Western Christianity is individualistic. People know that. What they don’t always see is the cost of individualistic Christianity.
Many presume that the alternative of individualistic Christianity is oppressive, mindless “organized religion.” No. Belonging to family and living like it… that’s not individualistic Christianity. That’s simply being the church.
Still, due to the fear of “group-think” or perhaps becoming “too Catholic,” Protestants defend individualism as a tenet of faith. This mentality is well rooted in the Reformation. People defend individualism, contra collectivism, based on a few key ideas, such as:
- Each person is created in God’s image.
- God loves every individual.
- Each person must make a personal decision to follower.
In short, individuals have dignity or worth, regardless of the views of their community. Fair enough. But this does not tell the whole story. The coronavirus has exposed both the contradiction and the cost of popular, individualistic Christianity.
“Covered in Jesus’ Blood”
Have you seen the clip of the Ohio women leaving her church despite the pandemic? This video illustrates how the theology of individualized Christianity is a pandemic in itself.
What’s the problem with her comments? It’s not that she thinks God is able to protect her. It’s not that she believes Christ’s blood covers her. It’s that she does not understand the implications of what she claims.
First, let’s get the obvious point out there. Jesus’ blood does not guarantee that his followers won’t die. Church history and the Bible itself argue against that. Remember Stephen and those Saul killed? Jesus was literally covered in his own blood… and he died.
How about “Love Your Neighbor”?
Second, this woman’s reasoning leads her to endanger other people. For the sake of argument, let’s grant her the point and assume that she won’t get the virus. According to her thinking, non-believers are not covered in Jesus’ blood. Therefore, they lack immunity from the coronavirus.
She chooses to overlook the danger she poses to the people around her. She might be asymptomatic yet pass it along to others, leading potentially to their death. When the report presses her on this point, she completely ignores him and drives off in frustration.
I’ve heard people cite Hebrews 10:24–25,
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Do you really think the writer of Hebrews had the coronavirus quarantine in mind? Look at the first part of the text: “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Is it not a loving, good work to take actions that protect people? What about the command to “love your neighbor as yourself”?
Does this sort of behavior and proof-texting lead to valuing other individuals? Or just yourself? Let’s be honest. Ironically, individualistic Christianity pushes believers not to love their neighbors.
Selective and Convenient Theology
Individualized Christianity devolves into a superficial brand of religion without roots. It quotes the Bible when its convenient. It prefers to selectively theologize, such as when people think the “other” political party is trying to attack their faith.
(By the way, the quarantine is not a conspiracy by liberals to attack churches. All social groups are being told to stay home.)
Subscribing to theology that is selective and convenient leads to (at least the appearance of) contradiction. The same people who claim Jesus’ blood protects them from the coronavirus belong to the same demographic that buys the most guns. I’m guessing that most of them immunize their children and want medical insurance.
What happens when the pandemic ends? I’m calling it now…. many more people will simply start “attending church” online. When that happens, pastors will suddenly realize how must individualistic thinking really has infected the church.
By then, it’ll be too late for too many people.
For previous posts on the coronavirus, check out…