Spiritual Bankruptcy

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     In the January issue of Christianity Today, there was an article titled, Cracks in the Crystal Cathedral(p. 59).  Robert H. Schuller’s famous Crystal Cathedral was built on the foundation of self-esteem.  In a 1984 interview with Christianity Today, Schuller said that when he came to Garden Grove, California, in 1955, he asked himself, “What human condition exists here that I can have a mission to?”  His answer was “emotional hunger.”  “Because of that,” he said, “we have developed our present ministry.”
     This mega church filed for bankruptcy last October (2010).  It has experienced a 24 percent drop in donations and a $50–$100 million debt owed to more than 550 creditors. 
     The Schuller enterprise is filing for bankruptcy on more than one front.  It is spiritually bankrupt.  Its message trapped and isolated people in the self.  It helped fuel a culture a  narcissism.  The gospel of self-esteem failed. 
     What makes the Gospel relevant?  Man’s basic spiritual need has not changed through the centuries.  Man’s greatest spiritual need is salvation from sin and its consequences.  It is salvation from self.
     In Matthew 16:24, Jesus states, “…if any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.”
     (1)  God calls us to self-denial.  Self-denial is forbearance from gratifying one’s own desires.  The old man is put to death (Col. 3:5).  We must deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12).  Peter instructs us to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (I Pet. 2:11).
     (2)  Christ calls us to follow Him.  The new man in Christ is created by the redemptive power of Christ (Eph. 2:10).  The new man is shaped by pursuit of Christ’s example (I Pet. 2:21-25).  Paul stated it best, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).  Our self-esteem is derived from the grace of God.  Paul said, ‘I am what I am by the grace of God” (I Cor. 15:10).  Paul was not a self-made man but a God-made man.
     (3)  We must “take up our cross.”  The Christian life is costly.  It demands our all.  We must be willing to sacrifice and suffer for Christ’s sake.  We truly become servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Self-seeking and selfishness are eliminated and selfless service takes precedence in one’s life. 
     The Gospel of self-esteem glorifies the self.  It offers up a batch of cheap feel good cookies for one to indulge in.  It leads to spiritual bankruptcy.  There is something better, but it is more costly.

Parenting Styles Associated With Narcissism

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     Drew Pinsky in his book, The Mirror Effect, identifies three parenting styles associated with the development of narcissistic traits.  Let’s consider each one.
     First, there is the blatantly lenient, indulgent and permissive style.  This style is characterized by: too much freedom, blaming others when the child gets into trouble and looking the other way whenever the child acts out (p. 219).  This style is further identified by a lack of interest on the part of the parent in the child.  There is no investment of emotional or physical time with the child.  Also, the parent displays self-interest.  The parent won’t risk second-guessing the child’s behavior because his achievements or career benefits the family.  Parents often teach the child that he is superior to others and entitled to special treatment regardless of his behavior (p. 219).
     Second, there is the enmeshed and manipulative style.  Enmeshed and manipulative parents often see themselves as intensely loving and protective, but, they selfishly undermine their child’s development of an independent sense of self by allowing their identity as a parent to become completely enmeshed in their child’s life (pp. 220-221).
   Third, there is the unloving and strict style.  Narcissism can develop when a child’s sense of self is shaped by a parent who is cold and hard, but nevertheless regards his or her child as gifted or special (p. 223). 
     What are some of the ways narcissism is expressed in teens and young adults? 
     1. Victimizing or bullying.  People with narcissistic personalities who experience social rejection are more aggressive–explaining why some teens are more prone to violence than others. (p. 201).
     2. Hypersexuality. Empty arousal of sexuality.  Use of sex to encourage the teenage inclination to avoid closeness and rely on strategies that help manage emptiness and unpleasant emotion (p. 202).
     3. Body image.  Multiple piercings, tatoos, eating disorders are all signs that a teen is distanced from his or her feelings or emotions (p. 203).  Others: substance abuse, self-mutilation, cutting, aggression, hypersexuality, are all ways teens use to control their emotions. People who employ these behaviors would rather destroy themselves than trust and be vulnerable with another person (p. 204).
     4.  Alcohol or drug abuse.  Normalizing substance abuse by teenagers is a huge mistake (p. 205).  How do we do this?  By saying things like, “Oh, kids will always experiment–that’s what they do.”
     5.  Self-harming/ acting out.  Emotional pain and unregulated emotions produce aggression.  Video game violence, ultimate fighting, and some reality television shows glorify aggression.  Young people mimic these behaviors and act out themselves.


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     Recently, I have been reading a book by Drew Pinsky titled, The Mirror Effect.  I recommend this book to anyone who desires to gain an insight as to what is going on in our society with regard to narcissistic behavior.  Pinsky states that narcissism springs from an opposite relationship with the self: not self-involvement, but a disconnection with oneself.  The key to understanding the Narcissus myth is not that he fell in love with himself, but he failed to recognize himself in his own reflection.  In other words, true narcissists are not self-aware.  A real narcissist is dissociated from his or her true self; he feels haunted by chronic feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and self-loathing and seeks to replace the disconnection with a sense of worth and importance fueled by others.  Narcissism is also marked by a profound lack of empathy, a fundamental inability to understand and connect with the feelings of others.  Taken together, these are the traits psychologists measure in diagnosing (NPD) narcissistic personality disorder (Drew Pinsky, The Mirror Effect, p. 88).
     Pinsky gives seven traits of narcissistic personality disorder. 
     —Authority.  Narcissists are highly authoritative.  They display unregulated aggression, regulate every aspect of their environment, have a severe imparity to trust, and present their opinions as unassailable.
     —Entitlement.  Many people feel entitled to have everything they want.  This produces feelings of grandiosity.    
     —Exhibitionism. This is the desire to perform or speak before an audience. The desire to be noticed. 
     —Exploitativeness.  A disregard for other people’s priorities and feelings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
     —Self-Sufficiency.  Overly self-sufficient people can find it difficult to collaborate or to register other people’s points of view.  This trait can also interfere with the person’s ability to ask for help.
     —Superiority.  This is the belief that one is better than others and thus entitled to deference or special treatment.  Narcissists shout, “Do you know who I am?”
     —Vanity.  This trait involves preoccupation with oneself and one’s appearance.  It also involves an inflated sense of one’s abilities. (The Mirror Effect, pp. 112-122). 
     I am sure you will hear more about narcissism.  I have already heard several people refer to it in television interviews and discussions.  Pinsky’s book is worth reading.  I will give some more information from it in future blogs.