The “mania for credentials” versus a calling

This is an excellent and rich passage that deserves at least two readings.

Walter Brueggeman, in a book on the prophets entitled Hopeful Imagination suggests that “a sense of call in our time is profoundly countercultural,”, and notes that “the idealogy of our time is that we can live an ‘uncalled life,’ one not referred to any purpose beyond one’s self.”

I suspect that this idol of the autonomous, uncalled life has a shadow side that demands that we resist the notion that another might be different, might indeed experience a call. Our idol of the autonomous individual is a sham; the truth is we expect everyone to be the same, and dismiss as elitist those who are working through a call to any genuine vocation. It may be that our culture so fears the necessary other that it has grown unable to identify and name real differences without becoming defensive about them.

I think this explains our mania for credentials, which allow us a measure of objectivity in assessing differences. Credentials measure what is quantifiable; they represent results. A call, on the other hand, is pure process; it cannot be measure, quantified, or controlled by institutions. People who are called tend to violate the rules in annoying ways.

-Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk, p.41