Cultural Insanity and The Christian

On multiple occasions over the past year I’ve had a reoccurring dream. I find myself in an insane asylum where the inmates have taken over and have the appearance of zombies. I was going from room to room looking for other trapped people, some asleep and others unaware of what was happening, and leading them to escape. At the same time, I encounter a few of the insane zombies and I am able to cure them so they become “normal” and leave with us. I believe this is a prophetic dream speaking to the nature of our culture and our mission as Christians.

In the early telling of the story of Narcissus in Greek mythology the young man become enamored with his own image and committed suicide after despairing that no one could love him as much as he loved himself. It’s from this story that modern psychology takes the name Narcissistic Personality Disorder to describe an individual with an inflated sense of their own purpose and a lack of empathy for others.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following as symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

  • Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
  • Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
  • Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
  • Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Take advantage of others to get what they want
  • Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Be envious of others and believe others envy them
  • Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
  • Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office
  • Become impatient or angry when they don't receive special treatment
  • Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
  • React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
  • Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation

I know that’s a long list but take another look. Does it sound familiar? Does it sound like a description of our current culture driven by social media? If you’re unsure take some time to browse the comment sections of just about any website or look at the viral videos of Karens and flash mob burglaries.

We are sick as a culture. If we’re lucky this sickness is limited to yelling, shouting, cheating, and stealing. On bad days it is manifested in mass shootings. The symptoms may vary in frequency and severity, but the disease remains. We have become Narcissus and if we are not careful, we will meet the same tragic end in cultural suicide.

There are two quotes that I dwell on as I think about the times in which we live. The first is from a letter Pope Benedict XVI wrote to the bishops of the world:

The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.

The second quote is from the poem The Second Coming by the Irish poet William Yeats: 

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

We are living in an insane asylum. Abandoning God, our culture has lost any connection to truth. Right and wrong, good and evil have been replaced by the pursuit of power at any cost, because those in power are those in control (or at least the hold the illusion of control). We allow politics and political maneuvering to divide us against each other to such an extreme that we can only see our opponents as evil and we dehumanize them. Losing any idea of what it means to be human, we are utterly confused about our identity and purpose.

It is only the light of Christ, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, that can bring sanity to insane world, and it is our call to be light bearers. We who know The Way are being called to lead others. We who know The Truth are being called to speak with boldness. We who know The Life are being called to lay our lives, our desires, our preferences down for the sake others. 

There may have been easier times to be a follower of Jesus, but we are only given the time that we have. Take courage, because God must have great confidence in you and me that we are the ones he has placed in this time. In words of St. Joan of Arc, we were born for this. Let's go save some souls!

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