3rd July 2013

Followers not Fans

The cover of the May 2013 issue of Time magazine refers to the millennials as ‘lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents’, the ‘Me,Me, Me’ generation. Whilst it is obviously wrong to generalise it does speak a lot about the culture we are living in and the article makes an interesting read.

The millennials are those born between 1980 and 2000. Most especially in the last decade, it is true to say that the prevailing philosophy and ubiquitous technology highly encourage the exaggerated preoccupation with self. I read somewhere that recent studies suggest that the millennial generation are connected technologically, divided physically and adrift morally.

It is not that this type of narcissistic selfishness, pride and vanity didn’t exist before (it goes back to the Garden of Eden really) but more than ever before ‘the narcissist may find it easy to say no to others , but he’s much less likely to say no to himself’ and ‘fail to master his own impulses and desires’ (Ross Douhart, Bad Religion, p.235)

The Christian way is radically different. First and most importantly we need to recognise that just as it is absurd for us to fill the place in our hearts reserved for human relationships with friends, spouses and children with our pets, so it is even more than absurd to fill that place reserved in our hearts for God with people and material pursuits, making idols of them.  It is because this is the case with so many youth today that there is so much restlessness, hopelessness and hedonism.

As we encounter the Lord’s love and truth and allow him to lead us to ongoing conversion, we begin to experience the real joy of living and authentic loving. To persevere in this relationship with Jesus we need to live a genuine interior life where we ensure that the Lord is not displaced from our heart by the many distractions that come out way. It is only His grace that heals us of our narcissism and frees us to live in true freedom.

But this takes serious commitment from our part not just moments of emotional enthusiasm. Jesus wants followers not fans as He we learn from Luke 9:51-62. This means overcoming the malaise of laziness and indiscipline and seeking to be people of prayer and fidelity. When we fail, the Lord of new beginnings receives us back when we turn to Him again in humility and repentance. But He doesn’t change His terms: He invites  us to be disciples not admirers, yes followers not fans.