As a blogger, I probably have written some 2000 or more blog articles for various blogs over the last 15 years. That includes more than 1200 at Triablogue, the home of the late Steve Hays, who was one of the most brilliant thinkers who’s ever lived; 175 at Beggars All (James Swan’s site), 400 at this blog (johnbugay.com), and another 400 at a blog entitled “Reformation500”. Those last two are blogs that I have set up.
Some of these blog posts were very long, and some were short. Some were extremely detailed, and others (as in the case of what I was doing during Bethany’s struggle with leukemia) were merely photos with short, if any, captions.
I have always thought of myself as a writer. During my college years, I studied journalism; I have tried all my professional life to “be a writer”; early on, say, during the 1990s, I was able to accomplish that, in a couple of very fulfilling career positions. But the marketing and advertising world changed. Though I was largely a “news” writer, with a strong emphasis on writing newsletters and corporate public relations in those days, technology changed, and my roles later changed too, to documentation and marketing, and eventually, I moved almost completely out of writing and into marketing automation.
But I continued to write personally. I have been dedicated to understanding the truth of things, and writing clearly, so that others would understand. That’s been a foundational definition for me I’ve always sought to be truthful, and in many cases, I’ve sought to be provocative. In some cases, I was a bit too provocative, and instead of fostering understanding in my readers, I’ve actually gotten some of them riled up. You live and learn.
While some of my personal writing revolved around Beth and her difficulties, the vast majority of what I’ve written centers on religious struggles that I’ve had over the years, most particularly with regard to questions surrounding, “what are we to do with Roman Catholicism?”
These are questions that occupied my intellectual efforts for most of my adult life. I am 62 as I write this. I was dogged by the question of Roman Catholicism during my early years – maybe from age 17-24. I went back, for a while, and even thought about studying for the priesthood (I had gotten accepted to St Paul’s seminary in 1983-4). But I couldn’t go through with it, and beginning around age 35, I started revisiting those questions again. A few years later, I made a final break with Roman Catholicism.
It wasn’t a spurious decision. It was something that I deliberately studied, and thought about, and prayed about, and I came to the clear, unmistakable conclusion that I could no longer remain Roman Catholic.
And even after I had left, there were the “concerns” from friends and relatives, the “oh yeah, whaddabout this” questions. I was honest enough in those years to try and answer all the “whaddabouts”, and in the process, I became knowledgeable about Roman Catholicism to continue to write about it at a very high level.
Over the years, my experience studying and writing about various aspects of Roman Catholicism enabled me to become well known enough that a couple of Protestant writers, seeking to write a kind of textbook for Protestant college and seminary students, contacted me and asked me for source materials that they could refer to. My name appears in the acknowledgements of that book; the Kindle image appears at the top of this article.
I should say, all of this came in the context of what I’d describe as a deep faith in Jesus Christ, and a deep love for Christianity.
Christianity has provided the philosophical underpinnings for my entire life, even my young life, even though I might not have described it that way. I’ve always looked to take care of “inner things” before the externals.
[As an aside, I knew a woman who focused exclusively on externals –dressing properly, or folding her napkin the right way when she was done with dinner; but her inner life was a complete mess.]
My goal in life has always been to take care of the most important thing first. Things you might call “the heart of the matter”. Is there a God? Am I right with “The God who is There”? (Shades of Francis Schaeffer). Am I living in a way that is honoring Him? Am I being a good husband? Am I being a good father? All of those things have tended to preoccupy me, ahead of questions of externals.
There was a time when wars were fought over the kinds of issues I had studied all of my life. In our day, God is marginalized, and Protestant vs Roman Catholic question now seem more like tempests in tea pots.
This just shows how far our culture has moved, away from the most fundamental things. Maybe the economic malaise we’re seeing will persuade some people to take another look. I hope it does.
My intention now is to re-edit, re-package, and re-publish some of those blog articles here, in a way that will, I hope, be meaningful for some people today. That includes people who are close to me, and it likely will mean that some family members who are still Roman Catholic will read these things.
My religious sentiments won’t be a surprise to many people, I hope. But I also hope that my lines of reasoning will help people to understand why I think the way I do.
It seems that some people don’t think twice about religion. I have never been that kind of person. Like the Psalmist, I have always been inclined to say,
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”
(Psalm 19:1-2, ESV)
Anchored in this understanding of God and his easy willingness to reveal Himself, my own religious path took me into and out of Roman Catholicism a couple of times, eventually to leave it for good. Investigating the truth claims of both sides of the Protestant/Catholic divide has been the defining intellectual struggle of my life.
