it's amazing the things people feel called to do with their lives:
moving thousands of miles away,
moving back home,
starting their dream job,
quitting their dream job,
saying difficult things out loud,
dying for something,
living for something.
A few years ago I heard an earnest young seminarian tell me he felt God had called him to be a "leader of many people, someone with real influence, you know. I think I'm supposed to have a platform for something."
(this extra wide space is meant to represent the excruciatingly long pause where I didn't say anything because I was waiting on him to start laughing, but instead, was met with unblinking confidence)
I realize this probably comes across as rather hilarious (if not a bit sanctimonious and tone deaf), seeing as you're reading it on a website entitled "ericminton DOT ME" for crying out loud, but if I'm crunching the numbers accurately, it seems as if God has a somewhat inefficient penchant for calling great numbers of us here in America to "build a platform," or "become an influencer," or run for Congress, or start an Urban-Outfitters-adjacent-church in a gentrified neighborhood where all the coffeeshops have verbs for names ("yo bro, meet me over at Drip").
This growing trend seems even more ludicrous when we consider how relatively few of us have been called to relocate to Syria, or downtown Baltimore, or rural West Virginia, or the South Side of Chicago, as if the only messages God's sending out these days are ones encouraging us to click-through so we can FINALLY GET OUR BLOG READERSHIP NUMBERS OVER THE HUMP!
The seemingly inexhaustible number of people (myself sheepishly included) trying to carve out a space in the Christian celebrity industrial complex in order to make GOD FAMOUS BY MAKING THEM FAMOUS FIRST (PLEASE SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL LIST BECAUSE I OVERPAID FOR THIS WEBSITE AND NEED TO JUSTIFY THE EXPENSE TO MY SPOUSE), should give all of us spamming friends, family, and complete strangers in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a moment's pause.
(this extra wide space is meant to represent the excruciatingly long pause where God didn't say anything because God was waiting on me to start laughing, but instead, God was met with unblinking confidence)
Maybe it's just me, but when I consider how many famous people point at the sky after scoring touchdowns, thank "the man above" when they win "best new artist," and promise to return America to her "Christian roots" when they're elected, it seems shocking Christianity doesn't have more credibility in the world.
"SUPER BOWL CHAMPION PEYTON MANNING LOVES GAWD AND BUDWEISER! PRAISE JEEBUS!"
-That guy from accounting, I want to say his name is "Rick," but I'm not sure so I just say "hey man!" every time I see him coming out of the bathroom
When folks use the life and grizzly death of the Son of God to justify any existence that doesn't end in painful disappointment endured for the liberation of other people, I have a hard time stomaching just exactly how the divine goes about choosing some of us for prominence while consigning the rest to perdition.
As a professional Christian, I used to bemoan the fact that more people didn't listen to me, read my work, or pay attention to the ways I was attempting to uniquely describe and give voice to the divine. No matter how much I struggled, or wrote, or said, or built, or was encouraged to keep going by the folks in my corner of the globe, I thought to myself over and over, why I am not better at this? Primarily because, I had been taught for years in the Christian subculture that if more strangers are listening to you, retweeting you, and enduring a self-indulgent 55 minute lecture on the weekends in a movie theatre you rent for your church plant, then you have most certainly been CALLED to influence others. And, contrastingly, if no one outside your small sphere of influence follows you, or shares your work, or shows up for your sermons, then you haven't. And, if you then find yourself working hourly at a grocery store as a 30-year-old with a family, a mortgage, and a rather profound confusion as to what you're now supposed to do with your expensive divinity degree, according to popular logic, you can bet you ain't called.
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must amass wealth, power, influence, and a rather large Twitter following in order to justify his or her existence."
-Probably not Jesus
What ends up happening when we implicitly or explicitly understand our "influence" and "calling" to be found in the creation and maintenance of a (real or internet) fiefdom where our personality, words, ideas, and beliefs about God and life become sacrosanct for people, is that we end up sacrificing all the people who, for years now, stood beside us and behind us and around us independent of whatever it was we ended up doing with ourselves, in favor of some crowd of people whose faces we can't make out because of the stage lights.
Our great struggle as Americans of varying religious orientations and affiliations is that we have this prevailing understanding of faith or belief as that which we use in order to get something from the world rather than the means by which we give something to the world. When we indelibly tie God's image and history and place in the cosmos to our own abilities at carving out a space of reverence in the minds and hearts of other people, we fundamentally misunderstand the divine image. Historically speaking, the most profound picture of God's flesh and bone was a man reviled, misunderstood, and executed for his alienating posture towards possessions, power, prestige, and people of great influence.
I know this whole treatise might seem indulgent, self-righteous, and even a bit covetous of other people's work (I mean, some folks can literally tweet the word FART, and watch their words stretch virally across the globe, while I'm over here like THANKS FOR READING, MOM!), but at bottom, my words are simply a love letter to failure, and mistakes, and death, and grocery store gigs, and debt, and to all the things people of any and every faith are willing to endure because they have this thing inside of them that they have to do, even if no one "gets" it, or they never get paid for it, or they alienate people of great influence in the process of practicing it.
"They danced down the street like dingledodies and I shambled after as usual as I’ve been doing all my life after people that interest me, because the only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing.. but burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night.”
-Jack Kerouac, On the Road
It's like, if you cut some people open, you'd find what they feel ordained, called, and mandated to do branded on their guts. Ultimately, calling has nothing to do with who hears you, and everything to do with who you hear whispering to you to keep going, even when it gets too dark to make out the way ahead. Calling isn't about all the things you're willing to go through until you're finally rewarded with an audience, or a job, or a favorable review, or a direction, or a salary. Calling is what you feel like you have to keep giving to the world even if the world keeps putting you and the thing you love to death again and again and again.
In my opinion, resurrection isn't some heavenly reward for hard work and right belief. No, resurrection is an invitation to keep loving the world and the people in it, even when they reject you and your calling. Because in our continual death, and the death of our dreams and our desires on the altar of the world's flourishing, we bring humanity face to face with a God who loves and dies for them not once some 2,000 years ago, but again and again and again and again.
Christianity's power and influence isn't in the winning, it's in the losing, in the failing, in the dying.