In this morning’s opinion section of the New York Times, David Brooks provided a rather insightful and thought-provoking analysis of the Republican National Convention. One paragraph in particular caught my attention:
But there is a flaw in the vision the Republicans offered in Tampa. It is contained in its rampant hyperindividualism. Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual. There was almost no talk of community and compassionate conservatism. There was certainly no conservatism as Edmund Burke understood it, in which individuals are embedded in webs of customs, traditions, habits and governing institutions.
I have often talked about American Christianity as being opposed to biblical Christianity, and I think Brooks’ comments encapsulate my sentiments pretty well. From our primary understanding of salvation as “personal” to our legalistic predilections that boost our sense of moral superiority, the Christianity we espouse rapidly drifts away from the person of Jesus like a helium ballon at a 5-year old’s birthday party. As pastors, we teach this “hyperindividualistic” nonsense and then complain because the congregation refuses to commit to ministries or shows little interest in getting involved in the lives of others. Really?
Even when people do “give” – specifically of their finances – how much of it is really nothing more than investing with the hopes of a better rate of return than the stock market? I’ve heard pastors try to raise funds by telling people that God will beat Wall Street every time, and then the same pastors get agitated when those “givers” (who aren’t really giving anything at all) turn around and act like shareholders who have a say in the decision-making of the local church. Sowing and reaping may be the single-most molested biblical concept today!
Instead of exiles, we approach the Kingdom like immigrants – people who are willing to make a huge change in their life with the hopes of a better standard of living. And yes, I mean that in the crassest way possible. Too many of us have come to Jesus because we’ve been told that he’s the president of a country with a better quality of life than we had before. So we emigrate. We’ve been told that if we just pray, give, serve, and read, we’ll suddenly become the (material) head and not the tail. So we emigrate. Sadly, we’re more reflective of the financially-driven Jamestown settlers (who were the first to bring slaves to this continent!) than we are of the Puritans who, by and large, saw the new world as an opportunity to manifest the glory of God.
If there ever was a season to be emphatic in our distance from the political parties and their ideologies, it’s now. Let’s just hope our religion doesn’t get in the way…