It’s no coincidence that the rise of Selfism comes on the heels of removing faith from public schools. Children are implicitly informed (with scientific evidence presented as indisputable fact) that they are cosmic accidents with no purpose or value, destined for dust. How would we expect them to react to the worst possible news a human being can receive? Naturally, you’d predict rampant escapism, in all of its forms, from such a harsh reality – drug abuse, teen suicides, illicit sex, identity confusion, avatars, virtual reality, incessant distraction through social media, etc.
However, no amount of escapism can completely cover the gaping hole left open by the absence of God and meaning. So our popular culture invented a new religion to assign artificial value to those who deny their authentic worth in Christ. This religion, Selfism, makes each person his or her own god. Omnipotent determination of one’s own version of truth, morality, and even gender is a clever innovation to replicate importance where there would appear to be none. With no Creator in the equation, the creation is free to build its own conception of how the world works. As the supreme being ruling over a self-conceived world, subjects in their kingdom dare not question any of the monarch’s opinions. Those with such audacity run the risk of retribution in the form of vilification in social circles and the media – instant characterization as hateful or zealots. Christians of course by definition fall into that camp in our Selfist culture because followers of Jesus openly hold and express an alternative view of the world.
However, the “identity bubble” construct that Selfists build around themselves to protect and defend against unwanted intrusions is highly fragile, likely to burst when:
- Personal crises rock their carefully-crafted world
- Losing idealism as exposure to undesirable Selfists undermines confidence in the ability of people to define viable, personal versions of truth and morality
- Realizing through unexpected circumstances that they are not in control
To forestall those inevitabilities, society has built a “force field” around everyone’s identity bubbles to serve as an outer layer of protection. Christian views are mocked or silenced, with the intention of invalidating attempts to imply that anything is wrong with anyone. The words “sin” and “repentance” are no longer acceptable or used in our culture’s vernacular, even rarely brought up or confronted within churches today. In the name of tolerance, evangelism is seen as an imposition of conflicting values on an innocent victim by a meddling intruder. “Snowflakes” at universities flee to safe spaces, free from the risk of hearing differing opinions. Despite an academic setting where debate should be welcome, any dissenting views are presumed to call into question the behavior or values of others, and therefore are classified by those college students as insensitivity or hate-speech – which their delicate psyches and ears refuse to tolerate.
Yet the force field of tolerance, under the guise of compassion, is really about retaining the right to sin at one’s leisure without conscience or retribution. The Snowflake’s fear is that the identity bubble may melt away upon heard anything that makes them aware of their sin – like Adam and Eve suddenly recognizing they were naked. Selfists are always one head-on collision with Christ-centered truth away from watching their meticulously constructed kingdom self-destruct.
Remedy for Selfism
The cure for Selfism is simple to understand:
- Resignation to the futility of subjective self-reliance in defining absolutes
- Intellectual integrity to accept that truth is what truth is, not what one says it is
- Relinquishing the “fake ID” as one’s own creation and carrying an ID card as God’s creation
- Acknowledging the possibility that sin exists rather than conveniently expanding one’s personal moral code
- Seeking forgiveness and repentance in Christ Jesus
- Abandoning escapism from life’s realities and living in the light of eternity, knowing that true value lies in knowing that “whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (John the Baptist – Matthew 11:11)
Yet the cure is difficult to implement in today’s intolerant culture:
- Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul all came out of the gates preaching repentance from sin and God’s loving offer of forgiveness
- But the church in America has lost its voice, its ability to speak truth in a way that will be heard by Selfists
- Studies show that few Christians are equipped and willing to share that Gospel and repentance message (Romans 10:14)
- Selfists are firmly entrenched in their worldly status quo, not interested in abdicating the throne of the individualistic kingdom they rule and closed to outside influences and eternal perspectives
- Selfism places its full faith and confidence in human intelligence – remember that Ninevah, the woefully corrupt city where Jonah was sent to preach, was also the site of the first library
Essentially, the challenge is that God’s system and world’s system are polar opposites. They have absolutely nothing in common. The currency of God’s system is humility, peace, patience, kindness and joy, grounded in love. The currency of the world’s system is self, arrogance, greed, popularity, security and happiness. The filter through which all decision pass is predicated on entirely different world views – either immediate gratification because life is all there is or self-denial through the hope of eternal life.
Path to Administering the Cure for Selfism
The solution to Selfism hinges on Christians regaining a voice in an era of self-centered individualism by:
- Returning to the biblical of definition of “church”, which is more about building disciples than building institutions
- Restoring the biblical understanding of the church’s intended “customer”, the lost in the community that each disciple should be pursuing
- Shedding Selfist principles commonly found in churches today, bent on attracting and retaining (customers) rather than challenging and deploying (disciples)
- Following Jesus’ model of leading with compassion and then telling them who He is. We cannot outpreach Jesus, who had the perfect words yet knew the only way to open their ears was to meet their felt needs first. Selfists can only be reached by disciples acting from the foundation of love and therefore living Prayer, Care and Share lifestyles.
However, American culture continues to change churches more than churches are changing culture. As long as churches model the world’s system by putting constructs in place that promote organizational self-preservation, it will struggle to produce disciples who live out Prayer, Care, Share. Church leaders should make each member aware of the Great Commission mandate and train them to carry it out, even at the risk of losing those unwilling to take personal responsibility for disciple-making. Otherwise, churchgoers will not be prepared to engage in the Culture War through a Ground War with love as the chosen weapon rather than an Air War of judgment, dropping verbal bombs in failed attempts to burst identity bubbles protected by Selfism’s force field.
It’s Your Turn
Have you had a breakthrough for Jesus with someone who had been led to believe that they are a cosmic accident with no purpose or value?