May 12, 2021
This past weekend a man showed up at a birthday party in Colorado Springs, CO, shot and killed six people, including himself. The alleged motive was that he was upset that he had not been invited. Playing Monday morning quarterback, people analyze this tragedy and ask, “What went wrong and what can we do about it?” Here are some possible responses.
- Hire security guards for your birthday parties.
- Make sure people like this get invited.
- Don’t have a birthday party.
- Don’t hang around angry people prone to violence.
- Ban guns so things like this don’t happen.
Each of these proposed responses is woefully inadequate and fails to get at the heart of the problem. From the sheer number of similar events like this in our country, it is obvious that we have a very big problem. However, the problem did not start with the school shooting in Columbine, even though that event seemed to mark the beginning of an era of public acts of violence and murder. The problem is much deeper and deserves our attention. Even as believers, we are exposed to the wrong labels which have contributed to our cultural context where more and more people react to perceived injustice and disrespect with such overt violence.
In his work, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, Philip Rieff demonstrates the cultural movement from the Religious Man (whose world is shaped by a transcendent reality) to the Psychological Man (whose world is shaped by his own desires). Religious Man used to be the dominant view in our world. That view is long gone and is not coming back any time soon. Today, the Psychological Man is the dominant view. Therefore, as Reiff says, “Religious man was born to be saved, psychological man is born to be pleased.”
This is the air that we breathe, the water in which we swim, the beliefs that are pounded into our minds, not just in our public schools but in all of the advertising we are relentlessly exposed to. The problem is that our hearts are very willing to embrace it. They sound like this: The purpose of life is pleasure. I live not just to pursue happiness, but to achieve it. The world exists to make me happy. I get to decide what makes me happy and you HAVE to agree with me. I am my own god. If you do not agree with my definition of happiness or what I say will make me happy, then you are shaming me, abusing me, harming me and not letting me be safe, because you are not letting me be me.
The current standard for right and wrong is not only inherently unstable, it is extremely volatile. Simple disagreements immediately escalate to nuclear war because, if you disagree with me, you are violating my rights to be me.
Our self-constructed identities are completely devoid of God, except in the minds of some, who want to retain their own version of God. To them, God exists to support their attempt to create the world according to their likeness. If you dare to disagree with them and point out that God is God and He is Lawgiver and King, then you (us, the church) can be accused of oppression, harm, and abuse.
For those of you who are closer to my age, you can remember the time when Bruce Jenner was hailed as the ultimate American, the winner of the Olympic decathlon who ran out on the track with our nation’s flag (a moment captured on a Wheaties box) while we cheered wildly. If Bruce would have said then that he was actually a woman who was trapped in a man’s body, we would have thought that this was about the most incongruous, absurd, and illogical idea we had ever heard of. Today, a sentiment like this is not only accepted, it is demanded that everyone accept it. But, as the gunman in Colorado demonstrates, this demand of self cannot sustain the weight of reality. Our culture is imploding on itself, yet genuine Christians are going to be more and more accused of being the problem.
It’s a strange time to be alive, but here we are for such a time as this. Our influence in the public square may wane, but the need has never been more urgent. Join me on the night of June 2
(7 PM) as I discuss this in more depth.
Grace and Peace,
Sunday’s text: 2 Peter 1:12-1