Somewhere back in the 2004-2005 region Christian college dorms sunk a little further into the ground from the weight of all the copies of Donald Miller‘s “Blue Like Jazz” brought into their buildings. The book is a stream of conscious style memoir on Don’s journey of faith that warmed the hearts of Christian coffee shop types everywhere, especially those disillusioned with their uptight religious upbringing. And ever since hordes of Christians gained a newfound dream that they too could write a massively influential Christian book just like the nobody from Oregon that would have Christians everywhere revering their name.
I think this happened because Don was not a pastor, seminary professor or ministry professional writing another book about how to not be so good at sinning (or bad, depending on how you look at it). He didn’t have any big religious accomplishments to his name and wasn’t an sought after speaker, but in fact was he just a regular guy, albeit a bit beatnik (hey I live in a more hippie town in Oregon than him, I’m not knockin’ beatknik). His book gave a lot of people a breath of fresh non-super duper pious and upright morally air, and so the thousands like him began day dreaming of being the newest highly valued voice in Christendom doing panels on CNN and speaking at conferences, much like where Don soon found himself.
I’d even venture to guess many of the blogs on the market exist because their authors hope to find an audience that’ll bring in the coveted book contract that’ll make them a church-hold name. They long to be switched from the pew to the stage where they get to teach, they get to be wise and knowing one, where they get to show everyone how both smart and religious they are.
And let’s be honest – all of that stuff feels great. Satisfying. Energizing, Invigorating.
I totally get the appeal. In fact I’ll admit more than I was planning to by saying I was there a few years back myself, dreaming similar dreams, seeing myself on the stage waving my arms around with authority because I was teaching! Leaders sigh at the difficulty and demanding nature of their work, however that doesn’t mean leadership is without its reward too. Big time perks include people looking up to you, hanging on to your every word, quoting you and longing to just have coffee with you.
Ultimately as Christianity developed celebrities and personalities that were recognizable, it seems that more people want to be like Donald Miller than Jesus. That’s not to say Donald Miller isn’t following Jesus, but they’d rather have the accolades then the dirty feet washing business.*
I think that what’s most dangerous about all this is that religious pride is the most subtle of the lot – because you’re out there teaching and serving and ministering, doing good holy work, and that air of importance and meaning inevitably lures you into thinking you are a good person. Even more than that, it lures you into believing you are more in touch with divine. And this happens because of the complete opposite of our personal holiness – because we long to feel important.
I won’t end this by imploring you to let grace be enough or to allow God to fill you, because I’m not even entirely certain what that means. I hope to explore more about this in its cousin subject of the flaw of the sermon church structure. In fact I can’t think of a happy way to end this, other than by asking:
Why do so many people dream of writing the great American novel, or in this case the next Christian revolution that will finally wake up the church to action? Am I misguided in critiquing this desire?
*This post is not anti-Donald Miller in any way, he is just seemed to be the catalyst of what I described. He definitely didn’t intend for it to be that way! Don has very valuable things to say and I personally was greatly helped by his book Searching For God Knows What.