Today, thanks to the internets, anyone who has a way with words and presents themselves a certain way can become perceived as being an ‘expert’ at anything. An authority.
Get some good photos, learn some SEO hacks, be willing to speak/write your mind — and you, too, can become an ‘internet influencer’ equipped with your very own soapbox. If you have enough money, you can spam your way via ads towards internet stardom.
I happen to have a soapbox. It’s kinda busted and splintered and it’s not very tall, but here I am standing on it (though I’m not here because of the things above).
Now, this would be relatively harmless if I wrote about flowers or Tupperware or bocce ball. But I write mostly about faith and spirituality — a topic that cuts to the core of our lives as humans.
Anyone can be a guru now. Piece together that soapbox and suddenly you have influence over a lot of people’s lives, unchecked.
And so, I’m taking this moment to tell you NOT to listen to me. (Not that much, anyway.)
I’m a passionate layman with opinions. If you like my opinions, fantastic. If they help shift your perspective, great. I love this stuff and I’ll continue to share. But please know I’m still at beginner-level status when it comes to this thing called the Christian faith (hopefully that’s okay with you).
As I mentioned the other day, I didn’t really grow up with this stuff. I’m not what anyone should call an expert at this juncture.
That being said, I understand my responsibility as someone with a soapbox of sorts and I never weaponize my work. I wish I could say the same thing for everyone.
Side-rant: When it comes to practical spirituality and meditation, I’m a little more versed in that, but that’s different. The Christian faith is based largely on a book I haven’t read much of (yet). The way I see it, spirituality is about our core. Christianity — as with any denominational ‘faith’ — has to do with the layer of humanity on top of that. It’s the book(s) and the stories and the words we’ve put on top of it that carries its cultural impact.
This is why I like having a pastor. My Lutheran pastor has been through four years of seminary where he’s apprenticed in his craft and served the sick and dying. He’s translated and pored over ancient scriptures. He’s also served as a professional pastor of a vibrant congregation for almost 20 years.
I can’t speak for him, but one of the reasons why I say he’s a good pastor is that he probably wouldn’t ever say that he has this thing called faith figured out either. He might say that this isn’t the point of faith, to ‘figure it out’ or provide ‘magic bullets’ for others to do so. His authority carries a humbleness to it, which for me, adds to its impact and authenticity.
However, he’s done the work, and it shows in the community he serves.
Listen, I believe (as well as you might) that in no way should clergy members automatically be given an authoritative hall pass. I know there are droves of them who are completely full of shit (even harmful). Please use the same discretion with clergy as you do with your neighbors or us internet people.
I’m sure my pastor has stumbled a time or four. He’s probably let people down — even offended some. He’s human.
But here’s the thing…
The older I get, the more I like the idea of old-fashioned, time-tested, earned expertise, especially in our deconstructed, postmodern, internet-driven world.
The older I get, the quicker my bullshit radar detector gets triggered. It’s why I read theologians these days instead of bestsellers.
Even these big-name pastors who’ve been through ‘seminary’ but have seemed to rush immediately to the big stage with the Megatron and the smoke machines, strobe lights, and rock band accompaniments — I just don’t know. They’re so… epic. And I’m really liking small these days. (I think a lot of us are.)
My pastor and other clerical professionals like him (mind you: ‘professionals’, not ‘megastars’) have an ancient yellow brick road that their peers attempt to keep them aligned with. They’re not reinventing the wheel (although, the good ones add their particular personal spins to the wheel). They’re assigned by the communities they serve to spend their days studying and talking through scripture and putting it into the context of real life for their congregation.
They don’t sit solely behind paid webinars, massive stages, and pricey exotic retreats. They’ve spent ample time in the hospitals, graveyards, living rooms, and banquet halls of those they spend their working hours… serving.
Much of this work goes unnoticed. It’s merely (?) imprinted on the hearts of those they serve.
I don’t do this at the moment.
Please don’t listen to me (that much).
Here’s to the ones who’ve done the work.
(And thanks for listening to me a little.)