I think I will retire from my fourth career now. This career I call, “Trying to make the world a better place through writing.” My previous careers have been ordained pastoral ministry, seminary teaching, and higher education administration. As I was doing each of these careers I thought, “This is what I am all about.” The goal has always been trying to make the world a better place through doing what the career involved. They were overlapping in many ways. I was a pastoral minister while being a seminary teacher, and I was a writer while being a full-time pastor.
Writing has been my default hobby since I was a teenager. In fact, my second salaried position was the summer I was 17 when I was a cub-reporter for the Jacksonville Journal-Courier. My first salaried position at $20 a week, was as caddy-master and golf shop attendant at the Jacksonville Country Club, from which I learned mostly that community leaders are not at their best when they’re playing golf and that I was not born to be a golfer.
Since it is apparent to me that my efforts to make the world a better place through writing are dwindling in effectiveness, I’ll close out this career before people start hinting even more loudly that I should. For my own peace of mind, and for the record, I want to list the accomplishments of this fourth career. These are easier to list than accomplishments in the first three careers. I count it as an accomplishment when I have written something, finished it, and stopped working on it. I admit that it is generally agreed that one should only count things that get published as writing successes. But it’s a blurry line. I was never established on the “noteworthy published author” side of it. I produced a lot, it turns out. Making this list (see below) has helped me feel better about what I’ve accomplished.
I gave it all I had during my fourth career which began long before the other careers ended and continued until now, a decade after I formally retired from the other careers. My output includes several thousand pages divided into book-length writings, essays and articles.
Worship as Celebration of Life (in Thai), 1974, Suriyaban, Bangkok. This was translated into Thai and published as a textbook by the Fund for Theological Education. It was used for more than 20 years by theological seminaries in Thailand.
The Pastoral Call (Lectures in Thai at Payap University, 1986, printed in English in the USA, 1989). This was a formal lectureship sponsored by the McGilvary Faculty of Divinity of Payap University to mark the end of my teaching at the seminary. The lectures were reformatted in print for use in the USA.
Acharn: Pastoral Counseling in Thailand (Doctor of Ministry thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey) 1987. There was hope that this would be followed by a new approach to teaching pastoral counseling based on the research findings about what makes counseling successful in Thailand, but that project was not enthusiastically received as the seminaries downgraded their basic professional courses. A microfilm version is preserved and available through the archives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
History of the First Presbyterian Church of Alton, Illinois, published as a limited edition of about 200 copies for subscribers by the First Presbyterian Church, Alton, Illinois, 1991. This was written to refresh the memory of members of that church about their history, and also to express appreciation for contributions made to rebuilding the sanctuary after a fire in 1988.
The Lives of Christ, published by First Presbyterian Church, Alton 1992. This is a collection of studies of the Gospels. It was printed for those who participated in an adult class. The conclusion was that a synthesized, unified biography of Jesus is not possible, nor was that the aim of the Gospel writers.
Ten Stories: A Storyteller’s Guide to the Book of Genesis, First Presbyterian Church, Alton, Illinois, 1993. The stories of Genesis are all “gospel stories.” Any other reading of them is a misreading.
Emerald Valley Chronicles, published by the author, 1994. I believe that between 1981 and 1985 our work in village churches with seminary students on weekends was transformative. It helped the students mature and helped the churches meet challenges and accomplish their mission. The book is an anthology of factual accounts about those students and their episodes. I submitted the manuscript to all the denominational publishing houses that had anything to do with Protestant work in Thailand but was told that “nobody is interested in missionary stories anymore.”
English for Professional Nurses, a textbook for nurses’ workshops, Christian University, Nakhon Pathom, 2003. This book was used for more than 20 workshops. It was only available to those who enrolled in the workshops.
English Camp is Easy, a handbook of activities and plans, prepared for the Thailand TESOL Conference in 2004. As a result of conducting several English Camps at schools in central Thailand, this handbook was then provided for participants at the annual national conference for English teachers in Thailand.
Progress Toward Mutual Recognition Through Educational Benchmarking and Quality Assurance, (Reflections on and analysis of a conference on Mutual Recognition: Educational Benchmarking and Quality Assurance at Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand, November 16-19, 2004) with Janjira Wongkhomthong, Christian University of Thailand, presented to the Board of Directors of the International Association of University Presidents, meeting in Bangkok in 2005. The “proceedings” of the conference was printed, and then a synopsis was published a year later.
