Don’t Become a Hobbit! (Unless God calls you to)

By Rutledge Etheridge - Posted at Gentle Reformation:

In times of significant cultural upheaval, it’s common and eminently understandable to seek whatever stability and calm we can find within our lives and to do some good soul searching about the way we’ve chosen to structure them. Are we contributing or perhaps even capitulating to the nervous, noisy way of life we see all around us? In a cultural moment tyrannized by all things digital and overloaded with a constant bombardment of information, so much of it shallow-minded if not salacious, have we neglected a simpler, more richly satisfying and God-honoring way of life? Have we unknowingly – or perhaps knowingly! – imbibed the fuss and fury of a fallen world put on fast forward? These are important questions to consider, and I’m afraid certain trends among Christians are offering overly simplistic answers in their worthy quest for a simple life filled with spiritual substance.

This piece will not be a critique of any particular book or movement; it’s more a series of observations and an offering of cautionary thoughts as we consider the increasing number of calls by Christians for Christians to come away from the clamor and corrosion of our corrupt culture and to build Christian communities defined by a simple, Shalom-pursuing life. We’re told that this is the best way to influence an anxiety-riddled, warful world for the Prince of Peace.

There’s no question that our culture is rattled; some say it’s the death rattle of the West. There’s no question that ours is a raw-nerved, anxious generation, and it’s easy to get caught up in the noise and nervousness. (I’m using the term “generation” in the way Scripture sometimes does, to indicate not so much chronology as character – see Psalm 24:1-6.) It’s popular to mock millenials for being so utterly incapable of dealing with any stress whatsoever. While stress and anxiety are more statistically evident among younger generations, it’s not just young people who’re struggling to keep it all together. The irony is palpable when much older politically conservative talk show hosts bluster and storm against the “snowflakes”, mercilessly mocking them and screaming through the airwaves that if they hear about just one more millennial meltdown their heads will explode. Seems those radio guys are a tad touchy, too! That touchiness is not so much a millennial way of life as a cultural way of life, based on philosophical and theological decisions made long ago and whose consequences are becoming increasingly clear with successive generations.

Predating our country’s founding, the Enlightened West had already been living as if God were dead. Extolling our our own ingenuity and goodness, and trusting the pristine, indomitable force of autonomous reason, we were only too happy to let it take God’s place in matters of practical, daily life – politics, civic and cultural endeavors, education and family life – in everything, really! Alas, though living conditions have improved, human beings themselves have not, nor are we even any more reasonable. Some of society’s most socially and scientifically sophisticated people have been her cruelest, and the constant and amplified warfulness of the world has shown us that the Enlightenment’s bright and blazing optimism about a peaceful world without God was galactically naive. Humans were meant to be God’s representatives in the world, not his replacements. Naturally, the crushing burden of our culture’s age-old and growing god complex weighs most heavily upon the young, so we really need to mitigate the “I thank you, Lord, that I’m not like them” mentality with which it’s popular to regard millenials and those coming after. Fallen humanity’s god-complex applies to all ages, and each of us needs to repent for our own particular participations in it, rather than stereotyping and slandering wide swaths of fellow participants.

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