Friday, May 24, 2013

Loneliness and Creation

I will hazard a guess that most people are aware of the deleterious effects of being a "Lone Ranger" Christian. In other words, you can't "do Christianity" on your own and expect to succeed. You need others. But did you know that living a life of relational isolation may be severely detrimental to your physical health?

In the latest edition of The New Republic, essayist Judith Shulevitz discusses "The Lethality of Loneliness" and documents the extensive research into the science of loneliness. The results may or may not be surprising, depending on how you view the world. Her thesis is that loneliness—or, a lack of relational intimacy—is very dangerous for your health. Among the research, Shulevitz noted that "emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking." That, as they say, is serious business. But when you stop and think about it, the conclusion makes sense.

As always, we can trace the idea's genesis to, well, Genesis. One of the first things God says after delivering the creation mandate to Adam is that "[i]t is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18). And so he formed the woman out of the man, so that they could again become one flesh.

You need people—formed in the image of God—who know you intimately. When God put Adam and Eve together, "they were both naked and were not ashamed" (Gen. 2:25). God created us to commune intimately with him and with others. This means we were created for close community. So it is not surprising that loneliness—a rebellion against the created order—comes with serious side effects, both spiritual and physical.

But sin, in all its wily ways, has distorted this reality. We are prone to ardent individualism in our culture, and we try to justify our attempts to distance ourselves from true community. Thankfully, we have a perfect example of one who knows us intimately and loves us all the same. Taking the example of Christ, we can see others "naked," as it were, and still love them. We can be "naked" in front of others and unashamed, thanks to the covering of the blood of Christ. Most importantly, though, we can be naked in front of God and be assured that he loves us just as he loves his son.

I am not surprised that this study rings true, given what we see in scripture. That's usually how it goes. God has created us for community, and he has created our bodies to respond to its absence—just like we respond to an absence of food or water. It hastens our demise. So, drink to your health—with others.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Because I read about it in a book

A while back I mentioned that, when you worship yourself as god, any talk of the possibility of failure amounts to blasphemy.

This isn't a cancer that is going away on its own. When you understand how pervasive self-idolatry is, the world makes much more sense.

It explains the Benghazi cover-up. It explains why some Benghazi whistleblowers are being demoted out of Washington altogether. It also explains the why the IRS targeted conservative groups for "enhanced scrutiny" and why the White House acted like it had nothing to do with the whole scheme.

We are a nation of worshipers, but we've misplaced the object of our worship. We have been raising our children for over a generation to believe that the most important person in the world is "me." And this indoctrination goes all the way to the top. It's our national religion. What this means is that we now live in the kind of place where, if you don't bow down to the golden statue of Obamachudnezzar, you will be thrown into the fiery furnace of IRS audits and eery cover-ups. As an astute observer once asked, "So when is the maker of that YouTube video that didn't have anything to do with anything going to be released?" Exactly. This isn't about truth; it's about making sure our gods remain infallible.

So don't be surprised when crazy shenanigans are the norm (on both sides of the aisle). And don't be surprised when blasphemers are punished for their indiscretions. It's the natural outworking of an ideology we've been developing for some time. We are just now realizing that the seeds our fathers planted in the "good ol' days" weren't seeds of godliness. The leaven works through the loaf slowly, remember?

What we are dealing with in the public arena (and in our pews; it goes all the way down, too) is the third temptation of Christ: pride. When Jesus was fasting in the desert, Satan took Jesus to the top of a mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory. Satan promised Jesus all of these if he would just bow his knee and worship Satan.

Jesus refused, pointing out that God's word says you shall "worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." But why did Jesus not give in to temptation? He had seen this very temptation before, with a serpent and a woman. That time, Satan had delivered a similar promise: "'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" (Gen. 3:4–5). You will be like God. That is the lynchpin of this whole shebang. Every lie from Satan promises us god-like status because that is what our sinful hearts want. We don't want to submit ourselves completely to God.

So here is what Obamachudnezzar, Benghazi, and Satan have to do with you and me: by God's grace, we have been given the beginning and ending of the Story in his Word, in The Word. We would be fools not to look around at our world and think that it reminds us of something we read in a book once. It's true. God has given us the stories in his Word so that we can understand what is going on today, whether at the White House or in our house. Just like Christ in the desert, we can see Satan's lies for what they truly are because we have seen them play out in Scripture as just that: lies. So when we are tempted to sell Christ down river in order to increase our kingdom and our glory, remember: "worship the Lord your God and him only...." Anything else is a lie. A damned lie.