When it comes to rugged American individualism, some say it has been a virtue. I disagree. In my opinion, it has been a major vice in regards to two of the most important realities that the Lord has given us as a statement about Himself. Both christian mysticism churches, in the marriage relationship, and church life are beautiful pictures of the reality of Christ and His church. Both have also been severely damaged as a result of individualism.
We have perfected the culture of independence and individualism here in the West. Many have prided themselves in the American work ethic of pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and taking care of business when things need to get done. Americans simply have learned to take care of themselves. Families have learned to depend on themselves as stand alone units. While the culture of independence may have had some positive effects on our work ethic & economic vitality, it has also caused us to become impoverished when it comes to our ability to relate to one another.
American individualism has taught us to think of ourselves and our own needs first. This is why Americans are such good consumers. A consumer mentality, however, is a death blow to healthy relationships. When we approach relationships from the vantage point of a consumer, the dynamic of our relationships are radically altered. Simply put, as a culture, we have lost the ability to have healthy relationships. Since all of life centers around relationships, (relationship with God and one another), it is a devastating thing to fail in our relationships. So, why is the consumer mentality so devastating for relationships? More specifically, why is a consumer mentality fatal for sexual intimacy and church life? Let me explain these two casualties of American Individualism further…
Causality # 1- Sexual Intimacy
A consumer is taught one thing; look out for yourself and your own needs. As a consumer, you are on a quest to take. A self focus lies at the heart of a consumer mindset. If there is something you need, you find the best place or person to meet your needs. When people enter into relationships with this kind of a mindset, a co-dependent relationship quickly ensues. Co-dependent relationships are never good, and very rarely end well. When it comes to sexual intimacy within the marriage relationship, consumerism and a self focused mindset can destroy the satisfying and fulfilling reality that sexual intimacy was meant to be.
The Lord created sexual intimacy to be a beautiful picture of several things. For example, healthy sexual intimacy was meant to demonstrate what it is like for one spouse to serve another spouse out of a fullness of love and life. It is not out of our lack of life and love that we give, but out of our fullness. Adam, before the fall, is a great picture of this. He lacked nothing. He walked with God with no separation from Him. He had everything He needed in the garden. Before Eve came on the scene, one thing that Adam didn’t have, however, was one who was like him whom he could share the fullness of his life and love with. When Eve was finally taken out of Adam, he could now share the very essence of his life with her. He could give her everything of Himself and hold nothing back.
Adam was simply reflecting his creator. If something was good and true in Adam, it was first good and true in God. Adam was made in God’s image. We can see from scripture that God also wants a bride to share His life and love with as well. Jesus, as the second Adam, shares this same desire for a bride. This is the very reason for the creation of the bride of Christ, which is the church! This does not come from a place of lack in the Son of God, but from His fullness and a desire to share His life and love with us. Don’t take my word for it, this picture of intimacy & oneness in marriage is actually all about Christ and His church. This mystery comes straight from the pages of scripture. Let me encourage you to read Ephesians 5:28-32.