Adventists have two things to offer the world: the health message and the Sabbath. What we have neglected to illustrate to this global culture is Jesus, front and center. Our movement has been mired down in finger pointing and polarized camps of liberals and traditionalists. Everyone is posturing their own spiritual agenda, while we forget what we as Christians are supposed to be doing in the first place, reflecting God’s love. How dense and immature we have become, and yet we strut around in our theological glitter all hyped up on self-absorbed egotism. We’re proud little spiritual ants with all the epistemological answers.
One thing I’ve learned about myself in life is that I don’t know how to do healthful love. I have no clue. I am as co-dependent as they come. And I think it is here that all of us have a commonality. Our Hollywood culture is a macro community based on psychological constructs that are completely dysfunctional and destructive. We are a culture based on image, mindless consumerism, fame, and self-indulgence. Christianity, along with Adventism, has bought into this framework of self-expression and worldview. We share these shallow values without even realizing it. It’s little wonder modern Christianity and Adventism have such low appeal to the unchurched. They see our hypocrisy. If we truly understood the gospel, our atomic glow would be alluring in such savage proportions that the world could not ignore Jesus. But that is not the case.
I grew up in an environment of chaos and uncertainty. My father is an emotionally stunted man. His father was an alcoholic and his mother an emotionally unavailable selfish woman. His parents fought like animals. He experienced very little love and at an early age had to fend for himself. My mother grew up during WW II and her father was killed by the Nazis. My grandmother was forced to raise three children under the Nazi regime and then they fled to Sweden as refugees. My grandmother had very little time to devote to my mother and her two siblings. In order to survive, my grandmother worked long, hard hours and ruled her children sternly because that was her method of dealing with the unfair circumstances she had inherited. My mother told me she was hugged by her mother maybe three times in her life as an adult and can only remember being told ‘I love you’ once by her. My mother was a loving mother but had trouble showing affection and support to me while I was growing up, because she didn’t know how. My father is a troubled and unhappy person who smashed his way through life without resolving any of his psychological issues. And these two fragile people met somehow and got married. The relationship that ensued was rife with strife and tension. My father inspired alcohol-infused antics, and my mother enabled his behaviors. And so my brother and I grew up under this extravaganza of emotional turmoil. Consequently I spent many years self-medicating and searching for answers in self-help books, psychology, philosophy, the occult, and Christianity. What I desperately wanted was a framework to understand myself, and a framework to understand how I belonged.
For a long period of time I rejected Christianity. It was old and stale. I knew many Christians who passed along the clichés but didn’t have that unconditional love everyone talks about. It was just lip service. I became an alcoholic and substance abuser. It was my method of coping with my past and dealing with life as it ate at me. Eventually I bottomed out and almost killed a young girl when driving while impaired. I spent a brief time in jail as a result. But these events fueled my urgency to find out how to understand my pathology. Twelve-step programs and the language of co-dependent theory eventually allowed me to take a harsh look at myself which assisted me in healing and processing my personal junk. Eventually I found myself back to Christianity, but I realized along the way that most people I have met aren’t that healthy psychologically either. They may not have come from such extreme situations as mine, but they too are just as self-absorbed and emotionally unavailable as I am. To me, codependency is a language, a method to understand the mind, but it is also real when you see it explain things with such accuracy. In my opinion our Hollywood culture is codependent. Our childhoods appear to be normal on the outside: ‘my parents never hit me;’ ‘my parents got along;’ ‘I had a good childhood.’ If that is the case then why do we operate with subtle agendas? Why do we seek to control others? Why are we cold and indifferent to the poor and marginalized?
Isn’t it amusing to see how many books we Adventists and Christians write about how to do Christianity?! Oooh, this is the secret for living a purpose-filled life. Oooh, this is the better way of understanding the gospel. So many angles, so many theological pills. Yet here we are still talking about the last days. Still talking about revival. Still pointing fingers at each other playing the blame game.
All I know is that I don’t know what the answers are other than Jesus. How to get closer to Jesus and really appreciate the magnitude of His sacrifice and love is all about taking baby steps. And becoming mature psychologically is a struggle. Finding the motivation to be loving is a lesson in being humble. Being loving is an art we Adventists must learn somehow. And when we finally do, we will put Jesus front and center for the world to marvel at His love.