Why I called my post-Eternity blog The Other Cheek

Eternity covers

It only took me a couple of hours to come up with the name “Eternity” after an earlier working title was discarded because a denomination had used it. But after my involvement with Eternity, the newspaper and website that started on my dining table, came to an end in 2022, I struggled to come up with a name for the newsy blog I planned to try.

Then my daughter Hilary gave me a list of possibles. “The Other Cheek” stood out. One minor drawback was a body painting studio (featuring artistic nudity) having the dot com but there were no Aussie websites or trade marks. And the name instantly appealed.

Yes it really existed. But a year later I got hold of theothercheek.com

I would turn the other cheek, and genuinely wish Eternity well. And I wanted readers to turn the other cheek as well, especially on Facebook.

So what was Eternity all about? One astute well wisher has written that Eternity was the closest to CT – that’s Christianity Today the magazine founded by Billy Graham – that Australia ever got.

Spot on. Christianity Today, evangelical in conviction, but wanting to reach the broad middle of Christians the way Billy Graham did in mobilising churches, was the key model.

Years earlier, another reader described Eternity as “fresh air in the diocese.” Although a fellow Sydney Anglican she welcomed news of what other Christians were doing.

Cover of Eternity’s 100th Edition

Or as I would sometimes put it: Eternity was for any church where there is a medium to high risk of people being saved.

Eternity had to re-invent “news”. The conflict and celebrity paradigms that drive many newsrooms would be downplayed. This meant that Eternity would emphasise other tropes of journalism. Naomi Reed came along and reinvigorated the art of testimonies. Staffer Anne Lim was a dab hand at that form too. Bec Abbott took on the “missionary diary” – getting far flung Aussies to write.

But Eternity could not abolish sin. So some stories of failure would be in the mix. I found out early on that one could fill Eternity with “naughty vicar” stories. But I did not want to. Why? At its root that is a theological issue – does sin outweigh the true good news. Searching out people coming to christ, sometimes in tens, sometimes in hundreds, sometimes in thousands, was the best and most exciting news of all.

In a typical year Eternity published online and in print well over half a million words. It had a quarter of a million views in a typical month online, and somewhere towards that reading the print edition which had a steady 100,000 copies distributed. I am still amazed we did it – staff, contributors, and a series of dedicated ad sales people.

In media being at the right place at the right time makes a big difference. The Sydney Morning Herald in the 80’s and 90’s was the place to be and I was there. Eternity, the job I invented for myself was the place to be in the 2010’s. The Bible Society was a generous employer, and we had all sorts of adventures. Like the SMH, Eternity has had great “resale” value for the staff: I think of Kaley Payne producing the Undeceptions podcast – she learned how to do that at Eternity, and Ben McEachan at Hope Media is another example. but of course they and others would have been great anyway.

We had a great run. My overwhelming thought is gratitude.