My roommate Ryan has written a stinging critique of individualism on his blog. He asked some of the following questions,
“Why is it that as such social beings we want to be so individualistic? We want to block people out, we want to keep people out of our own personal “me” box…We have to bribe people to travel together with things like carpool lanes, or cheap public transportation, and yet we still have freeways jam-packed with cars filled with four empty seats going the same way at the same time. We have made a science out of personalizing things, personal meals at restaurants, personal computers, personal music players…personal bathrooms (his and her sinks). And I could go on…”
Brent, over at his blog, is also talking about this very American topic:
“To the modern sophisticate, salvation has become something merely and completely personal. It is your personal “salvation experience” and it is about you going to heaven. Yet, it seems that the biblical proclamation of the Gospel was not only much less individualistic, but also more kingdom oriented. Jesus message was about the arrival of the Kingdom.”
If Ryan is correct, and we really cannot deny his assertions that we live in an individualistic society, then we must wrestle deeply with Brent’s thoughts on the kingdom orientated community of Jesus Christ. Jonathan over at his blog argues that “individualism has such a grand effect on evangelical Christianity the question is then raised: Should ‘decisions’ be a measure of success for evangelical churches? Rather the question is ‘are decisions for Christ significant and of ultimate importance if they do not represent an individual’s actual decision to follow Christ into a life of discipleship and become part of the kingdom of God via the body of Christ? When it really comes down to it, it’s not about how many people raise their hand while everyones heads are bowed and eyes are close…rather, it’s about ‘successfully immersing lives into the life of Christ and his kingdom.”
All of these questions are extremely important in considering Christ in culture. Our culture has created certain “boundary markers” to define what makes someone a Christian, and these boundaries are largely superficial (for more on this read Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted). The goal for the Christian is to move beyond these classic American cultural values and create markers for the Christian life that are not superficial. This means that certain views on salvation may have to change, certain church practices may have to be more transformative, and that church may be a more uncomfortable place where people actually bump shoulders communally.