Jesus looking for something to read after Church.
As you all know I’ve been reading that new Glennon Doyle book for the last long while, punctuated by brief videos of me explaining that you’re not a cheetah. The exercise, though annoying, has served to humble me through all the many pages. “I mean,” I’ve said to myself as I’ve gone back and forth across my kindle screen, “some great people were raised up in the church to cope with Arius and Pelagius, and all those kinds of people. But reading is hard, and thinking things is hard, and so how blessed am I to be in a generation of Christians that gets to have their troubling heresies handed to them in a twitter feed with watercress around the edges, so easily refuted that one barely has to lift a baby finger.”
Like this one. Compare these two little bitty verses wrenched out of context (by me) from this morning’s gospel:
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
with this from that depressing book:
We weren’t born distrusting and fearing ourselves. That was part of our taming. We were taught to believe that who we are in our natural state is bad and dangerous. They convinced us to be afraid of ourselves. So we do not honor our own bodies, curiosity, hunger, judgment, experience, or ambition. Instead, we lock away our true selves. Women who are best at this disappearing act earn the highest praise: She is so selfless. Can you imagine? The epitome of womanhood is to lose one’s self completely.
Doyle takes the whole book to make sure everyone knows, page after page after page, that the most important thing in the world is to cling onto the self at all cost, to find the self, to know the self, and, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch, to worship the self. The self is the most important thing. To suggest otherwise is heretical and bigoted.
The other depressing thing, besides the fact that this is such an ancient and trite heresy, the one propagated by Satan in that primordial garden, and which Adam and Eve were eager enough to believe that they both tasted the fruit without too much anxiety about it—all the anxiety came later—is that whereas heresy before took a lot of thinking through, all the heresy now comes emblazoned with foolish and paltry book titles, as Rod Dreher points out this morning. Here are just some from the last ten years:
Jen Hatmaker—Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire (that’s the new one); For the Love; Of Mess and Moxie
Glennon—Carry On, Warrior; Love Warrior; Untamed
Poor Rachel Hollis—Girl, Wash Your Face; Girl, Stop Apologizing
If you go off the beaten path to find some other titles you get things like Max Lucado’s When God Whispers Your Name (I haven’t read it so maybe it’s awesome), the Women of Destiny Study Bible, and something called Jesus Always (I mean, I hope it’s really about Jesus, haven’t read it either). That’s just one publisher. I don’t feel like going on much. The point being that if you want to get anyone’s attention today, the title has to be brief and it has to be about The Self in one way or another, because that’s what everyone loves the most.
It’s always been this way (see Adam and Eve above), but humanity has tried to hide it some of the time. It’s nice to pretend, at least, to be anxious about God or other people. But no longer. And so, if you’re a real Christian, but tired (like me), you don’t have to try very hard. All you have to do is flip around in your Bible a little bit and consider the eminently plain, though impossible admonitions of Jesus and post that on twitter, maybe even without commentary:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.
Why does it have to be about Jesus and not just you and your “self”? Because the sure and certain way to die forever—which is actually a lot worse than plain old annihilation, or whatever it is that Doyle thinks being “selfless” means—is to hang on to yourself. Not only can you not do it (even though she tries to tell her daughter at one point that she, the daughter, can) what will you be left with?
Yourself, alone, isolated, having alienated all those people who are also clinging so desperately to themselves. And what are you? Flesh? Anxiety? Some walking, talking To-Do List like me? You didn’t make yourself. You can’t even take care of yourself, not without help. You can’t do even those things that you want to do, like becoming a cheetah.
Anyway, it’s pride month, so I guess I will take my humility any which way I can get it. If you are a Christian this morning, go to church, lose your life, because the person who catches that life, who made it in the first place, has a far greater and more beautiful vision for how and why you matter. But the more you think about it—or rather you—the more boring and stupid and tarnished that vision will be. Jesus, on the other hand, is worth thinking about. His life is greater and more interesting than yours. His power is vast and magnificent. His love is more complicated and nuanced. His words are more full of meaning. His thoughts are far and away more exalted than your thoughts. His ways are more delightful and comforting than yours could ever be. And he gives all of himself to you, in exchange for the tragic shipwreck you would certainly make of yours if left to yourself. It’s not a fair trade but he makes it anyway.