That is the theme for this month's issue of TableTalk magazine. There are some good articles in it. I read through quite a few of them last night during the commercials while I watched the Montreal Canadiens stomp on the Minnesota Wild.
One of the first articles is by Harry L. Reeder, and it is called "Cultural Narcissism and a Titanic Lesson." He begins the article by discussing the contradiction in presentation between James Cameron's movie Titanic and what really happened. You remember that scene where the poor people from steerage were kept from getting to the life boats? Never happened. From what Reeder's article said, the survivors of Titanic were a large cross-section of many socioeconomic backgrounds. The life boats contained mostly women and children from all backgrounds. The men on that ship put the women and children first. Reeder says that the rationale for the actions of those who allowed others to get off the boat first was a manifestation of the Christian virtue of self-sacrifice. Titanic sunk in 1912, an time vastly different from ours. While there has always been self-centeredness in the world, there was a day when it was a virtue to be self-sacrificing.
Reeder extends this to a discussion of how different the culture is today and how that affects the church:
The contemporary culture flounders in a sea of narcissism, yet the contemporary church is likewise floundering the the exaltation of self and the supremacy of personal idolatry. Many churches (and, therefore, their members) long ago abaondoned the gospel call "not [to] be conformed to this world but [to] be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom. 12:1-2). The church no longer shapes the world because it is being shaped by the world. Today's church cannot suppress, much less transform, the disastrous effects of narcissism in the culture because narcissism in the culture is unsuppressed and flourishing within its own ministerial borders. The evidences of self-absorption within the church are undeniable and on the verge of going viral.
I'm sure we can all see evidences of this. One area I notice is in worship music, especially the kind that young people like. For three years in our youth group, I supervised the youth worship leaders as they slected the music and got ready for each week's meeting. This involved using The Sacred Power Point. I saw a lot of the lyrics, and yes, the pronoun "I" was very evident. Of course, that pronoun is featured in the Psalms, so it's not like there is no precedent for singing in that manner. The big difference of course, is that the Psalms always lead back to God, whereas many of the worship songs do not.
There is a felt need among younger generations to have worship music that speaks to their generation. People want worship done according to something that speaks to their generation (and that goes for many generations, not just people under 25 years of age). Years ago, Oldsmobile ran a campagin under the principle that Oldsmobile was making a car that was "not your father's Oldsmobile." This was directed to younger people. I get the feeling that young people purposely seek a faith that is not their "father's faith." It's about what appeals to them instead of what is sound biblical practice. They're not alone, either. There are some 30-somethings out there with similar thinking.
I see this in women's ministry. We want to have ministry done to suit exactly how we are as women, totally forgetting that before God there is no male or female. Of course there is nothing wrong with having women's ministry done with things that are just enjoyable to women, but there is a tendency to approach everything with the thought "How does this affect me as a woman?" I can't help but think that is evidence of narcissim coming through. We really can't avoid it. We are by nature narcissists. The task before us as Christians is to draw upon the Holy Spirit and fight it. Reeder ends his article with this:
The narcissism of the world can be suppressed and even transformed, but it must first be confronted in us as we, who are saved by grace, say no to the world's deceitful call ot self-worship and yes to Christ's liberating call of self-denial. This is a liberation that will allow us to make muc of Christ, who did much to save us.