J. Kameron Carter. This man–the embodiment of intellect and grace and a prophet in our time–calls us to challenge the systems that we are subjected to or continue to hold in place in and outside of the church. In every moment of our everyday existence, Carter says, Jesus encounters us with the call, ‘follow me.’ As he spoke, I couldn’t help but place myself in this story. In what ways am I being asked to ‘follow?’ Immediately, one thing came to mind: my wrestling with the balance of school and work. I started seminary at Seattle Pacific University this fall and it has brought nothing but joy and the affirmation that this is where I am called to be at this season in my life. But along with that affirmation are those logistical things for which you don’t always plan: how to work 40 hours/week and take classes, continue involvement in church, have time for self care, and frankly, how to have a life sprinkled with the occasional happy hour, walk in the park or book read. Following these thoughts on balance and “oh wouldn’t it be nice if I could just work part time and have time for all my reading and writing,” reality sets in. If I work part time, will I have enough to pay rent? Utilities? Car maintenance? Probably not. It’s hard not to worry when the numbers really don’t add up. Then, Dr. Cater said something that was once told to him, and I’m sure many of us:
It’s alright to think about the faith. But make sure you do something that’s going to make you some money.
We live in a world that values money. That’s the reality and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when the economic realities wherein we live dictate what we do with our lives, and whose call we follow–we have to take a step back and figure out what that means for us. Yes, we have to eat. We have bills to pay. Maybe even families to take care of. But what’s really at stake? For Dr. Carter, it was a fear that God might not be able to take care of him if he really surrendered all in this direction. And isn’t that the same for us? Before we can make ourselves vulnerable and at the mercy of God, we have to make sure we’re safe–that we’re secure with our resources before taking a baby step, let alone a leap of faith. What would happen if we trusted God fully? I’m not talking about making the kind of decisions like our man Steven Slater, who quit his job at JetBlue, then slid down the emergency chute of the plane. What I’m talking about is the call of each of our lives. The kind of call that we know we must not ignore. We cannot ignore. The kind of call that leaves us no other choice than to say “yes.”
Dr. Carter asks, how can we bear witness to the redemptive disruption that is wittnessed to and inaugurated in Jesus Christ? From the standpoint of economics, from criminal justice, from gender roles? We are not all called to be theologians, but how can we, in the places we serve and work and worship bring redemptive disruption to the systems that are so rooted that we don’t even notice that we are a part of the very systems we are called to speak into? What is the task of the Christian intellectual? How does Christian life and thought come together to coordinate in one reality held together in the man Jesus Christ?
As always, more questions than answers.