by A. Maeve McDonald
There's a strange phenomenon going on in our all-about-me culture. It presents as a curious mix of self-loathing and self-adoration both of which prevail simultaneously in the collective conscious. On one hand, the self is idolized; many of us are on a frantic quest to "be who we are," to "self-actualize," and to tap into our "inner truth." But on the other hand, we're guilt-ridden; we're never really good enough no matter how hard we work, no matter how many self-help books we line our shelves with, no matter how many ah-ha moments we rack up. We're always going to be too fat, too disorganized, too busy, too glutenated, too stressed, too you-name-it.
And when you put us all together, our problems only multiply. On a societal level, we don't really like what we see; many of us self-identify as those boisterous, greedy Americans that have caused the world to hate us. And so we condemn ourselves, try to throw off the shameful shackles of the past, and reject the archaic dogmas of yesteryear (aka the Judeo-Christian foundations of our Western culture) to embrace new things like the spiritually enlightened teachings and practices of Eastern religions, for example. Slowly but surely, we're trading in our constitutionally protected freedoms for a politically correct culture in which anything goes (anything other than conservative Christianity, that is). But while the grass certainly
looks greener on the other side of the fence, we're not quite ready to give up our white-picketed American dream just yet. After all, we are patriotic and all that. It's all very confusing... But in actuality, our sense of confusion stems quite simply from the fact that our society is caught up in a love/hate relationship with the self. In other words, for better or for worse, we're suffering from a bad case of self-obsession.
And the same dualistic phenomenon is even emerging within [gasp!] our Christian community. Sure—you've heard of Anti-American Americans, but what about Anti-Christian Christians? Sadly, they do exist, and their numbers are increasing. For, as an unfortunate by-product of our worldly environment, the self-loathing/self-idolizing complex is indeed cropping up more and more among Christians. Like our secular counterparts, we too are guilt-ridden. In a society that's pegged us as bigoted, narrow-minded, judgmental, and unloving, we all-too-often find ourselves hanging our heads in shame. If you hear something bad about yourself enough times, maybe you'll start to actually believe it.
Admittedly, there's a case to be made. We're aghast at the sinful behavior that so often creeps into our community. We're ashamed of our broken churches filled with broken people. We wince at the hateful behavior of Westboro Baptist Church types (who, despite their tiny numbers, get way more media coverage than the vast majority of compassionate Christians do). We squirm at the problematic—sometimes violent—history of the church. But instead of seeking the answer to the problem of our sinful nature in Christ, we have a habit of looking to ourselves for the solution. In keeping with the New Age mantra de jour, we tend to seek the answers from within...
...If we just strategize a little more, maybe we'll be better at outreach. If we just make ourselves more relevant to the secular world, maybe young people will stop leaving the church. If we just talk more about "love" and set aside the tough (biblical) stuff, maybe we'll stop offending people so much. And if we can just disassociate ourselves from "Christianity" maybe people will like us more...
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