Jesus, Inc.

The good news: my book is published! Well, its available for pre-order and I think it will be actually available next week. I should know the drop date, but I don’t. I know the soccer schedule for today and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

The bad news: I’m still ambivalent.

When I was younger (by at least half and maybe as much as two-thirds) I desperately wanted to be an author and maybe even a speaker. My goal was to have a book published before I hit 30, because after that I would be close to dead and I didn’t want my book jacket photo being of an old person. True story.

Looking back I think this youthful desire actually reflected a few dynamics:

  1. In Christian circles, the only place a woman could contribute ideas in an more-or-less equal way to men was in the author/speaker circuit. The pulpit was not available, because ovaries. That led to #2:

  2. As a female you were basically screwed if God had gifted you with prophetic or teaching gifts,* and the older I get the more convinced I am I fit into the former bucket, which explains a little about #3, namely

  3. I felt I had A Lot To Say.

In the intervening years, my hair has started to turn grey, I have permanent bags under my eyes, and I genuinely feel I have Nothing To Say about God or the life of faith. The older I get the more mysterious it all is — less propositional, impossible to communicate didactically, only apprehended incarnationally, with limbs and tears. God seems to be antithetical to reduction of any sort, and thus faith becomes, I don’t know, perplexing.

It would have been soooooooo much better if I had published my first-and-only book before the age of 30, when my book jacket photo would have been of a young person. When I knew so much more and I had so much to say. When I wasn’t so lost.

But here I am, with Travelogue about to drop, feeling horribly vulnerable and quite truthfully regretting that I didn’t leave it on my shelf where it probably belongs.

As if that’s not enough, my ambivalence stems equally from a deep discomfort with what I have taken to calling “Jesus, Inc.”

I’m a high tech marketing professional by trade, which means that I should be pretty good at marketing my own book. I know all the right things to do and then some: blogging and SEO, contributed articles, give-aways. You know, build the brand. But I don’t want to. It feels like I’m marketing Jesus, or worse using Jesus to market myself, and I don’t like it. I can’t wrap my head around “Jesus” and “Business” set cheek and jowl as if they can legitimately occupy shared space.

Of course is not that simple. I know deeply faithful Jesus-people, who are conference speakers, published authors and brilliant bloggers with sites optimized for search engines, and who are building their readership one relationship at a time with integrity and for honorable reasons. Jesus is truly at the center of what they are doing and I am proud to support to be part of it. It is good and right and true, what they do and I’ll not back down from that.

I still don’t want to do it.

And, at the same time, I’ve watched a drama unfold within the so-called “emergent” church for many months** that has the veneer of “Jesus” but turns out its “Business” and its ugly and destructive and not-Jesus-at-all. Whitewashed tombs come to mind. It reeks of money and minor celebrity, of scheming people jockeying for advantage and well-meaning people discovering they have ungodly bedfellows but can’t get out of bed because its a bed they themselves have made.

Thus on the cusp of Travelogue being formally published, I find myself with tons of dissonance (no surprise there) and oddly grateful. Grateful that if this book sells not even one copy, it will have been worth it for all that I have received. Grateful that as a published book I can get it to people who want it, for less money than it was costing me to print it myself (Rabbi, remember the days of $25 unit cost?). Grateful that as publishing niches go, Travelogue is in a pretty tiny one (let’s face it: poetry and the Psalms … not exactly source material for the hot take) so I’m not at risk for any kind of commercial success.

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*As a side note, I have many friends who fall into the category of believing the pulpit is no place for ovaries, and suggest that God might want me to be a prophet only to women. Or children I suppose, assuming the male ones are not over the age of 12, or 15, or 26 depending on your cultural assumptions. My problem with this is the Epistles (ie: location of discussions of gifting) don’t seem overly concerned with parsing out gifts-based-on-audience. Gifts, as far as I can tell, appear to be based on the Spirit.

**There are plenty of examples across the entire spectrum of Christian theology and praxis; this isn’t juxtaposing conservative v progressive, only pointing out the progressive one is the one I’ve been watching.

About karen d

Thinker, Dreamer, Traveler. Recovering Pharisee.