Monday, November 7, 2011

I Do Wednesday Theology

I grew up in a church that had a pretty heavy focus on missions, both domestic and abroad. This small, rural church was frequently visited by missionaries from all over the globe. World missions was important, but so was reaching the locals all around us. We were always encouraged to witness to those around us that we saw every day, like neighbors, friends, and family.

I sucked at it.

Part of it was just my personality. I'm not much for striking up conversation with random people. I'd much rather associate with a close cabal of confidants than be a man of the people.

Plus, getting through junior high is hard enough without being that "Jesus freak" that nobody wants to talk to.

Along similar lines, I also read comic books at this time. I loved them and was embarrassed by them. It certainly wasn't "cool" to read comics at the time. After all, comic books were for little kids. I would talk about comics with my close friends that also read them, but outside of that small group the topic was often never spoke of.

Well, those are almost similar lines. These were both interests that I was deeply and personally involved in but far too timid to speak about publicly.

So who could have imagined that the combination of God and comics would result in me publicly proclaiming both with gusto?

That doesn't make much sense. But in a way, it makes perfect Mitch-sense. While preparing for my thesis presentation, I attended a communal lunch at seminary and talked with some people about what I was thinking about including in my presentation. A fellow classmate, who I admittedly didn't know that well, was sitting at my table and overheard this discussion. Intrigued, he asked what exactly my thesis topic was. I told him it was basically exploring theology in comic books. He laughed, but not in a mocking way. His following reply was along the lines of, "I don't know you that much, but from what I do know about you, that makes perfect sense."

Wednesday Theology just seems like something I would do, doesn't it? There is a certain Mitchness about the whole idea.

So, does this blog count as witnessing? Is it a ministry? Perhaps, in a way, it is spreading the word about theology and comics. But maybe it is leaning more towards talking about comics than about theology or God. Plus, it might be one of those preaching to the choir scenarios. I imagine most people that come to this site do so because they personally know me and already know about my dealings with theology and graphic literature. And the other people that come here are part of the Avid Fan Base, a fictional group of people that exist solely in my imagination. For now.

I hope any talk of ministry doesn't make it sound like I'm trying to be all high and mighty, holier than thou. In fact, what I'm trying to say here is the exact opposite. I grew up in the church. I've considered myself a Christian for as long as I can remember. But I've never really been good at talking to others about God. To me, this has always felt like a major failing when it comes to one of the basic tasks of a Christian: spread the Gospel.

But somehow, in some way, my interest with Batman comics back in the 6th grade apparently helped lay the groundwork for a way that I would be able to speak with some confidence about God. And here I am with Wednesday Theology. Again, is it, or could it possibly turn into, a ministry of some sort?

Or maybe, quite honestly, it is an obsession.  And I don't mean that in a negative way.

Greg Rucka, writer of Gotham Central, Punisher, and an incredible Batwoman storyline in Detective Comics, says on a blog that "writing is an illness, not a profession." He goes on:
The world of difference between the writer who is up at the crack of dawn, putting down words until their eyes have gone teary and their vision has blurred, and the person who writes “when they feel like it” is enormous. It’s the difference between a professional and a diletante. It’s the difference between doing it because you have no alternative, and doing it as a hobby.
Rucka is not alone on this opinion of writing. In Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen talks about loneliness, and how people searching to fill that loneliness sometimes do so out of insecurity. As an example, he cites German poet Rainer Maria Rilke's response to an individual asking if he should also become a poet:
...Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write: find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all - ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple 'I must,' then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.
Must I do Wednesday Theology? Is it an illness? Obviously, that answer is not a clear affirmative. I clearly do not update this blog regularly with actual posts of my own writing. Lengthy prose filled with my own thoughts and opinions on this subject matter is severely lacking. I hope to do better about that in the future. Hopefully some of you readers out there, fictional or not, will hold me accountable to that.

