Anonymity Anonymous: Recovery from My Addiction to Self-reliance

17 04 2012

Tuesday Re-mix –

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:15-25 (selections)

“My name is Blake.  And I am an anonymity addict.”

I am thinking further about the notion that the American  culture has become addicted to anonymity and that the church must choose whether it will “enable” that addiction or be a place of healing from it.  This healing, I believe, is an important objective for the church today.

The “addiction” manifests itself in me every time I find myself in trouble or in pain and the little voice inside me tells me to just keep it to myself, do not show anyone this weakness, do not trouble anyone with my problem, and definitely do not let anyone see my flaws or my brokenness.  All those words and phrases like “be a man” and “buck up” and “don’t be a whiner” rattle through my thoughts.  I take it to the Lord in prayer and I decide He and I can deal with it by ourselves.  But my theology betrays me, because other words and phrases also haunt me: “We were created for community” and “there are no lone ranger Christians” and “confess your sins one to another” and “carry one another’s burdens”.  And so this tension inside remains and, alas, I usually decide against community.  I decide to just stick it out, keep it inside, and deal with it that way.  In short, I know the right thing to do…but I choose otherwise.  That, my friends, is what addiction feels like!

Like any addiction, it spins out in a variety of ways in my life.  It’s not just about my brokenness and my flaws.  It is about how genuine intimacy with friends makes me a little uncomfortable.  It is about my preference not to be bothered by YOUR problems either.  It is about my desire to bury my head in the sand and to just see the people in my church as Godly Christ-followers and not as broken vessels.  It is about being comfortable, and clean and positive and pretending to be trouble-free.  It is about deception and pretense dressed up in “positive mental attitude” clothing.  It is profoundly and pervasively present in every area of my life.

So what is the pathway of healing for this addiction?  That is what we will explore in this series of Tuesday Re-mixes.

If this problem is truly an addiction, then the solution must also be a solution for addiction.  It must be Spiritual and it must be practical (I see those two things as always going together…for me, truly Spiritual experiences have an unmistakable practical feel).  What we need is a 12-step program for our addiction…one which emanates straight out of God’s Word.  It must be founded on the eternal truths of scripture and the power of the Spirit moving through God’s people.  And if we are truly serious about healing from this particular addiction, then we will need each other.  This will not work if it is just me and my thoughts.  I will need you and your thoughts as well.  We will need to do this together.

We will call it Anonymity Anonymous: a 12-step program for our addiction to self-reliance and anonymity.  We will form our own “little” group right here on this blog.  We’ll meet here every Tuesday for the next couple of months.  I’m looking forward to it.  How about you?  Are you in?  Can we do this together?  I hope so.  See you right here next Tuesday!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Addicted to Anonymity

10 04 2012

Tuesday Re-mix –

I wonder if we in the American culture have become addicted to anonymity?

Dictionary.com defines addiction like this:

the state of being enslaved to a practice or habit or something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

When I think about the community prescribed in God’s Word, particularly in the New Testament church,  I see plenty of problems for our contemporary culture.  We have become a people insistent upon our anonymity.  We value self-sufficiency and independence almost above all things.  We write books about “self-improvement” and “self-made men”.  We idolize individual achievement and we dream about financial independence, and we describe all of this as “the American dream”.  We live in gated communities to keep out the undesirable community.  And we see anyone asking for help as weak and sad.  We have created an entire body of law around the “right to privacy” and we guard our privacy as if it is our most prized possession.  There is no question but that we have, in many ways, worked exactly contrary to the type of interdependence described in the Bible.

But none of that necessarily gets us to “addiction”.  The question is, are we “enslaved” to this need for independence?  Is it psychologically habit-forming?  If we lost it, would we be traumatized?  These are troublesome questions for me.  These are the questions I ask myself as I travel around the country from one church to the next talking about Biblical relationships and New Testament community.  I have to say it…that kind of community is not easy to find, even in the church…maybe especially in the church.

I  believe our culture’s obsession with privacy and independence and anonymity have approached the “addiction” level.  I believe this because we kick and scream anytime we lose those things.  Like an addiction, we actually know that we should be living in community and that we need other people in our lives, but through our actions we choose otherwise.  We choose anonymity, even when we know we should not.  It feels like an addiction to me.  So what about the church?

In the church, we have become so consumer-oriented that we are afraid to create an environment which might actually offend someone’s desire to remain anonymous.  We have done all our marketing homework and we know well what people want and what they do not want.  We aim to give them what they want, because we want to be a “user-friendly” church.  We create huge crowds so that a visitor can come in and, essentially, remain anonymous without being “bothered” by anyone.  What’s worse, we give our own members plenty of leeway to exercise their own desire for independence and privacy and anonymity.  We actually make it possible for people to be “members” without any investment in community or personal accountability at all.  In a sense, we have become “enablers” of our society’s addiction.

There is much to explore on this issue.  But for today, I just want to ask the questions…have we become addicted to anonymity?  And how can the church offer recovery from this addiction?
© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Your Next Step toward Community

31 01 2012

Tuesday Re-mix – 

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:13-16

Passages like this one from Pastor James make us squirm.  We see them in scripture and we gloss over them, because they make us uncomfortable.  We honestly do not know what to do with them, because, if we’re being honest with ourselves, they bear almost no resemblance at all to the church with whom we are familiar.

The notion of being so involved in one another’s lives, so intertwined together, that we know each other’s struggles and are fully mobilized to help and to pray…the notion that we would be so interdependent on each other that we would share our deepest fears and our hardest temptations, i.e., that we would actually confess our sins to each other…the notion that we would live our lives fully open and exposed to our Christian community, knowing that it is safe and that they will love and support us even with all our flaws…these notions are all foreign to our culture of self-sufficiency and anonymity.

We have reared at least two adult generations of Christians who consider social interdependence a weakness in an individual.  Saying, “I am hurting and am needing help” is reserved only for the most severe needs.  Daring to share a sin problem with a friend is not only dangerous to us, but is thought by many to be an imposition on that friend.  We build up walls of protection around us and we keep our distance.  We put on shallow, plastic smiles and we act as if everything is fine, when our lives are in fact crumbling to pieces.  In short, we live exactly opposite from the way Christian community is described in scripture.

This is why communities of support groups and recovery groups feel so refreshing to Christians.  This is why prison ministries (where there is no pretense left) and street ministries (where only humility and grace remain) have become shining examples of Christian community, while mainstream congregations often remain graceless and aloof.  And yes, this is why so much scripture about “one another” feels so very foreign to us.

The question, then, for me to ponder as I listen to Pastor James extol the virtues of Christian community is this: what can I do today in my own life to get one step closer to the kind of intimacy James envisioned when he wrote these words?  What is my next step toward community?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com