Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Kingdom of God vs. Kingdom of Self

Leland, Michigan

The prophet Eugene Peterson asks a basic question:

"How do I make a difference? The world is a mess: people are living in spiritual impoverishment, moral squalor, and material confusion. Some massive overhaul is indicated. Somebody has to do something. I have to do something. Where do I start?

What does it mean to represent the Kingdom of God in a culture devoted to the Kingdom of Self?" (Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, p. 50; emphasis mine.)

Is our culture the "Kingdom of Self?" Of course. Our American world is fully committed to the marketing of the personal enhancement of "me." Crucial to this self-enhancement is that it must leave us identity-less.

That is, it offers fulfillment + emptiness, fulfillment + emptiness, ad infinitum. The end result must be personal emptiness and neediness, otherwise the whole enterprise will grind to a halt. Should consumers find their true identity, self-enhancement would no longer be needed. We would achieve contentment, and the contented do not need, hence the contented do not acquire. Put another way, contented people are satisfied people, therefore they do not experience the perpetual dissatisfaction that marketing intends to produce in them.

The experiential claim of the authentic Jesus-follower is that they have the answer to self-identity and fulfillment; viz., Christ in them, the hope of glory. Christ's joy and peace are theirs. Peterson knows this, and asks the question: How can I live this out in a culture fully invested in seducing me to invest in perpetual dissatisfaction and malcontentment?

In my new book I talk about how persistent praying in a certain way results in identity growth - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.