A Bright Future: The Christian University of Thailand Model for Teaching English at the University Level in Thailand, Nakhon Pathom: Christian University of Thailand, 2006. This book-length series of articles describes how to design an English language proficiency program for a university in Thailand. ISBN 974-627-1334
Lands of the Yip: Book One, Velia; Book Two, Exporia; and Book Three, Vitalia, Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2011. This is a set of 4 fantasy novels for young adult readers. In each novel a couple of ex-pat kids in Northern Thailand and their expanding group of friends are brought into parallel lands to help sort out catastrophes and to have adventures while coming of age.
Spiritual Wellness: the Basis of Holistic Peace, volume 1 Wellness and volume 2 Dysfunction, Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2011. Growth is the main feature of spiritual wellness. When growth stops decay begins with spiritual stagnation followed by profound terror and finally corruption. This collection of 75 essays has gone through three editions. I am sure the concept is sound, but I have not found a way to make it therapeutically useful. One publishing company agreed to publish the book and provide it on demand if I would pay them $11,000.
Ban Den Friends: Gay Experiences in Thailand, Out in Thailand publications, 2012, serialized 2013-2015 in Out in Thailand magazine. The book is an anthology of 67 anecdotes based on true-life experiences of LGBTK people in Thailand I have known. Two international publishing houses considered and rejected it because it was not built around a central character, but was modeled on Sherwood Anderson’s 1919 novel Winesburg, Ohio.
Kiddy Lit: Stories to Grow On, 2013. This book is a retelling and analysis of 25 of the best-known stories for children in cultures that use English as their primary language. As with Bruno Bettelheim’s ground-breaking book, The Uses of Enchantment, the stories all have messages to help pre-adolescents negotiate their basic fears and issues. I submitted the manuscript to a couple of experts in the field but received no encouragement to seek a publisher. A local publishing house also refused to consider the book because it has no local (Thai) connection.
Enchanted Astorwold, self-published in 2016 and reformatted for online publication with help and illustrations by my son Andrew Dobson in 2019. The book is one of a very large number of fan-fiction anthologies based on the Harry Potter novels and movies. As with most of these works, this one introduces people of the next generation after the battle of Hogwarts.
Varieties of Faith: The Thai Case, Payap University, 2016. The book is a set of illustrated essays on 4 Thai faith domains, namely, formal religion, spiritual self-development, supernaturalism, and venerations of saints and semi-divine people. It is available as an e-book upon request, but was never intended to be commercially published.
“Three Types of Theological Education” in South-East Asia Journal of Theology, ca. 1970, Singapore. This was my first professional publication. It was revised and expanded as “Antecedents of Higher Education of Christian Professionals” to be presented at the 2008 United Board Faculty Forum in Indonesia.
“Millennial Challenges to Education” revised for the ASAIHL International Conference, Kota Kina Baru, Malaysia, September, 2003, published in Christian University Journal, Christian University, Nakhon Pathom, 2001. This is a collection of short stories on the theme of higher education.
“Beneficiaries and Benefactors: Who Are the Winners in Thailand’s Income Contingency Loan Scheme?” a presentation at the International Symposium on Student Loan Policy, organized by UNESCO and the Student Loans Fund, March 16, 2006, Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre, Bangkok.
“Theory and Practice: Two Aspects of ESL” Christian University Journal, Christian University of Thailand, Vol. 12, No. 2 (May-August) 2006.
“Anticipating Cognition: Breaking Through from Curiosity to Prescience” a presentation at an international conference on Body and Mind: Science and Spirituality Perspectives, organized by Chulalongkorn University and The Thousand Stars Buddhism and Science Group, December 8, 2006.
“The Unlikeliest Link: Mythic Archetypes as a Means toward Transcultural Theologizing” a presentation at an international conference on Religion and Culture, organized by the Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace, Payap University, June 24-30, 2007.
Three essays on being a Buddhist-Christian entitled “The Labels are Falling off the Pickle Jars”, “A Christian Buddhist Option”, and “A Compelling Reason to Chant” published in Thursday-Theology No. 541 and 542, October 2008 by the Crossings Community, www.crossings.org
“Three Red Flags: Why We Should Worry About the Future of Higher Education” presented in the 23rd Inter-University Conference of The Association of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning at Payap University on September 4, 2009 and published in the ASAIHL-Thailand Journal, Vol. 12, Number 2, September 2009.
“Gender Ambiguity: Thai Village Case Studies” presented October 7, 2009 at the Simpson College Faculty Forum, Indianola, Iowa. The case studies were horizontal studies that tended to demonstrate the Thai preference at the time for maintaining ambiguity about one’s gender. This set of cases has been revised and presented several times since.
