The Mysterious Disappearance of Sammy Rhodes
The Disappearance of Sammy Rhodes
When I was on Twitter, I used to love the tweets of @prodigalsam. I had no idea he had to delete his account due to a controversy back in 2013. I apparently wasn't a very good Twitter follower.
Sammy is the campus minister for RUF at the University of South Carolina. When sorting through my saved blog entries on Pocket, I came across one by him entitled The Crippling Power of Should. I wanted to comment on it here for my Nuff Said blog series, but his blog was gone. Subsequent searches on the web couldn't find another instance of the article. It was mysterious.
Here's what I "discovered" (old news for some of you, new for me). Sammy had deleted his old Twitter account and had stumbled into (some would say caused) a comedic plagiarism scandal in the Twitterverse in which comedian Patton Oswalt (Parks and Recreation, The King of Queens, etc) lambasted him personally.
It's a sobering tale. Patton had over 1 million followers who jumped down Rhodes throat, while Rhodes, though successful and loved on Twitter, had only 130,000. Rhodes said, "For him to tweet angry words about me is like Michael Jordan driving by an elementary school and deciding to go dunk on some sixth graders. It's a completely bizarre experience. The Internet offers the unique opportunity to hate people you've never met." (Salon interview)
Rhodes parlayed his internet fame into a book called This Is Awkward, (strangely his book, like his blog website is nonexistent too and returns a Chinese phrase). But his original Twitter account, his blog, and his book website were apparently all casualties of the controversy. He reengaged with Twitter after a hiatus at @SammyRhodes.
Twitter comic prodigalsam: I did not plagiarize Patton Oswalt, others - Salon, 6/7/2013
Bad Christian podcast interview with Rhodes - 2016
The Prodigal with 128,000 Twitter Followers - Christianity Today, 6/3/2013
Presenting an Awkward Chat Between Sammy Rhodes and Jon Acuff, Christianity Today, 4/9/2016
Oswalt’s Revenge: Sammy Rhodes And The Dangers Of Self-Promotion - Patheos, 6/11/2013
On Twitter Plagiarist and Youth Pastor Sammy Rhodes's New Memoir, Paper, 4/28/2016
Rhodes was a contributor the Desiring God website during 2014 but hasn't written for them since. And because it's an encouraging word, here's the text of The Crippling Power of Should by Rhodes that I originally went looking for:
Today marks the start of the last week of our vacation and instead of embracing the new day with a smile and a hug my mind went different places.
"I should have gotten up earlier. I'm 34 and shouldn't still struggle with sleeping in."
"I should have gone for a jog this morning. It's my third day in a row without exercise. I'm well on my way (back) to being the real version of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby."
"I shouldn't have said that in that text I sent last night. It probably offended them and now I'm on their "smile then roll your eyes when they turn away" list."
"My friends' kids are becoming Christians and I barely know how to talk with mine in a genuine way about Jesus. I should be a better spiritual leader."
One of my friends calls this "Shoulding all over yourself." Living in a state where you try to shame your way into being what you (read others) think you should be.
The problem is it doesn't work. No one ever shamed themselves into being a better version of themselves. Because shame might be a powerful voice, but it's never a powerful motivator. That's why one of my counselors likes to correct me every time I use the word should. She stops and says, "Get to."
You get to wake up and embrace the day in a way that helps you savor it.
You get to care for your body in ways that make you feel better and full of more energy.
You get to be your awkward self with friends and then repent and apologize when you need to.
You get to engage your kids out of what you know and have learned about Jesus.
And when you fail, you get another opportunity to try again. And another. And another. Grace works that way. Because Jesus took all the shoulds, that for you there would only be get to's. The perfection of his performance on your behalf, both in living the life you should have lived, and dying the death you should have died, covers the imperfection of the life you are struggling to live.
So the next time you go to shame yourself with shoulds (let's be real, probably later today), stop and remember, in the words of John Newton, Jesus doesn't shame you out of your sins. He loves you out of your sins. Let that love transform your shoulds into get to's.
So an eight year-old mystery was solved for me over the course of an hour of rabbit trailing. I'm thankful that Sammy is still around, that he's still a campus minister, and that he's continuing to share what he's learned with us through his writing (which has always been insightful, witty, and welcomed).
The articles referenced above are both profound in some of the lessons we can learn from Rhodes' experience, and it's a cautionary tale as well for what is plagiarism in the social media world and what is "riffing" and how to respond to controversy with grace.