Sarah Palin is BANK! Time's Swampland political blog recently ran a nice piece on just how well the Alaska governorship dropout is doing. It seems we can't get enough of Sarah whether we love her or love to hate her. The article goes on to note that popularity itself is quickly monetized. Glenn Beck made $32 million last year, Rush is somewhere around $50 million, Rick Warren's books have brought in millions (most of which he gives away) and Oprah makes them all look like paupers. The article concludes with the exhortation to not hate the players but to hate the game. That's a noble exhortation but all of us hoping for our 15 minutes certainly believe differently. "The game" can bring you money, high political office and can help you be remembered by history. We want it.
I wonder if Jesus hadn't ascended how he could have avoided "the game". The rejection of "the game" was central to his temptation in the wilderness. The account in John 6 of an attempt to make Jesus king by force was probably emblematic of the wishes of many of his followers. Jesus' continual avoidance of this kind of wealth and power might have been what turned Judas away from him. Jesus repeatedly in the Gospel of Luke ("the yeast of the Pharisees, Pharisees are lovers of money, they love to be seen...) asserts that the absolute rejection of "the game" must be a hallmark of his disciples.
Is there something foundational to the gospel that undoes the seemingly necessarily link between popularity and the things that always seem to follow? It is important to note that like their master, the apostles too, despite the kind of rapid spread of the gospel told of in Acts universally evade the money and power that popularity brought. There seems to be an outright shunning of the accumulation of wealth in the age of decay, not out of some attention-drawing show of principle, but out of simple disregard. The greatest value of money for this crowd seems to be in its usefulness in giving it away. In this way the middle-class-at-best followers of Jesus seems to share in the joy of Bill Gates even without the Microsoft stock.
Jesus repeated exhorts his followers to bank in Creation 2.0 rather than 1.0, where moth and rust consume. I learned on Pawn Stars recently that the Confederacy promised to pay the bearer of some notes "six months after the ratification of a treaty of Peace between the Confederate States & the United States". Obviously the worse the war went for the South, the less the notes were worth. In some strange way Jesus seems to regard "mammon" as the currency of a rebellious age whose only value can be found by secret alms giving which translates it into a kind of hard currency that "the game" can never understand.
Yes, may we not hate the players, but may we hate the game. I guess that's why he had to send his Spirit because without it we're suckers for the game.