“An Introduction to the Biblical Theology of Land” presented at a symposium as part of the celebration of the 35th Anniversary of Payap University on February 16. 2010.
“Creation of a Creation Myth: Steps Towards a Promethean Age” with Arthur Saniotis of the University of Adelaide, accepted for publication in Prajina Vihara Journal of Philosophy and Religion of Assumption University of Thailand in 2011.
“The End of Christian Civilization” 2012 also called “1922” in 2020. This research article is the one I consider my most original and insightful article. The thesis is that prior to World War I there was a consensus that Christian morality was the basis for the advances of Christian civilization as evidenced by the industrial revolution. After the war that consensus evaporated. Four of the greatest works of Modernist literature were published in 1922. They were written by James Joyce, Marcel Proust, TS Eliot, and Sinclair Lewis. They unanimously rejected the concept that Christian Civilization was superior, and even the Church dropped the idea.
“After Baal and Christ” 2013. This series of essays traced the development of the Judeo-Christian idea of God through several distinct phases. The present consensus is that God and Jesus are synonymous and interchangeable terms (thus “after Christ” whom the Church has held to be one person of the Holy Trinity). The key essay was edited as “The Quest.”
“The Quest” published by Thursday Theology, the Crossings Community. Oct. 23, 2013. http://www.crossings.org/thursday
“Dragons: Myth and Cosmic Powers” by Kenneth Dobson and Arthur Saniotis. Prajna Vihara Journal of Philosophy and Religion, Assumption University of Thailand. Vol. 15, No. 1, Jan-June 2014.
“The Future of Institutional Christianity in the Postmodern Era”, April 18, 2014. This essay is an attempt to assess how popular culture, which is overwhelmingly postmodern, will have an impact on institutional Christianity. The project began with a description of postmodernism. I believe the essay was prophetic as it applies to the USA and parts of Anglo-European dispersion (Canada, Australia, New Zealand in particular).
“Vanishing Village Culture” is a series of 18 descriptions of how life is carried on now in villages around our house compared with the past. The essays were published as blogs on “Ken Dobson’s Queer Reminiscences from Thailand” in 2015 and 2016.
“10 Challenges to Christian Higher Education” presented at the ACUCA Management Conference, October 2017. The essay was printed in the proceedings in summary.
“What Makes Thai Buddhism So Strong” was first a PowerPoint “Payap Presents” program on July 4, 2019. Then it was reformatted as an illustrated article to be available online. The analysis of Buddhism’s strength is based on a description of several key events that coalesced participation and were important.
“Social Order, Five Essays” are a discussion of what makes society sustainable. The essays are entitled, “Social Bond”, “Social Contact”, “Social Ethic”, “Social Media” and “Social Context.” The essays were published online in 2019.
BLOG ESSAYS and SHORT MAGAZINE ARTICLES
James Barnes made a valiant attempt to produce a high-class magazine for gay readers in Thailand. He had gifts as a publisher and contacts that got him exclusive interviews with the likes of Hillary Clinton and Anderson Cooper. I provided occasional 800 word articles on a variety of subjects. James also liked Ban Den Friends, which I began with the thought of writing 7 stories for him. The 7 grew to 67 as he encouraged me to write more. His editorial talent was compromised, however, by a combination of health issues and a disability as a financier. His health and finances collapsed in June 2015 and he fled the country.
In addition to major articles for particular occasions and publications, my fourth career has been devoted to a constant output of short works that began as I reflected on my past as an author of an average of two sermons a week when I was a full-time pastor.
Beginning on Halloween in 2012 a colleague and I purchased a web-domain which I called “Ken Dobson’s Queer Ruminations from Thailand.” I have averaged an essay a week for a total of some 430 blogs. We will continue the blog for at least another year.
CAREER ENDS – HOBBY CONTINUES
I am calling this the end of my 4th career as a writer. As with the other three careers I am on call but expect the phone to rarely ring. It is best to know what stage one’s in.
I think, as a whole, I was a preacher in a time that preaching was still a high-profile, effective way to make an impact. I was helpful to move the two universities I served as administrator forward. As a pastor I was valuable to a substantial number of people going through crises and transitions. Those roles have been handed over to a younger generation, and in several instances relinquished by them to a still younger generation.
This is the era of social media and short attention spans. My talent for long essays of cultural and philosophical reflection is in short demand. I will still write. It just won’t be “what I’m all about” anymore. I’m trying to figure out how to do memes and photo essays.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.