Endeavoring to Persevere
It’s been a wacky start to 2023 here in the Accidental Tomatoes home offices. A series of thoroughly unforeseen circumstances have made it challenging to push out new content on our regular weekly schedule, and our team has been busier than usual doing the on-the-ground work of justice and liberation to which we feel so deeply called.
But we must endeavor to persevere, as Chief Dan George uttered in the classic western, The Outlaw Josie Wales.
And so this week I want to reflect on a few thoughts that have been bouncing around in my noggin the past few weeks, and see if any of them spark further conversation.
Unmasking the imposter
One of the thoughts that inevitably emerges when I get in a bit of a creative dry spell is whether or not whatever I’m working on is worth continuing.
And I have to admit, the thought has crossed my mind more than once over the past couple of months that maybe this little Accidental Tomatoes project has run its course, or at least needs a facelift.
But thankfully the encouragement our team receives from many of you who read our posts and listen to our podcast keeps us going.
One of the biggest struggles I have as a content creator is imposter syndrome. Almost anyone who puts themselves and their ideas out into the public sphere will eventually question their value and the importance of their work.
Part of that is because the work is so close to us it’s difficult sometimes to keep it in perspective. You can write an article, read it, edit it, reread it, redraft it, and reread it again until you begin to doubt whether it really means anything.
As a writer I sometimes catch myself working too hard to find just the right word or turn of phrase. That can result in a kind of “paralysis by analysis” as a former boss used to say.
I mention all of this not to throw myself some kind of pity party, but to let you, dear reader and listener, know that your feedback is more important than any of us could ever express.
Which brings me to my next thought…
It’s a beautiful day in the (virtual) neighborhood
When I became a public theologian and content creator, I had to do some deep soul work to be sure I wasn’t just doing it to feed my ego. As anyone who grew up with me will tell you, I can tend to be a bit of an attention whore. Welcome to life with an Enneagram 7!
But I quickly learned that if I was doing this work just to highlight myself and my ideas, I would crash and burn.
As I’ve matured through multiple and ongoing waves of spiritual deconstruction and reconstruction, I’ve learned that what’s really important is to create content that serves to bring people together in community with one another.
Now that may seem a bit trite and cliché, but as I find myself about to complete my 60th revolution around the sun, I’m becoming more and more intentional about channeling my self-serving instincts into projects that serve our collective interdependency.
A decade and a half ago when I first started exploring the idea of vocational ministry, a wise mentor told me that it’s the kind of work that requires just enough ego to believe you have something important to say, but not so much to believe you’re the only one who can say it.
That’s one of the reasons why it was important to pull together a team, not just to bring more voices and perspectives into our content, but to co-lead our overall course and direction.
But more than that, as my theology continues to develop, I’ve become more and more convinced that community—and, maybe more specifically, relationship—is really the whole point of existence.
And that brings me to thought number 3:
Please pass the pie
Like most American Christians, I was raised with the idea that everything was about the afterlife. That the meaning of life was to set yourself up with a seat at the heavenly banquet rather than an eternity of conscious torment.
I’m going to devote more time to this thought in a future post, but I’m coming more and more to the belief that our preoccupation with the afterlife is one of the most toxic of all Christian doctrines.
Without getting too far down the rabbit hole in this post, the idea of our individual disembodied souls being transported to some kind of postmortem destination of either bliss or damnation has much more to do with narratives of power and control than with anything Jesus said or did in his first century context as a Palestinian Jew.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that this single doctrine is probably responsible for more harm to more people than perhaps any other movement in human history. Our obsession with who’s “in” and who’s “out” has given us license to do unspeakable damage to anyone whose religious framework is different than our own.
It’s the slaveholder gospel of Christendom, the “pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die” theology of eternal reward in exchange for earthly submission and obedience that has brought us to this point in human history where efforts at creating more egalitarian systems and structures comes up against the fragile ego of Christian nationalism in all its forms.
Now, I’m not saying there’s no afterlife. Frankly, I have absolutely no way of knowing with any certainty what happens after we die.
And neither does anyone else, no matter what they tell you.
My years of theological study and my commitment to contemplative mysticism have convinced me that most of our ideas of life after death are ones we impose on our scriptures and traditions, rather than ideas they explicitly reveal.
The evangelical project that begins with the question, “do you know for certain what will happen to you after you die?” is a red herring.
It’s a distraction from the harder and much more important work of sacrificing our own desires for the thriving and dignity of others. To be blunt, it’s little more than spiritual masturbation.
I think that’s what Jesus is talking about in his discourse about vines and branches in John 15.
Life isn’t about what we do as individuals. It’s about how we develop symbiotic relationships that bring our collective humanity together, in rhythm with the cosmos.
If I’m sure of anything, it’s that it’s our relationships that have eternal value. Whatever happens to us after we expire, what ultimately lives on is the way we love each other.
Anyhow, that gives you a little glimpse into some of the things I’ve been thinking about as we continue to try to find ways to bring you content that inspires you to grow and thrive on this spinning blue ball.
Does any of this resonate with you? I’d love to get some good conversation going in the comments or over on our social media pages (Facebook • Twitter • Instagram). Or, feel free to reach out by email at accidentaltomatoes (at) gmail (dot) com.
If nothing else, I needed to get some of this off my chest. So thanks for being a part of our little community and giving me the space to float these ideas out into the world and see how they might connect us more closely and more meaningfully.
Keep on growing outside the fences y’all!
Feature image by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com
Offering a better life here and now is the irrefutable deal.
I kinda remember asking questions about the afterlife and never seeing any logic to the answers. Then I just kinda “fell in line” with the beliefs I was surrounded by. Now I like my questions better without the trite answers.