharp disagreement, or parting with a solid handshake. So go out and meet some people and have some real conversations. I suspect that over 90% of what I see on social media is not representative of the conversations I have with people over the course of a day.


I know this one is self-serving, but hear me out. When blogs started there was sort of this tendency to demean them as less than serious. Contrast that with today when WordPress lets me know how long my blog articles take to read and that the average reader is only going to stay with me for 2-3 minutes. I wrote a six minute blog last week and knew that a lot of people wouldn’t make it to the end. But at least a blog has more content than a post on Facebook (even a long post that requires people to click “more” twice to see the whole thing). Typically there has to be some sort of proposition that needs backed up, or a list to scroll through, or even a narrative that requires some investment on the part of the reader. I have 2-3 go-to blog sites that I check regularly and am trying to expand that list.


I meet a lot of people who tell me that they don’t like to read, which is a total mystery to me. There were several seasons of my childhood when books were my only companion (traveling across the country in a car pre-DVD meant we had cassettes and books) so we would hit up our local library and take a stack of books with us. Due to space constraints and financial stewardship I now read mainly on my Kindle, but if I find something worthy I buy a physical copy. I could go on and on about books, but let me leave it at: BOOKS!


This one is obviously for believers, but the most influential aspect of your life should be worship. If your life is one giant act of worship (Romans 12:1-2) then what you say, what you post, and what you read will all be acts of worship. They will be offered to the Lord as a sweet smelling sacrifice, and He will be pleased. This doesn’t mean we retreat to the monastery and let the world burn. Speaking the truth in love is neither for cowards or curmudgeons. We eat, drink, and war to the glory of God. So be filled with the Spirit, and let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Read, memorize, and meditate on the Truth of His Word. (When was the last time you memorized something in the Bible?) Contrast the world of social media with the fruitful man in Psalm 1 and strive to walk in his steps.


Consider the influence of social media in your own heart. Is it the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing you check before going to sleep? Are your political and social views dependent on your feed? Are the rhythms of your emotions set by their beat? Do you ever go a full day without consulting it? Do you sit across the table from your family over dinner and pay more attention to your phone than the people you live with? Is what you do with/on social media pleasing to God?

That Time Peter Jackson Ruined The Hobbit

This post is actually about the nature of fairy tales, so keep reading even if you don’t care for my movie critique. Yes, they were fun movies to watch. But since the very first “Tolkien” movie, the Fellowship of the Ring, the series had trended towards more CGI, more deviations from the books, and more unnecessary drama at the expense of character development and plot. Adapting from novel to big screen must be an onerous task – almost as onerous as trying to please Tolkien fans and studio executives at the same time. But there is a really key moment in the Hobbit movie series that betrays the essence of the fairy tale.

You might be wondering if I’m speaking of the completely unnecessary insertion of Legolas and his she-elf comrade (who falls in love with a dwarf!) into the movie. That was strange, but somewhat understandable from a cinematic universe perspective. You might consider the strange backstory of Azog the destroyer to be the bitter component. But in the end it doesn’t really take away anything and Tolkien always hinted that there were other stranger plots brewing in the background. Or perhaps you think I’m speaking of the completely wasted scene with Beorn – a scene that Tolkien fans would have exulted in had it been captured in a way consistent with the book. But no, I’m willing to let that slide.

The Hobbit is a fairy tale, and fairy tales are not at all like modern story-telling. Before Schwarzenegger and Stalone (I’m sure it started before them, but they were my era!) started story-telling on a path where the main character was a hero who dwarfed their circumstances, fairy tales told the journeys of small and insignificant characters into circumstances that dwarfed them. One delight of the fairy tale is that the main character makes mistakes, is at the mercy of the plot, and ends up contributing relatively little to the end results except his own transformation. Bilbo mistakes the first mountain he sees for THE Mountain, only to be informed that THE Mountain is much larger. This is fairy tale.

Consider how Peter Jackson turned one of the last chapters of the Hobbit into a 3+ hour movie in the Battle of the Five Armies. In the book, Bilbo gets knocked unconscious fairly early in the battle and only comes around after the violence has ended. He only has time to bid Thorin farewell (in a scene that still brings tears to my eyes) and hear the tale from others. Apart from yelling, “The eagles are coming! The eagles are coming!” he contributes nothing.

Nevertheless, the dwarves do learn to lean on and trust Bilbo as the story unfolds. This is because they learn to appreciate a Hobbit, not because Bilbo becomes less of one. Bilbo does change, but not into a warrior dwarf or even into a decent burglar (conscience leads him to gift the Elf King with jewels to compensate for the meals he had to steal!). Bilbo becomes a better (or at least different) hobbit, as predicted by Gandalf at the very beginning. His betrayal of Thorin in bartering the Arkenstone is a revealing of his true nature. It shows that at the end of the day, Bilbo Baggins has managed to stay Bilbo Baggins despite all the intervening adventures.

So despite the many egregious offences of Peter Jackson, the worst takes place at the end of the first movie, when the party of 15 is stuck atop the burning trees. In the movie, Thorin descends to attack Azog, only to be soundly defeated. Just as Thorin is about to die, Bilbo rushes in with his sword and saves Thorin’s life which, in the movie, is the turning point of Thorin’s attitude toward Bilbo. In my opinion, this is where Jackson ruins the Hobbit because this is where it ceases to be a fairy tale. The moment Bilbo Baggins defeats a hardened orc in one on one combat is where the light fades.

Now I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to ask me about Bilbo’s attack on the giant spiders to save the dwarves. But again, apart from Sting, this is Bilbo using his parochial hobbit skills. In particular, his skill at throwing stones he honed on country walks around the Shire. In the book he kills as many spiders by throwing stones (a little reminiscent of another giant slayer) as with Sting. Not only that, but he drives the spiders mad with his silly rhyming “Attertops!”. If Bilbo is going to become a fighter, he must fight like a Hobbit: with rock and rhyme.

Then there is the ring. One virtue of hobbits is that they are lucky, and finding the Ring was a stroke of great luck. How does this ring of great power affect Bilbo? It only enhances Bilbo’s “ordinary sort of magic”, such as walking quietly to where big folk like you and me can’t hear them. Even his “battle” for the Ring with Gollum does not end in swordplay, but in wordplay. A far more hobbit-like contest. In the end it his hobbit-ness that makes Bilbo so resistant to the power of the One.

If the Hobbit can remain a fairy tale, then Peter Jackson may insert all the new characters, back stories, and CGI action that he desires. But if the Hobbit is going to cease to be a fairy tale, then don’t bother making it into a movie. Bilbo must never be more than a hobbit, and we must love him for nothing less. Which is what Thorin learned in the end:

Bilbo knelt on one knee filled with sorrow. ‘Farewell King under the Mountain!’ he said.
‘This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so; and not a mountain of gold can amend it. Yet I am
glad that I have shared in your perils – that has been more than any Baggins deserves’.
‘No!’ said Thorin. ‘There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some
courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above
hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!'”