Posted by: Dan | June 29, 2007

Interview Meme: Part II

(2) I've always been intrigued by your url: “poserorprophet”. I'm sure it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I'm going to take it seriously for the purpose of this interview. Do you think of yourself as a prophet, in some sense? On the flip side, do you sometimes experience such self-doubt that you wonder if you're merely a poser?

Funny that you should mention this. I recently came across some old comments on my blog, wherein some readers were debating about whether the term “poser” or the term “prophet” best described me (good fun!). It got me to thinking about my own understanding of the url and, to be perfectly honest, I probably understand it differently now then when I first started this blog (just as my understanding of the title has also developed over time).

I should begin by making it clear that I do not think of myself as a “prophet” (regardless of what that “spiritual gift test” told me when I was a camp counselor. Have you seen those things? What a concept!). However, I do try to live within the trajectory established by the biblical prophets — from Moses, to Elijah, to Isaiah, to Jesus, to John the visionary. Furthermore, I have been quite inspired by contemporary people who, in word and deed, have highlighted the significance of the prophetic aspect of Christianity. Is Walter Brueggemann a prophet? Is Gustavo Gutierrez? Was Dorothy Day? I don’t think that any of these people would apply the word “prophet” to themselves (actually, outside of the charismatic tradition, who would?) but I think that there is much of the prophetic about what they say and do. I aspire to the same, and so I include the word “prophet” in my url. It is not up to me to determine whether or not I am a “prophet” but I hope to be faithful to the prophets.

However, because what one aspires to be, and what one actually is, are often two different things, I think that it is important to include the word “poser” in my url. This is also important because part of the purpose of my blog is to facilitate dialogue. This means both (a) being genuinely open to what others have to say and (b) creating the sort of environment wherein others feel able to voice perspectives that are different than mine. Further, by creating some ambiguity with my url, I am hoping that those who read my blog will think critically about what I have to say and come to their own conclusions. I highly doubt that blogs are capable of much persuasion (i.e. I don’t think I’m going to change any minds by writing what I write), but I do hope that blogs are capable of inspiring critical thinking (which might inspire a more lasting form of change). And, yes, the url is intended to be a little tongue-in-cheek. A bit of self-deprecating humour can also go a long way to facilitating dialogue (something I don't always remember).

But do I sometimes experience such self-doubt that I wonder if I’m “merely a poser”? Absolutely. Almost all the time. You see, all I have to do is state that (a) I work with those on the margins; (b) I live in an intentional Christian community in what has probably become the most notorious neighbourhood in Canada; and (c) my house has become especially focused on being an open place to sex trade workers and, voila, my life becomes some sort of romantic fiction for those who read about such things but have little first hand experiences of those things. Truth is, I feel like I am always too weak and too late. I feel like (a) my work is mostly unsuccessful; (b) my house has failed to connect meaningfully with our neighbourhood; and (c) we have yet to develop meaningful, lasting relationships with more than one sex trade worker. I resonate with the words of Dorothy Day: “I feel that I have done nothing well… I can see that I was not a good radical, not worthy of respect.” I am a poser who is still learning how to be faithful to the prophetic trajectory established by the biblical narrative.

Take this last week as an example. A week ago, a young man I know hung himself (and died). A few nights ago, a young woman I know intentionally overdosed on pills (but didn't die), and last night another young man I know cut his wrists and drank bleach (but didn't die). What have I done for these three young people? Not much. However, the fact that I even have these stories to tell makes me sound “radical” to some. Does that make me feel like a poser? You bet it does. But that doesn't stop me from telling the stories. They are like a word “in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (cf. Jer 20.9). In a way, my stories — like Jeremiah's stories — are my way of participating in the cry of those who are desperately awaiting a Saviour. Awaiting a Saviour that I, poser that I am, can never be.

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