Friday, April 26, 2013

Self-fulfillment. . . vs Self-denial

The basic modern premise of most views of life (including some that call themselves Christian) is the goal of human life is self-fulfillment.  Religion, vocation, marriage, leisure, even children all exist to aid and assist the goal of self-fulfillment.  The ultimate self-fulfillment is freedom -- unbounded and unboundaried.  In other words, the perfect spiritual fulfillment of self is the perfect and free exercise of freedom to pursue desire.

While they may be few doubts that such a view of life is behind the lifting of restrictions upon abortion and the move to redefine marriage (not so much from who will be married but what constitutes marriage), what is also true is that the Christian agenda has been hijacked in support of this radical secular and individualist view.  Humanism, whether secular or religious, has long and deep roots in the modern era but in the longer term past it was hidden behind the greater virtue of self-denial.  If anyone wonders why historic Christianity is having a hard time today, it is clearly because the ethic of the Kingdom is diametrically opposed to self-fulfillment as the goal and insists that self-denial is the highest human good.

Following up on Holy Thursday and Jesus' call to love one another as He has loved us -- complete with the demonstration of that love in the foot washing -- it is the opportune moment to rekindle the fire under the virtue of the Kingdom that comes not from the flowering of mankind to his great potential but from the example of the Holy Man and Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Although I am among those who harbor some reservations about the new Pope, I applaud his willingness to confront head on the selfish and self-centered underbelly of a world built upon the goal of personal fulfillment.  His humble nature and this touch of humility given to the papal office are profoundly needed in a world in which Christianity is increasingly twisted to become another self-help means to perfect personal freedom and every subverted desire is exposed without shame.

If you were to listen to the media you might believe that our greatest problems are too many guns, too much, too little government intervention in our lives, too many rules to restrain our desires, too much personal responsibility, etc...  In reality, we are swimming in our own self-indulgence.  We have decided that desire is the most truthful voice to be heard and every other voice -- conscience, morality, religion, and restraint included -- should be treated with suspicion and skepticism,

What pleases God, that pleases me... we sang not so long ago.  The words are from the great Lutheran hymn, I leave all things to God's direction.  In place of such reliance upon God to define and direct the goal of our lives, we have come to believe that what pleases me, that pleases God.  In worship we pick and choose what appeals to us and we define worship from the vantage point of personal preference -- convinced that if we like it, God will like it.  In morality, we look at sex, work, play, and culture from the vantage point of personal preference and desire.  There are no rights or wrongs in this world -- none, except perhaps, denying self.  So if we marry whom we want for however long we want, we treat our children as possessions (from conception to adulthood), we expect employment to be fulfilling more than productive, we act as if the goal of our lives were play, and we have surrendered every aspect of taste to what feels good in the moment (when was the last time you visited a modern art gallery).

Too many have decided that since self-denial does not sell and self-fulfillment does, the Christian Gospel must be redefined to be relevant.  In reality, any redefinition of the Christian Gospel and of the shape of the morality of the Kingdom only make us irrelevant to our purpose, to the plan of God, and to all that is eternal.

In case you do not believe me, why not read the latest on the frontal assault against morality and truth:
USA Today and a modest proposal to allow polyamory...

1    I leave all things to God’s direction;
    He loves me both in joy and woe.
His will is good, sure His affection;
    His tender love is true, I know.
My fortress and my rock is He:
What pleases God, that pleases me.

2    God knows what must be done to save me;
    His love for me will never cease.
Upon His hands He did engrave me
    With purest gold of loving grace.
His will supreme must ever be:
What pleases God, that pleases me.

3    My God desires the soul’s salvation;
    My soul He, too, desires to save.
Therefore with Christian resignation
    All earthly troubles I will brave.
His will be done eternally:
What pleases God, that pleases me.

4    My God has all things in His keeping;
    He is the ever faithful friend.
He gives me laughter after weeping,
    And all His ways in blessings end.
His love endures eternally:
What pleases God, that pleases me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen and amen.