Alternative “gospel” messages
There have always been a multitude of “gospel” messages in societies. A gospel message is simply a message that offers some kind of salvation to people. Let me be clear by what I mean by the term salvation. Salvation can be afterlife, or right here, right now. Salvation, in the general sense is just something that saves us from something else.
Often salvation messages paint a picture of a possible future – either a future missing certain things or people, or adding in something or someone else, or some kind of combination of the two.
In our society currently, we have a wide variety of alternative salvation narratives running pretty strongly.
There’s the toxic individualism salvation message. It’s all about you. You are the center of the universe and the only one that matters. Do what you want, to whomever, and don’t worry about the mess. You are god, so you whatever you choose to do is saving you. Except it isn’t. It’s just misery and destructive. And when people go down this path, they have to keep doing more in order to distract them from this fact. Toxic individualism is a death spiral that leaves a person empty ultimately – people leave them, lose respect for the person. They start to live into Martin Luther’s definition of sin – turning inward on oneself. When we do that, everyone else, including God is shunned and turned away. You can welcome others into your life if you are always looking at yourself. Toxic individualism is narcissistic to its core. And deeply related to many other alternative gospel messages.
There’s the slogans that we have all heard – The ends justify the means, only the strong survive, might makes right. These false gospel messages have been around for centuries. They offer an unreachable promise – that you will be in control. Their track record is devastating. Their paths are strewn with death and destruction, brokenness and pain. Why we continue to pursue these paths is beyond sane reasoning. Yet so many do. It’s actually quite sad.
There’s money. It offers so much promise. That you can buy happiness. That you can have a beautiful partner. That you can have great things. The problem is that so often money tells us that the only thing real are material things that can be seen, touched, tasted. Money is a poor messiah. Empty. Void of depth and meaning. It is insidious because it will whisper to us that we never have enough, making the salvation it offers always just out of reach. You’ll never obtain the salvation that money promises. If you did, you wouldn’t need it anymore.
There’s nationalism. It confuses the nation with God. It makes a nation into something more than a nation. It promises strength and might. It is related to the idea that might makes right. It defines salvation as dominance over others. Nationalism is different than patriotism, which is love of country. Nationalism sees the nation as the way to salvation – making it more than it should ever be. Nationalism refuses to see the image of God in others outside of the nation or the chosen ones within a nationalistic nation. Nationalism is nothing more than an empire. And all empires do the same thing – they kill, destroy, exploit, and abuse. And all empires eventually die off, many to be forgotten. There is no salvation in nationalism. There is only pain and suffering. And bondage – even for those who proclaim the nationalistic gospel. They are just as much a prisoner and slave to this message as those that are the direct victims of it. They just can’t see the chains on their wrists and ankles.
Beware of false gospels that convey salvation. What are they actually offering? True saving messages are ones where people are set free – not just a few chosen people – but all people. True saving messages don’t try to destroy enemies, they clear our eyes to see the image of God in them. True saving messages free people from bondages – ideas that hold people in bondage, that free us from messages and ideas that tell us that we are not enough. True saving messages allow us to see who our savior is and that we can do nothing to save ourselves. True saving messages feed our body, mind, and spirit. True saving messages end abusive, unhealthy, exploitive, and destructive systems and ways of being. True saving messages offer completeness and wholeness. True saving messages include all of creation, not just a small portion of it. True saving messages draw us closer to God and Christ-likeness. True saving messages present a future that is not only possible, but allows us to taste and see it now as we move towards it.
Listen to the messages. Can you see the difference? One message offers a thriving life. The others offer struggle for survival. Is this really even difficult?