I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:15-25 (selections)
“My name is Blake. And I am an anonymity addict.”
I am thinking further about the notion that the American culture has become addicted to anonymity and that the church must choose whether it will “enable” that addiction or be a place of healing from it. This healing, I believe, is an important objective for the church today.
The “addiction” manifests itself in me every time I find myself in trouble or in pain and the little voice inside me tells me to just keep it to myself, do not show anyone this weakness, do not trouble anyone with my problem, and definitely do not let anyone see my flaws or my brokenness. All those words and phrases like “be a man” and “buck up” and “don’t be a whiner” rattle through my thoughts. I take it to the Lord in prayer and I decide He and I can deal with it by ourselves. But my theology betrays me, because other words and phrases also haunt me: “We were created for community” and “there are no lone ranger Christians” and “confess your sins one to another” and “carry one another’s burdens”. And so this tension inside remains and, alas, I usually decide against …
the state of being enslaved to a practice or habit or something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
When I think about the community prescribed in God’s Word, particularly in the New Testament church, I see plenty of problems for our contemporary culture. We have become a people insistent upon our anonymity. We value self-sufficiency and independence almost above all things. We write books about “self-improvement” and “self-made men”. We idolize individual achievement and we dream about financial independence, and we describe all of this as “the American dream”. We live in gated communities to keep out the undesirable community. And we see anyone asking for help as weak and sad. We have created an entire body of law around the “right to privacy” and we guard our privacy as if it is our most prized possession. There is no question but that we have, in many ways, worked exactly contrary to the type of interdependence described in the Bible.
But none of that necessarily gets us to “addiction”. The question is, are we “enslaved” to this need for independence? Is it psychologically habit-forming? If we lost it, would we be traumatized? These are troublesome questions for me. These are the questions I ask myself as I travel around the country from one church to the next talking about Biblical relationships and New Testament community. I have to say it…that kind of community is not easy to find, even in the church…maybe especially in the church.
I believe our culture’s obsession with privacy and independence and anonymity have approached the “addiction” level. I believe this because we …
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:13-16
Passages like this one from Pastor James make us squirm. We see them in scripture and we gloss over them, because they make us uncomfortable. We honestly do not know what to do with them, because, if we’re being honest with ourselves, they bear almost no resemblance at all to the church with whom we are familiar.
The notion of being so involved in one another’s lives, so intertwined together, that we know each other’s struggles and are fully mobilized to help and to pray…the notion that we would be so interdependent on each other that we would share our deepest fears and our hardest temptations, i.e., that we would actually confess our sins to each other…the notion that we would live our lives fully open and exposed to our Christian community, knowing that it is safe and that they will love and support us even with all our flaws…these notions are all foreign to our culture of self-sufficiency and anonymity.
We have reared at least two adult generations of Christians who consider social interdependence a weakness in an individual. Saying, “I am hurting and am needing help” is reserved only for the …