I grew up in West Mifflin, a small borough in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. Thanks to the popularity of the Steelers football team, Pittsburgh is widely known as the Steel City, and its reputation for being a world-class center for steel production is well-deserved.
In turn, Pittsburgh has been dependent on the small towns and communities along its rivers. In the late 19th and earliest 20th centuries, the rivers provided a means of transportation for bringing coal and iron ore in, and shipping steel out.
People from the region made steel in a dozen or more communities south of the city that ran along the Mononghahela River, including the small towns of Elizabeth, Clairton, Glassport, McKeesport, Duquesne, Braddock, Homestead, and others.
This topography was totally foreign to Bethany, a west-coast girl, when she landed here.
Image 5: West Mifflin and surrounding local areas
On a map, the Monongahela (or “Mon”) River bends in a backward “S” shape, with the lower portion of the backward “S” protruding westward on the map, opposite Glassport and McKeesport, which nestled inside of the river to the east. Then further north, the river curved back east to encircle Duquesne, West Mifflin, and Homestead. West Mifflin sits almost in the form of a sideways “figure 8” on the west side of that upper curve in the river.
So as the steel mill communities grew after World War II, and outgrew their own municipal boundaries, lots of people who worked in the steel mills along the river, moved up over the hills into West Mifflin. It was a bit farther away from the economic activity and less densely populated than the little steel towns, but the homes were newer. The people who lived there came from various communities, and it was a real melting pot of people and nationalities from the region.
Image 6:West Mifflin, near the Allegheny County Airport, where I grew up.
The borough was incorporated in 1947. It had been mostly unincorporated farmland before that, not part of any municipality. It was also home to one of the first commercial airports in the country — the Allegheny County Airport, in 1931, and it had ample business and shopping areas nearby.
The main east-west road through the area, Lebanon Church Road, was named after the Lebanon Presbyterian Church, which had been a landmark since its establishment 1776. It was a hilly terrain, and the road had ample twists and turns.
As a cross-street to Lebanon Church Road, Camp Hollow Road extends straight south from the Airport driveway and curves down the hill and winds through the hollows down to the Monongahela river and to the city of Clairton.
My father, born in 1928, grew up on a farm in rural western Pennsylvania during the depression, where his family were coal miners from Slovakia. He was the youngest of three brothers, with seven sisters. He was number nine of the 10 kids in the family. Though he was too young for military service during World War II, an older brother of his was a genuine war hero who had parachuted behind enemy lines in Eastern Europe for the OSS, a precursor of the CIA.
Eventually my dad found a job as a “wiring diagram designer” for the Union Switch and Signal company, which designed railroad crossings for many of the major railroads in the area. He served in Korea, where he was wounded.
He was a natural artist. As a young man, he could draw Woody Woodpecker almost perfectly by hand, from memory, and his job at “the Switch” was simply creating the blueprints out of drawings produced by the engineers.
His job was stressful for him, not because of kind of work that he did, but because of the people around him, and the tense work situations brought about by union rules. In my father’s case, he had started at “the Switch” about a month before another guy – we’ll call him Fisher. For some thirty years, Fisher followed my father “up the ladder” at that place, always a month behind, and he harassed my father all the way up.
For years, he worked a 40-hour job, and dinner was on the table precisely at 5:30 every day. Except for when he worked overtime. Then dinner was on the table at 6:30. And Fisher nagged my father every step of the way.
So on Fridays, my father would bring home a case of beer, stash it away in his downstairs refrigerator, and he would sit and brood, drunk, until Monday mornings.
I only learned when I was 27, just before I met Bethany, that he had been married in the early 1950s (“in the Church”) and then quickly divorced, before he met my mom. Knowing how Roman Catholicism viewed marriage in those days, it certainly would have caused him a lot of difficulties.
My mom, born in 1940, grew up in the Hazelwood area of Pittsburgh, in the public housing projects up the hill from the steel mills in Homestead. At the time I was born, she was a recent high school graduate of what was then Cathedral High School, an all-girls Catholic school, located next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
My dad’s younger sister Sue was married in the early 1950s. She and her husband lived in the same housing project where my mom lived, and my dad moved in with them after his divorce. Some time in 1959, he was helping one of his nephews move into the projects up there, and that’s where he met my mom.
My mom and dad were married in August 1959. I was born in January 1960. Let’s just say that a 30-year-old divorced man getting a 19-year-old Catholic girl pregnant out of wedlock caused a bit of a scandal in those days.
By the time I was a year and a half old, my parents had moved to West Mifflin, to a small house not far from the County Airport, just off of Camp Hollow Road. That’s where I grew up and where my mom still lives (as I write this).
