Saturday, January 14, 2006
Brennan Manning quote:
--from "Lion and the Lamb"
"Unfortunately, the whole concept of grace is alien to the American psyche. In our culture the tradition of “rugged individualism” has assumed a religious dimension. Americans are the people par excellence who get things done. Give us enough time, money and manpower and we can achieve anything. Listen to all the Sunday sermons with their emphasis on willpower and personal effort, and you get the impression that a do-it-yourself spirituality is the American fashion, that the Pelagian heresy is very much in vogue.
"Though the Scriptures speak insistently of the divine initiative in the work of salvation, that by grace we are saved, that the Tremendous Lover has taken to the chase, American spirituality still seems to start with self, not with God. Personal responsibility replaces personal response. We seem engrossed in our own efforts to grow in holiness. We talk about acquiring virtue, as though it were some kind of skill that can be acquired through personal effort, like good handwriting or a well-grooved golf swing. In seasons of penance, we focus on getting rid of our hang-ups and sweating through various spiritual exercises, as if they were a religious muscle-building program designed to produce that Christian Charles Atlas.
"The emphasis is always on what I do rather than on what God is doing in my life. In this macho approach God is reduced to a benign old spectator on the sidelines. The American mystique orients us to attribute any growth in the spiritual life to our own sturdy efforts and vigorous resolutions. We become convinced that we can do a pretty good job of following Jesus if we just, once and for all, make up our minds and really buckle down to it. Well, if that’s all there is to Christian discipleship, then in the words of singer Peggy Lee, “Let’s break out the booze.” All we’re doing is transferring the Horatio Alger legend of the self-made man from the economic sphere to the spiritual one" (pp. 159-160).
Posted by John Zahl at 12:31 AM