Today celebrity Christian blogger Jon Acuff posted a note to his “haters,” which I guess would include me. I don’t hate Jon Acuff per se; I’m sure that in person he’s a great guy who’s funny and thoughtful and compassionate. But I do hate what Jon Acuff represents: a Christianity that is divided between groupies and celebrities in which the celebrities become celebrities by writing books for the groupies about how easy it is to be a celebrity if you just have faith in God. I don’t think I would feel the need to respond to Acuff’s post if he hadn’t written these three lines: “You see, I’m starting to believe I can do this. I’m starting to believe that writing a New York Times Bestseller isn’t so crazy. I’m starting to believe I wasn’t created for average.” Here’s why those three lines put wrath into my heart.
You don’t get to say “I’m starting to believe I can do this” after you’re already famous. Because many of us who would give anything to be in your position are not only fighting like hell to get there, but we’re fighting against the sinful pride that makes us think that “writing a New York Times bestseller” is the only way our lives will be worth anything. My life is not comprised by a battle against doubt in my abilities. I know the reason nobody reads my blog posts and everybody reads Jon Acuff is because I’m too smart for most people. My life is a battle against my infatuation with my self-perceived genius.
I don’t need haters, because my narcissistic soul is under the occupation of Lucifer even though I ask God to kill him every time I pray. But every time it seems clear that my blog is nothing more than slavery to my ambition and I’m ready to repent, delete everything, and stop writing forever, somebody has to come up and tell me I wrote something that spoke to them. Fans are much worse than haters, especially when they trickle through slowly enough that you think you’re getting nowhere but just often enough to keep you from quitting.
One of the reasons why I feel my blogging is a legitimate prophetic duty is because of Christians like Jon Acuff and Dave Ramsey, who seem like the modern-day versions of Russell Conwell, the early 20th century Baptist minister and motivational speaker who said nobody in this country had any excuse not to be a millionaire. As Herman Cain put it, “If you’re not rich, blame yourself.” I don’t know how to explain why megachurch pastors who pound their congregations with total depravity sermons will then pay big bucks for a Jon Acuff to come in and tell their flock that God wants them to be awesome and not just average. I am deeply bothered by that and it seems like it’s because God makes me bothered.
I realize that my cynical theories are just speculations, but I really wonder if a lot of Christians hide their true beliefs that God exists so they can feel awesome behind a pageantry of sobering doctrine about God’s holy wrath and things of that nature. I’m starting to think more and more that the “tough” doctrine is a smokescreen. How else do you explain the juxtaposition of total depravity and self-reliance in the evangelical megachurch, two diametrically opposite views of human nature? I just can’t fathom how someone who honestly fears God can write a sentence like “I’m starting to believe I wasn’t created for average” and why the John MacArthurs and Gospel Coalitions out there don’t jump all over him like they would a Rob Bell or a Rachel Held Evans.
The more that I grow in my love of God, the more that I hate the slightest betrayal that I make in representing Him. I say a lot of things that I second-guess after the fact, no matter how long I stew before I speak. I’m never sure of myself and I hope that I never reach the point where I am, because then I’ll really be worried. I just can’t understand how someone who is being “constantly handed over to death so that the life of Christ might be revealed” (2 Cor 4:11) can promote the idea that faith consists in the shedding of gravitas. I will never get over my fear and trembling, and it’s not because I don’t realize how much God loves me. It’s because of God’s love for me that I breathe fire whenever I think His name has been dishonored, especially by people who say they’re just trying to “make Jesus famous” or some other cliche that famous people say about the Jesus whose coattails they climbed.
It’s possible that everything I’ve written here is just jealousy masquerading as piety. Maybe I just need to read Acuff’s book to realize that when he goes into detail, everything he says is perfectly orthodox, etc, etc. Just don’t dis the “average” people who will never get where you are. What you call “average” may be what God calls awesome. I’m trying to learn how to be faithful and obedient in accepting what the world calls an “average” life with dignity if that is in fact what God has called me to. If I do submit to God in this, it will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if I do ever overcome my need to be awesome, then I guess I’ll write an open letter to my demons celebrating the victory.