Whole-I-Ness: A New Job to Be Done for Christianity
June 17, 2018 § 3 Comments
In many ways, Western Christianity is now a solution in search of a problem. We are a victim of our own success, having effectively worked ourselves out of a job by eliminating the “pain points” of Judaism, paganism and animism while diffusing most of our benefits into the culture. Like a technology-centric startup, we now find ourselves in the awkward situation of trying to define (or worse, create) problems that need our solution.
The alternative is to go back to the customer discovery phase. Who is our customer? What are their most important jobs to be done? What is the “impossible” thing that, if it could be done, would change everything for them?
What is it that the world most needs? Especially from us?
I believe the root cause of all the problems facing humanity today — or at least the reason we cannot solve them — is fragmentation. We are fragmented selves living fragmented lives in a fragmented society within a fragmented world. In fact, I would argue that fragmentation is the best modern term for the Hebraic concepts of sin:
James 4:1 (NIV) “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”
Romans 7:23 (NIV) “but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”
Which is arguably why Jesus so desperately longed for us to be united:
John 17:21-23 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Sadly, this is one passage that those most zealous for other aspects of Scripture consistently overlook. Given our lack of unity, is it any suprise the world doesn’t believe in Jesus or know the love of God?
The good news is that modern psychology gives us a better framework for understanding this challenge, as an alternative to divisive theologies based on neo-Platonic idealism or Marxist struggle. Work by Dick Schwartz and Carl Jung help us understand that unresolved conflict within ourselves is the main cause of unresolvable conflict with others.
“Saving our souls” by reconciling us to ourselves — what I call Whole-I-Ness — thus becomes an intensely practical and immediate concern, not just an eternal one. And thus a “job to be done” against which our performance can, at least in principle, be objectively judged and measured by the outside world.
What do you think?
P.S. As a bonus, this provides a unified framework for understand the four great love commands of Scripture:
- God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30)
- One another as Jesus loves us (John 13:34)
- Our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:33)
- Our enemies (Mathew 5:44)
I expand the philosophical concept of The Other to summarize all of these as “I will love The Other as Jesus has loved me“, a “Constitutive Confession” where love of The Other is both prescriptive (what I should do because I have received Jesus) and descriptive (what I can do to the extent I have received Jesus).
In particular, God Himself is perhaps best understood as the ultimate Other that we can only love through Christ; a high view of God’s glory and holiness often lost in modern sentimentalist Christianity.