Creating the Christian Culture Bubble
Earlier, I posted about creating “The Christian Culture Bubble” in reference to a tale told by the Internet Monk. My point was to note that we seem to create our own realities that deny the real world around us. In the process, we end up sabotaging own growth and fighting a battle we can’t completely win since reality keeps pushing back. So if we’re working against ourselves and fighting a losing battle, why do we do it?
Well, for one thing, this bubble sort of has a life of its own. It piggy-backs off of the lives of those that inhabit it to some extent. Once we began creating this sub-cultural attempt to recreate reality, then those that are brought up in it, are drawn into it, or are just near it in some fashion without pushing against it (and sometimes perhaps even if they do) are going to pick up on it. This is why advertisers work so hard to get their work seen – the more we’re exposed to it, the more it just gets into our heads (and hearts). We become convinced by living among those that create their own realities that this creative process and/or its results are what we are supposed to do. The more others around us push reality away, the more we are inclined to do it ourselves. And once this begins, it becomes habit; we almost instinctively do it, shoving the unpleasant and bad parts of the world out of our awareness and making everything around ourselves happy and pleasant to the best of our ability.
And it does “work” in some ways. We are blessed with the capacity to defend ourselves psychologically by doing exactly this – pushing reality away. When things become too hurtful to us, we can find all sorts of ways to lessen the impact from denial to distraction. In a time when I was hurting terribly from a dose of needed but massive reality, someone suggested that I go to Disneyland. It wasn’t appropriate at the time, but things like that can be. When you’re feeling down, sometimes doing something fun can be worthwhile and helpful. The difficulty is that this doesn’t become a means of dealing with the unreality; it becomes a lifestyle for these bubble-ites. Such bubble-ites (I’m going to hate myself later for coining this term) want to feel better, so they deny, distract, etc. in order to make themselves feel okay or at least to make themselves stop feeling bad. Few sane people are interested in feeling bad, so we try to make ourselves feel better.
But I think we often grow afraid of feeling bad. The potential of feeling hurt or lonely or shocked is unpleasant to say the least. We fear it. We dislike this so much that we are desperate to feel something else instead. So we defend against the negative by creating as much of a positive as we can. The idea of walking into a place where we must experience the bad is terrifying, so we walk into somewhere else, even if we have to put up the walls ourselves.
But what is also terrifying is the idea of not just feeling the bad, but living in it. What if the world really is a terrible place? Then we have to escape from it by creating our own world. Don’t associate with the foolish people who are researching falsities or practicing evil; just get away. There’s some value to that in some ways, but only so far as we work to change reality rather than just running away from it. As Niebuhr suggested, we are to transform culture, not merely get out of it.
Perhaps another fear, however, is that maybe we’re wrong. Perhaps bubble-ites are at a very deep level afraid that if they are confronted with too much that is not what they believe or agree with, they will be shown wrong or foolish or silly.
And maybe there is the fear that this other reality will infect, seduce, or envelop, obliterating us.
There is a common thread through most of these possibilities. We are afraid. We try to push reality away primarily because we are frightened of what will happen if we don’t. There are numerous, perhaps infinite variations of that, but the issue is still fear. We create our own worlds because we fear what we see in others. We defend our views vehemently, sometimes violently, because if we don’t, we’re scared that something catastrophic will happen. We’re frightened of the secular world, so we seclude ourselves in supposedly spiritual ones.
God didn’t invite us to live in fear, though. Even fear that we’re not aware of. Perhaps instead of cloistering ourselves and fighting against the world around us, would it be possible to gradually let the world in and ourselves out, trusting that the real God and His love are sufficient to hold on to us and keep us safe? Could I go so far as to say that part of the sanctification or formation process is to be drawn out of our bubble and into the real world?