Summary: American Christainity has bought into some unbiblical ideas about faith and church and Jesus. This week, we talk about the lone ranger Christianity build on individualism
1. Jesus and Me Myth
We’re prone to pick up and pass on myths. I know this because I have an email account. I get about 4 emails a week detailing fantastic stories that just a small amount of research will prove totally false. But people just keep picking them up and passing them on.
How many of you have received the email about how Madelyn Murray O’Hare is trying to stop the TV broadcast of Touched by an Angel? She’s dead! Died 12 years ago! I don’t think she cares about Touched by an Angel anymore.
We can all be gullible at times, can’t we? A good friend of mine came back from a family cruise last week and one of the crew members told him about some of the dumbest questions other passengers have asked.
- What do you do with the ice sculptures after they melt?
- Can I go to the singles and solo mixer lunch if I’m married?
- Does the water go all the way around this island?
- In Juneau harbor they were still on the boat and a man points out some mountains and asks the Cruise director, “so what’s our current elevation?”
As is often the case, ignorance is an opportunity for a myth to get started. So this cruise director decided that dumb questions was a chance to start a new myth.
- do the crew members go home at night? (He responded: yes they all ride home in a magic helicopter to their 29 different home countries. After that a woman actually complained to him about being woken up by a helicopter in the middle of the night!)
- Does the ship generate its own power? (He said: No we went to every hardware store in Seattle and bought all the extension cords available. There’s a guy at the back of the ship madly connecting cords. The bonus is, if we get lost we have a tether back to Seattle.)
That’s how they a myth starts, when we turn our critical thinking powers off and just accept what’s fed to us. We do this with Christianity too.
A lot of us believe different myths about God, and the church and Christianity. And why should this concern us? Because myths make us miserable. Ignorance isn’t bliss. Jesus Christ himself said, in John 8:32
the truth will set you free.
JESUS AND ME
So the first myth I want to look at is the JESUS and ME myth. In it’s simplest form, this myth says:
- Christianity is about an intensely private relationship with Jesus.
- Christianity has nothing really to do with clergy or churches – it’s my individual experience with Jesus (as I define him) that matters.
- The church is a bondage building institution.
- I don’t have time for “organized religion”,
- I have my own private beliefs that I determine on my own.
- The church is irrelevant because it’s authoritarian and hierarchical
- I don’t need a paternalistic organization telling me what to think or how to behave.
That’s the JESUS AND ME myth. Ever heard anyone talk like that? Ever talked like that yourself? Well, friends, I hate to break it to you, but this is a myth. Jesus never intended us to understand his message and mission apart from this institution called “the church”.
But I would say MOST Americans don’t believe that. Sociologist Wade Roff found that even 54% church going Americans say:
- to be alone and meditate is more important than to worship with others
- Same % said, “churches have lost the real spiritual part of religion”
So if the churched feel that way, imagine the UNCHURCHED! Like Bill Maher, who hosted Politically Incorrect. He said:
“I’m a big fan of Jesus. I’m not a big fan of those who work for him.”
Now, friends this is not just an issue of Christian hypocrisy.
- The myth isn’t just saying “oh, the church needs to be reformed.” No.
o This is an issue of thinking the church needs to be replaced!
- The myth isn’t just saying, “the church has abused it’s authority” NO.
o The is an issue of saying, “the church should have no authority.”
- It’s isn’t about saying the church doesn’t help us follow Jesus as well as it could,
o It’s an issue of thinking that the church keeps us from following Jesus.
Now, to help you understand how this myth developed, and why it’s so pervasive in our time, we need to get a bit of a history lesson on AMERICAN INDIVIDUALISM (I found this fascinating!). Here’s a definition of Individualism before we begin:
an outlook that stresses human independence and the importance of individual Self-reliance and Freedom.