America has a “me” problem. We’re only a day out from the mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school, and as with any other mass shooting–and there are too many to name–my heart hurts for the families who lost their loved ones and for the ones who won’t get to live out their futures.
So many of our problems in America stem from “me.” That is, in general, American individualism has overridden empathy, loyalty, and common sense. And it sure has taken hold in American evanglicalism to a sickening degree. I won’t even go into the Southern Baptist Convention’s sexual abuse scandals. The sense of entitlement is thick.
America is me-oriented. What do I want? What do I need? I’m angry and my anger justifies whatever I want to do. Even shooting children.
I see this to a lesser, seemingly harmless, extent in our neighborhoods, our gathering places, our kids’ tee ball games. If we don’t like the rules, we go on and break them. Sometimes brashly and openly. “I don’t like this rule, so I just won’t follow it because obviously it’s stupid.”
What we’re left with when we value “me” too much is a couple of generations who think they can have whatever they want. However they want. Whenever they want. They can shoot innocent school children. The elderly in a grocery store. They can have sex with that person even though they say no. That lock won’t stop them. That law can’t stand in their way. They can do whatever they want because they want.
65-75% of America claims to be Christian, and despite what American evangelicalism would tell us, Christianity is about “we” and far less about “me.”
From Judaism to the Jesus movement, the Bible is concerned foremost with community and how we treat each other. In Biblical days “we” is all there was. People had to live in large families and communities to survive.
Leviticus lays out guidelines specific to a time and people who were coming out of slavery. The Law was meant to show them how to live together in their good humanity and how to treat each other and people who were foreign to them. Yahweh set the bar higher for the Israelites than the surrounding civilizations. No child sacrifice. Set aside something for the poor. Take care of each other as a group. While those guidelines don’t always meet our standards today, God placed expectations on Israel to take care of their community and to value that community above the individual. Listen to God’s voice. Take care of people. Those are the rules.
The Jesus movement tells us the same. Time and again, Jesus took care of people. He met them where they were and he healed them. He fed and healed people at all the wrong times according to Old Testament Law and the people who wanted him dead. At the end of the day, he insisted that there is never a wrong time to feed and heal people.
As a society, we have a lot of work to do. I fear it’s work that won’t get done. Ever. Not in my lifetime. Maybe not in anyone’s. We’ve been screwing this up for millenia. The rules are pretty simple if we could embrace them. Love God and love your neighbor. Jesus followers: take care of everyone. Love everyone. Take the opportunity to choose “we” over “me.”