Thanks-Giving or Self-Absorption? – by Greg Albrecht
Friend and Partner Letter from November 2015:
The day and season of Thanksgiving, already celebrated in Canada on October 12, and yet to be celebrated here in these United States on November 26, is much more than turkey and pumpkin pie! From a Christ-centered perspective Thanks-Giving is aptly named, for giving thanks is one of the most inevitable characteristics evident in those in whom the Master lives and works.
Sadly, it seems giving thanks and being grateful is increasingly becoming extinct in our world. The plight of many today, particularly the younger generation, is that their spiritual senses have been overwhelmed by the ultimate goal of self-gratification. Many find themselves enslaved and captivated by passive distractions, with their attention glued to amusements, and in such a state they see no reason for thanksgiving to God!
One might say that our world is increasingly addicted to lust and seemingly “allergic” to God. Our world seems brainwashed by its love of devices and amusements. The specter of a family sitting together at a table in a restaurant, glued to their electronic devices, virtually ignoring members of their immediate family who are sitting only a few feet away is an increasingly common sight.
Paul painted a frightening picture of spiritual self-absorption:
Don’t be naïve. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. [The King James Version says here, “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God”] – 2 Timothy 3:1-4, The Message
Addicted to lust and allergic to God is an apt description of so many in our world who resemble brain-dead zombies, so addicted to electronic devices they are convinced they cannot function without a gadget that controls their minds and for all intents and purposes, enslaves them. Of course, electronic devices can be useful, and even necessary, but those who are addicted to them become spiritual hostages and captives who unwittingly sell their soul to electronic mechanisms that control them!
Spiritual captivity is so subtle and covert, it is often not even recognized or acknowledged as a danger! When someone is physically taken captive, they are generally aware of their plight and the dangers they face.
For example, one might be physically kidnapped and taken, overwhelmed and quickly subjected to the imprisonment and conditions imposed by captors. Classically, this situation happens when a soldier becomes a “prisoner-of-war” after having been captured by the enemy. Civilians, during a time of war or of peace, are also kidnapped and taken hostage. Many soldiers and civilians who are taken and imprisoned against their will constantly seek a way to escape their oppression.
But physical captivity can also lead to spiritual captivity. Hostages are often subjected to their captor’s attempts to indoctrinate and “re-educate” them. In what is often called the “Stockholm Syndrome” some who become captives through physical means slowly begin to identify with their captors and renounce their past beliefs, becoming “converted” to a new culture and way of life. Because this process is emotional, spiritual and psychological we often speak of such individuals as having been brainwashed.
However, the vast majority who become enslaved spiritually and philosophically have not been subjected to being overtly overcome and taken hostage. Brainwashing does not depend on the overt imposition of physical restrictions, because it is subtle and covert. Those whose spiritual beliefs and values are subverted over a long period of time are often unaware of their plight – their predicament is somewhat like the proverbial frog in a kettle. They are oblivious of the dangers confronting them and are content to remain in a pot of water while the heat gradually increases until they are boiled alive.
People who are brainwashed and indoctrinated often experience a methodical process during which their values are sabotaged and corrupted so that they eventually become the captives of those who successfully deceived them. They are thus addicted to lust and become “allergic” to God. Paul speaks of a spiritual battle during which the full armor of God enables us to stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11). Our struggle is against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12).
During a recent visit to a local university campus, I happened to pick up The Borzoi College Reader published in 1966. I discovered the volume was a collection of short essays and stories, by distinguished and recognized authors, separated into separate sections designed to acquaint college students with important issues of their world, as well as introduce them to superb examples of writing and thinking.
One of the essays was titled “The Morning They Did It” by E.B. White – first published in The New Yorker in 1950. White was a prolific writer who contributed a regular column for Harpers from 1938-1945, as well as authoring children’s books, humor, poetry and The Elements of Style which over the years has become somewhat of a “Bible” for writers and editors.
“The Morning They Did It” is a short piece of futuristic fiction in which E.B. White imagines the day the world would eventually end. As White concludes his prophetic piece of science-fiction he pauses to explain the state of that world – the conditions that had made the world ripe for the apocalyptic circumstances causing humans to extinguish all life on the planet. I was amazed at the remarkable foresight of White, and how clear his prophetic sci-fi vision has turned out to be, in our world some 65 years later. He foresaw a world that was addicted to lust and “allergic” to God. Here’s an excerpt from the next-to-last paragraph of “The Morning They Did It” by E.B. White:
Those last days! There were so many religions in conflict, each ready to save the world with its own dogma, each perfectly intolerant of the other. Each day seemed a mere skirmish in the long holy war. It was a time of debauch and conversion…. Television was the universal peepshow – in homes, schools, churches, bars, stores, everywhere.
Children early formed the habit of gaining all their images…second hand, by looking at a screen; they grew up believing that anything perceived directly was vaguely fraudulent. Only what had been touched by electronics was valid and real…. There was never really a moment when a child, or even a man, felt free to look away from the television screen – for fear he might miss the one clue that would explain everything.
What an accurate prophecy of our world today – where young people who are glued to their electronic devices are actively recruited by terrorists who disguise their hatred in the name of religion! Hearts and minds are twisted and subverted so that those who were once free are now overwhelmed by their electronic captors.
It is within that world we live, follow Jesus, serving and ministering in his name within a world subjected to captivity, deception and propaganda. We proclaim the liberating gospel of Jesus to a spiritually oppressed and hoodwinked world that is addicted to lust and “allergic” to God. Thanksgiving to God is far from the thoughts of a world which is imprisoned by oppressors and indoctrinated by the party line and where captivity is so complete that citizens are exclusively “captivated” on entertaining/amusing and gratifying themselves. Our world at large has grave difficulty, given the blindness of its deception and the darkness of the dungeons of its spiritual captivity, to see, recognize and embrace the love of God.
In our North American world, thanks-giving does not come naturally. We give thanks for the grace of God and our gift of the mind of Jesus enabling us to give thanks! God’s grace enables us to actively engage in Thanksgiving. God’s grace empowers us to swim upstream against all of our cultural and religious forces in order to give thanks.
God opens our eyes enabling us to go against the flow, and propels us by his grace to swim upstream in a world of me-first self-absorption. In this ongoing work and ministry of CWR/PTM, we are thankful that we can be among God’s instruments of peace and grace, actively passing on the grace of God to a world held captive. Our cup overflows with God’s love, mercy and grace, and out of our abundance we are blessed to share the same grace God has given us with a world in desperate need.
Our world is indeed held captive and is in desperate need of hearing about the love, grace and mercy of God. We, CWR/PTM Friends and Partners, have been given the priceless opportunity and high calling of proclaiming, publishing and passing on the incredible and amazing grace of God to a world that is addicted to lust and “allergic” to God.
Together, we are honored with our calling to proclaim all Jesus, all the time.
Happy Thanksgiving, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
In His Service,