Years later, I found out that my parents had secretly gone through the “annulment” process for my father’s first marriage and had gotten married “in the Church”.
As a small child, under the age of two, I was hospitalized several times for bouts of pneumonia. It seemed to run in the family — I had a close aunt and uncle both who seemed to have gone through the same thing.
My earliest memories involve being in that hospital. I remember being in a grey metal crib, which seemed like a cage, and I was inside a clear plastic oxygen tent. Essentially I was inside a box inside of a cage. Maybe this accounts for the sense I have that I don’t want to be bound in any way.
My grandmother brought me a large toy metal car, which had metal parts and some gears that made some real engine sounds. I remember the nurses taking it away from me because it possibly could have created sparks, not a good thing in an oxygen tent.
The crib was in a large open ward, with a couple of cribs at my end, and maybe about 10 or 12 beds in the large open room. My mother tells me that she slept on the floor while I was in the hospital, and that seems to have been a possibility, given the austere nature of that ward.
I got over the pneumonia, and because of my birth date in January, I was able to start Kindergarten at age four. By age seven, I received the appropriate second-grade sacraments — “first confession” and “first holy communion”.
Image 7: The author, at age seven.
During those years, I had a great grandmother who was an immigrant from Slovakia, whom I saw regularly. She barely spoke English, but the one thing she repeatedly told me was, “you good boy Jahnny”. And that went along with and reinforced my religious training as a young Catholic. You have to be good to get into heaven.
My father was something of weekend alcoholic. He was socially awkward, and he was hard on me at times. While I was very young, I frequently wet the bed at night.
Back then, I had recurring dreams, and maybe they reflected my hospital experiences? Women dressed in white would enter and exit from the room. They would just show up and take care of different things around me, and then they would disappear. Were they nurses? Angels?
I also have memories from the third grade on, maybe, of having had a crush on different girls over the years. I have been in love with many different names at many different times. Some of these crushes lasted for years. I never knew most of these girls. They were very pretty, and I was too shy ever to talk with any of them. They were all crushes from afar.
Only one of these, Donna, coincided with an actual friendship. My younger sister was a Brownie, and my mom would help chaperone the Girl Scouts on roller skating trips. I would go skating with them, and Donna and I would hold hands as we skated around the rink. I believe I ruined that friendship with the help of a rascally neighbor of hers (from our class) and also my own thoughtlessness, joking around.
In my middle school years, I was an odd but relatively normal kid. I won a math contest in sixth grade. I acted in plays, and I was a manager for the basketball team in eighth grade, which meant I swept floors in the locker room and collected up the basketballs and put them away after practice.
I played chess in high school, and our chess team won a state championship.
During my high school years, there were some girls who were “Born Again Christians”. The phrase was popularized during the presidential campaign of 1976, when Jimmy Carter identified himself as “Born Again”. I had no idea what that meant. But it seemed like a good thing, and if there were another level, so to speak, to which we could aspire on the road to God, I wanted to know about it.
On days when we had substitute teachers, a group of us with religious interests of different kinds would all talk about it. Lisa, one of the Born Again girls whose last name started with “B” always sat near me in classes. She and I would talk about religion, and others would join in the discussion.
A close Baptist friend of mine, a very smart Methodist, and an atheist who was also a student of Nazi Germany, all joined these discussions from time to time. I represented the Roman Catholic side in those talks, and of course, I had the big ammo:
“Thou art Peter, and on This Rock I will build my Catholic Church” (Matthew 16:18).
There’s nothing like being boastful while quoting wrong information. I literally thought Jesus had said “I will build my Catholic Church”, but of course the word “Catholic” in there was an interpolation by my mom, who, as a pre-Vatican II Catholic High School graduate, often repeated it that way.
I was one of 12 students in my graduating class who made it through all 12 years of CCD – the Catholic version of Sunday School for public school students.
Often, during high school, Lisa, the Born Again girl would give me different religious tracts, which I read and considered.
One thing that was very clarifying for me was a chart showing the gap between God and man, and the way that the cross of Christ bridged that gap. This was the Biblical Gospel message, pure and simple. God created man. Man sinned and broke fellowship. Christ’s death and resurrection restored that fellowship. And we were free to avail ourselves of that fellowship. We just had to ask for it.
Another tract featured a part of a sermon by John Wesley, in which he preached, “Ye must be born again”. It was based on the passage from the Gospel of John:
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:3-7).
By the time I was graduated from high school in 1977, I was fully engaged in a personal religious quest. Two things, which seem connected, were in play. “What is it to be ‘Born Again’?” and “Where does the Roman Catholic Church fit into this?”
