Saturday, March 15, 2014

Meism: A Generation of The Self

On occasion I have railed about the attitude of the younger generation, especially in the areas of submissiveness and outright arrogance. The two, in my opinion, are interrelated. Recently, I ran across an interesting article that talked about the research results related to the younger generation. The article calls them the "Me Me Me Generation." In an article published by Time Magazine on May 20th, 2013, Joel Stein begins the revelation of statistics with this fact: "The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that's now 65 or older. In fact, 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.
According to a 2012 study by Clark University, more people ages 18-29 live with their parents than with a spouse. In addition, a 1992 study found that 80% of people under the age of 23 wanted a job with greater responsibility compared to just 60% ten years later. Stein's report targets millennials, people born between 1980 and 2000. Average American family of the 50's may have displayed a wedding photo, a school photo, and maybe a military photo in their homes. Today, the average middle-class American family walks amid 85 photos of themselves and their pets. Millennials have less civic involvement and lower political participation than any previous group.
Scores of creativity and empathy are falling sharply among millennials. It seems apparent that social media like Facebook and Twitter have created a false sense of accomplishment and worth. It's all about friends, likes, and followers. While Stein goes on to express what I would call a blind optimism about the generation's future, I admittedly cannot follow him. My focus is different. The mantra of millennials has been "challenge convention." And they have certainly been busy doing just that. The question is how has the millennial culture impacts the Christian community. Where is the expression of this attitude in the Church?
We can begin with what was known as the "seeker-movement." This movement recognized the trends in the "Me Me Me generation" even before it was in full bloom and adjusted accordingly. Church had to change and remain culturally relevant if it was going to survive. It matters not that Jesus Himself guaranteed that even something as power as the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, many modern pastors, having all but lost their faith, embraced the new model. The Church had to change its music, its programs, its lighting, and even its message. And everything was geared toward the so-called "seeker." The sinner needed to feel that it was all about them.
The next phase to emerge was of course, the emerging church movement. This movement was one more adaptation or perhaps several, of how Christianity was being defined. The convention and tradition of the older generation, the great conservative movements and scholars were dismissed with amazing unabashed prejudice. Change for the sake of being different seemed to be the cadence of this movement. Scripture was displaced and in its stead, a full-orbed narcissistic post-modern message and philosophy took its place. The God of the OT was viewed as something altogether different from Jesus. Many passages were rejected on the basis that they were not in keeping with modern sensitivities. Gone were the doctrines of wrath, hell, and the idea of a penal-substitutionary atonement. The immediate response when one quotes Calvin or one of the other great theologians is "who needs these old, unsophisticated men" with their primitive ideas and theology. The notion that we are superior because, well we say we are, embraced without critical reflection. What does Calvin or Luther, or Augustine have to say to us? Not only was traditional dogma dismissed, but the methods and techniques for arriving at these truths have also been abandoned. Seminaries spend much more time on psychology, business, and management than they do on languages and exegesis and even systematics.
Finally, enter the young, the restless, and the reformed. First of all, while I know there are exceptions to this rule, I find it a good general rule of thought that the minute someone begins to define themselves as different, new, outside the pale, that it is likely that I am talking to one of these narcissistic types whose ego just needs that sort of feeling. Think about that. Why can't we just be disciples and followers of Christ? We can't just be a Calvinist, or Arminian, or a Baptist or a Presbyterian. Something inside the narcissist insists on not only redefining things, but also on being the one to do so. It does not matter that there is no real impact to anyone or anything in reality. All that matters is that in the mind of the narcissist, they have made their contribution. All that matters is that someone notices them. All that seems to matter is that they count.
The young, the restless, and the reformed are indeed an odd bunch. They range from sound, reformed folks to nearly outright heretics. They have redefined the boundaries for the most part. Unlike their counter-parts in the emerging church, they maintain a high view of Scripture, but like those counter-parts, they mangle it so that in the end, it is unrecognizable. Take the wholesale acceptance of TD Jakes for example, an unrepentant heretic that is embraced by more than a small portion of the YRR.
The seeker movement, the emerging church, and the young, restless, reformed all have close connections with cultural shifts of the "Me Me Me Generation we call millennials. While the emerging church is by far the most extreme expression of the millennial hijacking of Christianity, the other movements have done little to slow the shift. While their statements hold Scripture in high regard, their actions show, at times, an utter contempt for Scripture. The view of God and all things holy seems to be utterly common to some within the seeker and YRR movements. This is a product of the Me focus among millennials. They seem to think they have a right to touch everything, anytime, anywhere they please and that includes the nature of God. One of the reasons I think John Piper is so popular among this crowd is because his views on Christian hedonism fits perfectly with a "Me-focused" generation. This generation is certainly interested in their pleasure and if they can spin Piper's hedonism just a little, well, why not jump on that train?
One of the biggest problems I see within these movements is their understanding of the Church. I do not see anything remotely resembling a biblical ecclesiology. Many of these churches require members to sign confidentiality agreements around Church finances. There is no transparency. One of those Churches just stood by and watched their young pastor build a 16,000 square foot mansion on the south side of Charlotte, NC. I drive by that church every Wednesday on my way to a men's bible study. In addition, the idea of submissiveness, discipline, and coming under others in authority over them seems completely lacking among these young leaders. Well, that believe in submission so long as it is to them and their hand-picked boards.
How is culture affecting and shaping your views and opinions on God, Christ, Man, Sin, and Scripture? How do you see yourself before the throne of a holy God? Is God your daddy who wants you to have a high view of yourself and wants to spoil you with materialism, status and the American dream? Are the songs and sermons that move you only those songs and sermons that talk about you, your dreams, your hopes, and your goals? Do you get excited only when you think God is all about making your life fabulous? Or, is it the cross and the amazing and incredible display of God's justice and mercy that come together there that move you more than anything else moves you? Where is your focus? Is it on God or on you? Is God's own glory enough for you or must there be something else in it for you? Is your greatest desire God's glory? Or, is your greatest desire God's glory when it means your enjoyment in temporal things, be they relationships, careers, money, power, and popularity?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)

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