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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Life is All About Jesus by Jaquelle Crowe

jaquelle crowe

Kids today are growing up in a compulsively connected world. Information is incessant, smartphones are ubiquitous, and with a click or a tap young people have 24/7 access to a never-ending digital conversation.

Of course, such connectivity comes at a cost. Much of this information is pumped out by an agenda-driven media with a message of their own—a message that sounds good, nice even, but is inherently poisonous. It is becoming louder, stronger, and constant. And young people are drinking it in.

This is the message of expressive individualism—the belief, Tim Keller explains, that “identity comes through self-expression, through discovering one’s most authentic desires and being free to be one’s authentic self.”

This is the follow-your-heart, believe-in-yourself, chase-your-dreams, Disney-Hallmark-MTV gospel. It is the catechism of our culture. It is what our youth are learning. You are the creator of your identity. You are free—even obligated—to be whomever or whatever makes you feel good, no matter what anyone says.

Expressive individualism is steadily becoming pervasive. It bleeds through everything—movies, music, books, news reports, private conversations. Think of Hollywood for the most obvious example. Moana, Disney’s latest animated family flick, has been getting rave reviews for its stunning graphics and gorgeous soundtrack. But Christians have also noted its less praiseworthy underlying ideology.

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The movie (much in the tune of its predecessor, Frozen) teaches kids that they must look within to find their true identity and purpose—even if people tell them not to, even if they’re “breaking the rules,” as Frozen’s Elsa so proudly declares. This theme weaves its way through much modern children and young adult media—its sitcoms and cartoons, its novels and comic books, and, of course, its movies.

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Another cultural idea propelled by expressive individualism is the self-esteem movement, typically aimed at teenage girls. This movement teaches some true and beautiful things Christians would affirm, such as the inherent worth that flows from being an image-bearer of God. But in much of the “ra-ra, you go, girl” mentality there exists a deeper craving for self-fulfillment. It doesn’t matter what “the haters” say. You’ve got to be loud and proud and, no, no, don’t just love yourself, sister; worship yourself. Be whomever you want to be and find your happiness in that self-realized identity. Embrace the true you, and shame anyone who doesn’t.

Yet all of this flies quite blatantly in the face of Scripture’s teaching.

Instead of following our hearts, God calls us to follow his will and keep his commands (Prov. 3:5–6).

Instead of bucking against authority and breaking rules, God calls us to honor our parents and respect authority (Eph. 6:1–3).

Instead of looking within to find our identity, God calls us to look to Christ alone (Col. 3:1–3).

Instead of idolizing our bodies, God calls us to steward them for his glory (1 Cor. 6:15).

Instead of going our own way, God calls us to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).

Instead of individualism, God calls us to obey and adore the King (Eph. 4:15–16).

The narrative of self-fulfillment is an enemy of the gospel.

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Parents, teach your children life really isn’t about them; it is about Jesus. For only when they grasp this point will they become who they were truly created to be.

Jaquelle Crowe, The Gospel Coalition, How Youth Like Me Learn Expressive Individualism, January 4, 2017

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8 Comments

  1. Pingback:Dismal theology-related quote for the day | Civil Commotion

  2. Avatar
    Brian

    “Of course, such connectivity comes at a cost.”

    Yes, Jaquelle, your compulsive focus on God does come at a high cost. You cannot view normal life, everyday life through your own existence, your free breath in this glorious world. You haunt yourself with your failure to save Christ from suffering over your sin. You pour over every moment to see how you are failing the big Him. You must fail, Jaquelle, because the Christianity you serve is designed to harm you, to keep you hating your natural self. It is very sad to read what you write and how lost you are…
    Believe in yourself. Don’t hate yourself like this… Not one of us is perfect and we should not be because to be human is to be dark and light together, dawn and dusk. We do the best we can with what we are given. You honor your parents by being honest with yourself, by caring for yourself and telling your truth, YOUR human truth, not spouting Bible verses to dumb yourself into oblivion. The narrative of self-fulfillment is not evil; it is okay to care for yourself, to honor your own ideas and feelings, your own dreams even if you make mistakes. You don’t even have any perspective on this ‘gospel’ you speak of…. What if Jesus was asking others to follow him in the process of being, not be some self-hating memorizer of scripture but somebody who goes out alone and is who they are, not a follower. Stop being a follower. When Jesus said, follow me, did he mean be a sheep or did he mean be yourself? Quit hating who you are…

  3. Avatar
    Trenton

    Jaquelle, when I was a christian I put on the good boy mask and said everything was fine and did my best to serve Jesus in the best way I could. Behind that mask I was so deep in a closet you would have to go past it through narnia all the way to find that dark island mentioned in those books to find me. My life was a nightmare frought with logical fallacies, suicidal thoughts, helping others while drowning myself. Only by slowly starting to open up and allowing myself to be me did anything start changing. While you may say that we should look to christ alone, if I followed that path I would probably not be here. Christ alone would have killed me by clobber versing me into submission. Hell exists and it caused by people like you saying shit like this and forcing others to be like you. It. Does. NOT. Work. So please put your mask on and let the rest of us live our lives in peace.

  4. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I don’t believe in Jaquelle’s deity, but I do think her theology comes from a not-unreasonable reading of the Bible. It’s also pretty toxic, but consider that the source material is pretty toxic in places, too.

    It’s also true that one can take expressive individualism to an extreme, as she illustrates in a series of caricatures of how real people feel/act/react. But most people I know, even young adults, are doing their best to juggle their own needs and self-expression with acknowledgement and appreciation for the needs of the family, friends, and society that they’re interconnected with. It’s important to be yourself and find and express your own personal gifts in part so that you can be the best resource possible for the people you care about.

    Back when I was growing up Catholic, my devout mother used to say (sometimes with justifiable exasperation), “God gave you a brain! Use it!” But even if you reject the existence of God, there’s a lot to be said for using your own brain, thinking things through yourself, being your own individual self, and through that accomplishing your goals–which hopefully include what Christians sometimes dismissively call ‘good works’ and what I consider valuable activities that bind members of our very social species together.

  5. Avatar
    Rachel

    When this woman insists “Honour your parents” is she even aware that some parents behave appallingly and abuse their children? What planet is she living on, seriously?

    Authority (not just within the family) can be toxic i.e. lots of people spent years being loyal to Hitler, inc lots of people who KNEW full well that people were being exterminated as part of his policy. Where’s the virtue in that?

    Can’t decide whether this woman is particularly stupid or deeply in denial. Perhaps both. Denial like this is beyond dangerous.

  6. Avatar
    Brian

    Rachel, Jaquelle is a preacher’s kid, homeschooled in preacherdom, overcome with faith and unable to wish for anything other than losing herself in Jesus. When young people are raised in the slippery bubble of evangelical zeal, they are broken by it and take up the only thing available to them, the Cross. Toxic? Very.
    Are we preacher’s kids stupid for being ‘brainwashed’ from the womb onward? I don’t think so. We are very much in denial, yes, very harmed as I see it (a preacher’s kid now in his sixties) but stupid is just plain the wrong word. Her missionary vision is so black and white that it could easily be mistaken for stupidity but it is far from it. This ‘faith’ has ruled the ages and amassed riches over centuries. It attracts people and changes their lives!

      • Avatar
        Brian

        By golly, 19…. that means she knows pretty much everything. Or does that happen at 16 years? If it is 16, then Jaquelle is in decline! Just how far i have declined now that I am in my sixties, 64 I think, is quite astounding. I am pretty much Schultz now, standing pie-eyed and shouting, I know nawwwwthing, nawwwwwthing!

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