However, I do update regularly. Sure, the Daily Batman is of little significance. I just think it's cool. I might be the only one. But the Daily Quote? That dogs me. I must do that. Even if it's late in the day, I feel compelled to post one each weekday. I have to. It's like something in me will break if I fail at this. I suppose the Daily Quote is an obsession, an illness. It may matter little to day to day readers, but when someone asks me again, "What does theology have to do with comic books?" I can point to the Daily Quote label and show that person a wealth of examples of graphic literature engaging in theological discussion.

Some nights I worry that I will soon deplete the sources of theologically related moments in graphic literature that I am aware of. This is a serious concern of mine. But then I remember that there are over 60 issues of Preacher that I have yet to tap. This offers me some comfort. Plus, graphic literature seems the perfect format for addressing meta-narrative. Some may still think that is a stretch to link such a topic with theology, but I believe theology is the most meta of all studies. We are Creation trying to understand our Creator. Animal Man talking directly to Grant Morrison makes, I feel, for an insightful analogue.

And that brings us back to the Mitchness of Wednesday Theology, both in general and specifically this blog. Are there many other sites out there that combine theology, meta-narrative, and graphic literature into a single discussion? Maybe that's because there's nobody else out there looking for such a thing. But maybe, in time, there will be.

But what about that whole 'ministry' aspect? Do I currently consider this blog a ministry as I update it? No. Perhaps that's because it's just a crappy blog. But it's also because I usually think of a ministry as quite a bit more organized, detailed, and frankly, proper. A ministry has goals and tasks and accomplishments and is clearly exceptional.

This blog is not exceptional.

But, dang it, Oswald Chambers has something to say about that (And yes, I am referencing Henri Nouwen, Oswald Chambers, and Greg Rucka all in one post. That's Wednesday Theology, folks!). I've been going through his classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. A lot of it is hard to read. It tends to be incredibly convicting and disheartening. But it is also quite encouraging.

One theme across some of his entries has been Christianity's typical views about being exceptional, and how we have it wrong.
The things that Jesus did were of the most menial and commonplace order, and this is an indication that it takes all God's power in me to do the most commonplace things in His way. Can I use a towel as He did? (September 11)
The test of a man's religious life and character is not what he does in the exceptional moments of life, but what he does in the ordinary times, when there is nothing tremendous or exciting going on. (October 13)
It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things... (October 21)
This is, indeed, an ordinary blog with a very small readership. So be it. Maybe I will never be able to write an exceptional blog, or partake in an exceptional ministry. But as it is, I have this blog. Ordinary though it may be, I ought to do nothing less than strive to handle and update it exceptionally. Maybe no one will care. Maybe no one will notice.

But that's the point.

So, if it's not exceptional, why do I do this blog? Because it's ordinary. And because it's my obsession. We live in a world where who we are is defined by what we do, and what we do is defined by what our job is. When we meet new people and make small talk, we quickly ask one another, "So, what do you do?" The expectation is that the person will reply with their profession or employment.

For some people, this really is what they do. They've turned their passion into their profession. But for many, if not most people, what they do for a job is simply what they do so they can pay the bills. It's about the paycheck. It's about survival. I bet many people shudder at the thought of being defined by whatever job they currently have. I know I do.

So why do we let that define us? Why don't we let our passions define us? Everyone does something because they want to, or feel compelled to, but not because they'll earn a wage from it. Just because you work in computers doesn't mean that's what you do. Maybe you're actually a woodworker. Or maybe someone who is employed in the telecommunications industry is actually a truck driver or farmer, as defined by his passion or obsession. Is it just me, or is that a wonderful thought?

Maybe I'll never earn a paycheck for anything I write. Maybe I'll never be financially successful and employed in a worthwhile and fulfilling career. But I hope that doesn't prevent me from being defined by my obsession, my illness.

Maybe this dinky little blog is actually my calling, something that God has been grooming me for ever since I was a little kid awed by all things Batman. If that is so, if God wants me right now to simply be exceptional with this ordinary blog, could there be anything better with which to define me?

Perhaps someday, sometime, when someone asks me, "So, what do you do?"

I can reply,

"I do Wednesday Theology."

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