One of the troubling statements about my generation’s belief in God came from the work of Notre Dame professor Christian Smith, in which they believe in moralistic, therapeutic, deism: a God who is up there, who helps me if I need, so long as I remain a good person. Essentially, if this belief remains, my generation will wrestle with an idle God who exists at our disposal. And, behind this is a belief in the individualistic nature of humanity. We believe that God is here to meet my needs and my preferences. And, I think that two things will shake this up:
The first is that the individual self cannot exist for itself healthily without God. When the individual seeks self-gratification, it will end up in both/either narcissism and self-destructive behavior. Only when I am able to die to myself am I truly able to find myself. This true-self, is not made up of what society tells me I am, or who I want to be, but is who God tells me who I am. It is as Paul says, “not me but Christ who lives within me.” The self that finds itself in the source of life no longer needs to exist for the self, but exists solely to enhance and deepen the lives of those around them. This is a call away from the individual ego, the individual consciousness, to allow God to have a renewal of the self and the mind, and embrace the existence of God within us. The Christian faith we receive here is received from God.
The second is a calling into community. I am convinced that in our individualistic culture, we are more restless and lonely than ever. I think Mother Teresa said it so well when she said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” We have not learned how to need one another. We have not learned how to submit our lives to one another. If Christianity is going to kick this idleness, they will have to learn that we don’t get private lives. God wants us to confess our secrets, our brokenness, and our sins to one another, because this life, this work, is not something that can be done alone. Carrying our inner poverty is too much to bear on one’s own. The Christian faith here is received from one another.
Both of these lead us to the reminder that we are not our own. The life with God leads more deeply into community of his presence within us and with those around us. Both of which calls for a surrender to a life of love. And, it begins to be a life that is received, and not determined by what I say it is.