Thursday, August 21, 2008

Opening a little theological can of worms

I've been thinking a lot lately about post-modern thought and its effect on the church. As a thirty-two year old woman, I have been exposed at every turn to the results of postmodernism on Christian thinking. In case you get all the -isms confused, as I do, I referred to good ole wikipedia for a definition of postmodernism. It says, "postmodernism tends to refer to a cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle and embodying extreme complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, diversity..." This definition encompasses all that I have seen in many women, particularly between 25 and 35, and how they discern right and wrong. (Particularly "lacking a clear central hierarchy, ambiguity and contradiction.")

I have spent a lot of time with other moms of young children. My friends and acquaintances generally range from 24-40+. I have shared many times of laughter and tears with other women over this challenging, ever-changing stage of life. I feel like, while I am certainly no expert, I have formed my opinion through many observations and experiences of what seems to dominate women's thinking in our culture.

In a word, it is a little disturbing. Many women my age that claim to follow Christ seem to embrace more "trendy" churches. Among these women, I have found that the number one, sometimes sole, basis for determining how to run their households, interact in relationships, and spend their time seems to be marked by one major theme: what feels good. Obviously, this line of thought creeps into any one's choice making at times as a result of our sinfulness. But with this age group and this type of religious philosophy, it is purposefully the factor that is used. Not in a moment of weakness, sin, or oblivion, but all the time. It is the moral compass they seem to have embraced, purposefully: feeling good; being comfortable. As I have been searching my own heart and praying about my own life patterns, I can see how I also bought into this line of thinking in my mid-twenties, at least to some degree. I get the attraction in the human heart, just not where many churches seem to encourage this way of thinking as okay when it is not biblical.

Some characteristics that mark this type of life seem to be: emotional but shallow worship, little concern for theological study or reading the Bible at all for that matter, very little self-discipline, little care for staying out of debt, merit marked by dress size and a fulfilling sex life, an unhealthy obsession with being physically fit, selfish friendships (embracing gossip and drama/no joy for others), and depression. I want to make myself clear in saying that every Christian woman, certainly including myself, struggles with keeping these areas under the authority and grace umbrella that Christ provides. Again, I am speaking of those that embrace and defend this line of thinking.

I am left to wonder: Where has the church gone wrong? When did the Christian church stray so far away from seeking first His kingdom, self-sacrifice, living simply, a life of service, embracing His means of grace, and pursuing holiness? How in the world do I have a healthy friendship with this type of person? (It seems like I become either unopinionated/too passive OR voice the truth as I see it and appear judgemental and critical.) Why are so many people embracing this way of thinking?

I would love to hear what you all think. I am not trying to quarrel or cause divisiveness, just to gain a better insight into this philosophy. I love women's ministry and need some encouragement/wisdom!

3 comments:

Bloom Where You Are Planted said...

Wonderful insight into a very difficult world!

Hmmm...GREAT questions! Let me ponder, search, pray and get back to you on that one.

Jennifer said...

This was wonderfully written. I call it the "Oprah Cult of Happiness." :) I don't think that's original with me but I forget where I heard it!

Oprah is a cult idol, and her influence has extended into the church. Seriously! Have you noticed that on the covers of her magazines in the checkout aisle her typical pose is "Messianic?" I admit I'm hyper-sensitive, but you don't have to watch her show long to watch her weave her spell. Women who ought to know better, falling for the oldest lies ever told.

She's not the only problem, but there is a definite trend towards self-fulfillment that has moved into our churches. Last February, I was struggling with the blues, feeling irritated and bored and tired of doing the same ol' same ol' every day. But I forced myself to be quiet, to not think too much, to not go too deep for awhile... to accept the quiet duties that seemed irritating and inconvenient and interruptive as the saving graces that they really were and are. That was how I dealt with my desire to be happy above all else.

Into this episode another blogger sent me a book to review. It was supposed to be about finding joy in the commonplace, and it was published by Zondervan. It was the first book that I've ever read that literally made me want to throw it across the room! There it was, in black and white: it's not enough to wash the dishes, feed the kids, and clean the house. We deserve more - excitement, drama, travel, romance. And the implication was that THAT WAS GOD'S WILL. (I was left wondering what the imprisoned Christians in China would think about this "Christian self-help book." Hm.)
I felt like this woman was throwing every temptation I had tried to avoid right in my face.

But that book caused me to examine what it was that really made me mad, and that was this "cult of happiness" that is lying to women all across our churches, pulling them away from their saving graces.

So, I wrote to the woman who wanted the review and told her that I did not like the book. I gently explained why, and she replied back very civilly and never visited my blog again. I would comment on hers, but no reply. I felt a bit stung, but soon realized it was unimportant.

I think that whole event made me think harder about my blog and about my conversations: did I sound like that woman? Am I that self-centered?

Our posts today are dealing with similar issues at some points. Yes, it's hard to be the one who sees black and white when others see gray - or as my friend says, to "see through all the junk." But here's a great read for you today - it will encourage you as it encouraged me. I think you can easily find it online if the link doesn't work or you don't have the book handy:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/morneve.d0820pm.html

(It's the Aug. 20 evening reading of CH Spurgeon's Morning and Evening).

Hope you enjoy.

Sorry the comment is so long - but you know what? I think we could discuss this all night! :)

Bloom Where You Are Planted said...

Hey Again, Sweet Friend!

Ok, I'll give this a try. I've been really pondering what you said about wresting with: should you hang out with these people and be an example to them, avoid them, etc.

I tend to think that each situation needs to be evaluated on it's own. Pray for the wisdom and discernment as you encounter these types of people and conversations. Sometimes the Sprit may lead you to say something that would challenge their way of thinking entirely and inspire a change inside of them.

Sometimes it's best to step back and remove yourself -- the lack of your presence is sometimes just as powerful of a statement as well.

This train of thought is very difficult to penetrate, however, these people desperately need to have their eyes opened to see Jesus and God as the Bible portrays them. So, gently or boldly, they may need someone to redirect them.

If they, in anyway, cause you to stumble in your faith, that's a VERY clear signal to you to say goodbye.

I guess my conclusion is that you may need to approach each and every day, conversation, friendship, with a carefully guarded heart. Remaining open and alert to the Spirit's lead. He'll never lead you astray if you are walking along side Him. He promises to provide the wisdom you need as you seek Him.

Hope this makes sense and addresses your questions to us.

May the Lord strengthen you right now and provide the wisdom you need today as you wrestle with these questions and relationships. You can do it!!

But only through Him!