“All eyes on me, please.” I’m afraid we’re only going there more and more. We should be sad, sorry, and ashamed of ourselves. Our marketing fed posture of consumption (“Give me what I want now or I’ll change the channel”), our obsession with the holy trinity of me, myself, and I, and the narcissim we’ve embraced which demands that everyone else we know worship and follow me as well, is eating us alive. . . . and we’re letting it happen. Not only that, we don’t even see it as wrong.
I spent the day yesterday with a couple of energizing groups down in Cajun country. There was my annual visit to the Youth Ministry Institute at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. Lots of give and take. Then I spent some time with parents and youthworkers across the world’s longest bridge in Convington at First Baptist Church. In both places, there was lively discussion prompted by what parents and youthworkers are seeing in their kids in terms of materialism, consumerism, narcissism, and entitlement. Not only that, we talked about how we see the same thing in ourselves (individually), and corporately in how we understand, worship, and follow Christ. The same thick thread woven through the fabric of youth culture that rightly grieves us, is knit in and through the fabric of ourselves.
I’m grateful for the growing number of highly intelligent and theologically sound voices that are asking the right questions, observing with a keen eye, and challenging us to rethink who we are, what we serve, and how we live our lives. Michael Horton has always impressed me as one of those voices. I just finished reading his book, A Better Way (all about worship). Now, I’ve begun reading his new Christless Christianity. I’d like to invite and encourage you to do the same.
For those uneasy with the consumer-driven and narcissistic seeker-sensitive brand of Christianity, this book will cause your eyes to be opened further. For those of us who find ourselves getting defensive about Horton’s critique of the place we’ve landed and live, your desire to go deep in the things of Christ should lead you to prayerfully read what Horton has to say.
Consider these words Horton writes in the book’s first chapter: “Wherever Christ is truly and clearly being proclaimed, Satan is most actively present in opposition. The wars between the nations and enmity within families and neighborhoods is but the wake of the serpent’s tail as he seeks to devour the church. Yet even in this pursuit, he is more subtle than we imagine. He lulls us to sleep as we trim our message to the banality of popular culture and invoke Christ’s name for anything and everything but salvation from the coming judgment. While undoubtedly stirring his earthly disciples to persecute and kill followers of Christ, Satan knows from experience that sowing heresy and schism is far more effective. While the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church, the assimilation of the church to the world silences the witness.”
Horton goes on later in that chapter. . . “Far from clashing with the culture of consumerism, American religion appears to be not only at peace with our narcissism but gives it a spiritual legitamcy.”
Is he on to something?