I remember it well—not so much the content of the blog. That has slipped my mind. What has stayed with me is why I wrote it.
Why. That’s what made it the worst blog I ever wrote.
Theology is a good hobby, but it’s a hard living. For me, a persistent and nagging tension in my life is that I get paid to talk and write about God.
God is my product.
There is something that has always struck me as . . . wrong . . . about that.
But I’m a man of limited skill sets so I do my best. Sometimes I imagine Jesus standing there looking at me, expressionless, as I’m handed a speaking fee or cash a royalty check. (“Yes? What? WHAT?!”)
That tension is one I have to live with, and heaven help me if I forget it, if it becomes too easy to make money off of a faith that exalts the poor and humble and lays low the powerful and prideful.
But I haven’t always remembered that, which brings me to my worst blogging moment.
The one where I sold it.
It might not mean much to you reading this, but for me it was a moment of decision.
It happened on my old blog, when I was blogging for Patheos—which is, let me be crystal clear, a wonderful organization where I blogged for 4 years from 2011-2015 under “rethinking biblical christainity” on their “evangelical channel.”
This is about me, not Patheos.
Patheos bloggers are paid each month in increments on the basis of the number of page views: the payment increases with each “level” you hit. As you can well guess, it only takes 1 little page view to take you from one level to the next, and that means getting paid more.
I remember one particularly slow summer month where I found myself, with 2 days to go, a few thousand page views below reaching the next level. Well, we can’t have that, so I did something about it.
Like I said, I don’t remember the content or the exact post. All I remember is that I wrote something outrageous about God that I didn’t really believe but was calculated to get quick clicks.
I used God to get paid a few extra bucks that month.
I remember pressing “publish” and feeling something diminish within me, like my iPhone battery draining from 95% to 10% right before my eyes. I believed then as I believe now that this was God’s presence saying, “You’re on your own, pal.”
I did not feel the wrath of the almighty, holy, pure, sovereign God, before whom no sinner can stand, etc., etc., blah, blah.
It felt as it does when a loved one has been let down.
“What did I just do?”
Like the time I was too self-absorbed to really be present with my child’s accomplishment or my wife’s pain.
Not in the least a manipulative disappointment, like parents sometimes do, but a pure kind of disappointment that is sorrowful rather than angry, sad rather than retributive. But most important, a disappointment that I still sensed was aimed at restoration rather than rejection.
I didn’t feel rejected, but I did feel shame. Not shamed but shame. The right kind of shame. I was disappointed in myself.
I launched this website, “the bible for normal people,” in the summer of 2015. And that blogging moment is one reason why.
I left cash on the table and I don’t mind telling you that monthly check came in handy. I also left a great network of bloggers and amazing support system. But I struggled enough with this “cash for God” existence, and I knew I needed to step away from at least one part of it.
I needed to take a step, however small, toward trusting God instead of using God.
Every bit of my income still comes from me speaking, teaching, and writing about things too high and good for me to grasp. I try to remember that with each passing day.