Thursday, 10 July 2014

From Self-Help to Self-Absorption to Entitlement

Perhaps this is where it all started.

I had some very eye-opening conversations with Michael Harvey recently about the difficulty of inviting people to church, or, of particular interest to me, to Alpha.

The common reason one finds for the seeming inability to invite is fear. Fear in several areas; fear of rejection; fear of imposing our views on others; fear of losing a friend, fear of not having the right words, etc.

As hesitant as people have become to invite, I think we have also seen a corresponding hesitancy to accept invitations.
Why is this? I have some thoughts. I think people today are far more self-centered than in previous generations. We often want to be able to indulge every desire without accountability. I believe the current focus on matters of broadening sexual morality and various sexual rights is a symptom or a result of this new attitude; not a cause of it. Within my own memory, I look back to the self esteem teachings of the 1970's when my own children were young. It began to become the attitude that children should never face disappointment or "failure." Competitiveness and reward for excellence fell out of favour, because, hey, we didn't want less talented children in various areas to feel left out or disadvantaged or, well, less talented.

So, along with this sense of entitlement comes an aversion to accountability. People have become so self entitled, and right and wrong so subjective, that we don't want anybody pointing out what we know they will tell us is wrong. It's an insult that anyone would have the nerve to think that anything we do is wrong. And the Christian faith and church is seen by many as THE paradigm of legalism, rules and enforced accountability.

So we have an image problem. Some churches have tried to solve the problem by softening, relaxing their standards, both in theology and behaviour. It hasn't worked.

We have progressed from an attitude of independence, to self reliance, to self indulgence, to selfishness. The standard commercial buzzphrase in recent generations has become, "You deserve it. You're worth it." But perhaps it began decades earlier, with Dale Carnegie. Perhaps in fact it began, come to think of it, in the garden with the lie, "You can be like gods."

Perhaps it has always been thus, but in recent years it now seems more pervasive than ever.
What can we in the church do about it? How can we draw people with ears to hear into a conversation about the Christian faith without first scaring them away? I wonder if this would work.

Take Care

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