After all, if the Roman Catholic Church were actually what it says it is (and it says it is the channel of all grace in the world), then how could it miss something as fundamental as a blessing that goes with “being Born Again”?
A parish priest of mine later said that “you were ‘born again’ at baptism”. But that logic doesn’t quite follow, as I learned.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my questions were at the heart of the contentions at the time of the Reformation.
While most of my peers were growing up in a world of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”, as they would say in the late 70s, I was looking for the meaning of life. The quest to find it would be my form of teenage rebellion.
Given my interest in learning how to take advantage of the benefits that strength training affords to older folks like myself (we face limitations that younger folks don’t face), I’ve spent a good bit of time reading fitness articles and also watching some (very good) YouTube athletes explain how they train for things.
He’s from California, but he was competing at the 2017 Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, OH, in the USA Powerlifting “Slingshot Pro American” USA Powerlifting Raw competition. So I took a day trip to Columbus to try to meet him, and to watch him compete, and I was able to do both.
Garrett, who is also a part-time minister (studying to be full-time), did not disappoint. He set three open International Powerlifting Federation world records at this meet, including 730 lbs squat, 493 lbs bench press and a record 1952 lbs total for his weight class for this type of event. (He also set a PR in the “Sumo-style” deadlift of 728 lbs). Here is a better look at all three lifts.
My son Nathaniel went with me, and I’m grateful to him for driving to and from the event (although he was a little fast for my tastes). It was a great day for both of us.
I’m discussing that topic in a series of guest-blog posts at Acooze.com, content marketing consultants from Melbourne, Australia.
You’ll want to have all of this content created and published according to your timelines, but you will also need to have it available for re-use, within “nurture programs” you’ll set up within the marketing automation platform.
This is where the “automation” comes in. You’ll need to make the information personally available not to “buyer personas”, but to specific individuals as they navigate your website at different times.
These “nurture tracks” may be triggered when individuals [not “personas”] reach or demonstrate certain key thresholds in your data, such as when they first express interest in your site (“new to list”), specific job role (identifying themselves as “executive”, “technical”, or “non-technical”), searching pricing information, when they first become customers, and other elements.
Admittedly, this blog post is going to be a bit more granular and detail-oriented than you’ll see from many content marketing providers, but given that we’re involved in “database marketing,” it seems important to understand some basic things about data.
I am still: a marketing manager (recently with a start-up software/robotics firm), long-term copywriter, seeking a position as a marketing technologist (Eloqua preferred) on a team dedicated to marketing automation, digital marketing, email marketing, content marketing, and social media.
If content marketing is one side of the coin, then could marketing automation be the other? In fact, could we argue that the software came first, and [only] more recently, the set of best practices that have evolved around the software (which became known as content marketing or inbound marketing)?
The buyer persona from the human angle: Most likely, you as a marketer will need to work with sales in order to understand who you’re likely to be speaking to. You know what you should do this with as much detail as possible. You may even want to poll or interview some customers.
Of course, to draw a proper map at this point would be an extremely complex task, even in the generic. All that we’ve done at this point is to try to put together the big picture of content management and data analysis, and how they fit together. To get specific would become even more complex than that. We have not yet begun to map data to the various touch-points.
What’s the right way to think about “buyer personas”? I’m discussing that topic in a series of guest-blog posts at Acooze.com, content marketing consultants from Melbourne, Australia.
… if you’ve studied content marketing at all, you’ve seen the sales funnel or the marketing funnel. This is traditionally how marketers are given to think about how customers progress on their journey from someone who doesn’t even know about you to being a customer.
What’s the right way to think about “buyer personas”? I’m discussing that topic in a series of guest-blog posts at Acooze.com, content marketing consultants from Melbourne, Australia.
Building and understanding buyer personas is important because as you understand the personas you’re dealing with, you can begin to understand their pain points.
Then you need to create benefit statements that correspond to those pain points. Benefits statements become the key messaging units of the content. But first, you’ve got to begin creating and then mapping the various personas.
Different people in your target accounts are going to have different concerns. And accordingly, they’ll be searching for answers to different kinds of questions.
I thought I’d provide example that shows you how marketing and sales can work together to craft useful personas. Then discuss how “content” could map to those personas…
I’d like to thank the good folks at Clayton Kendall, who had me in for a “work-for-a-day” kind of second interview. I’ve applied for an Email Marketing Manager position with them, and I was one of three candidates to be invited back for a day. I was given several “tasks” to do, which involved providing some marketing strategies and other written tests. I think I did well.