The meeting of popular culture and Christian faith baffles me.
There seems to have been a wave for the last few years of identifying categories, into which we must all apparently fall as Christ-followers. I think it began innocently enough with the examination of the Scripture’s presentation of spiritual gifts. Scripture provides us with definite gifts that manifest in the Believer as deemed appropriate by the Holy Spirit. The marketing engine got its hands on this, however, and suddenly we were flooded with “spiritual gift inventories” and the like. It became the new language in which to speak: we identified each other by where we perceived our spiritual giftings to lie.
Then came the spiritual disciplines. Suddenly, we had a new vernacular for things that the Scriptures encouraged us to do from the beginning. Except, now, we called them “solitude” and “submission,” etc. By applying new titles, we gave them new life in our minds. And, perhaps more importantly to many, we gave ourselves new Christian sub-culture slang expressions to use. “I’m going on a solitude retreat;” or “I practice simplicity as a lifestyle.”
The latest of these semantic categorizations is the spiritual pathways. Roughly similar to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, these are supposedly the different manners in which all Believers “connect with God.” Now we have another way to label ourselves with new boxes! See, now, isn’t that fun??
Here’s my issue: let’s take the person who is extroverted, who loves being around people, and is gifted at building relationships with others (essentially, the exact opposite of me). They would identify themselves as having the “relational” pathway, so they spend all of their time around other people, thinking that they grow closer to God through “community.” Except, this hypothetical person doesn’t spend much time reflecting on Scripture. Because, after all, that’s for those with an “intellectual pathway.”
At some point, this become a self-fulfilling prophecy. God has left the responsibility with all Believers to know His Scripture, to meditate on it, and to use it as a guide. However, if someone is introduced to faith being told that they have a “relational” or “nature” pathway, then they don’t see the point in spending time with Scripture, because its not their label. Worse, the person who becomes frustrated with the exercise of reading the Scripture in our largely illiterate culture now has an excuse for not spending time learning and reflecting on what it says (“I’m not that intellectual. Its not my pathway.”).
I think we’re doing a great deal of harm to ourselves in our rush to have ways to categorize and easily reference each other. Perhaps if we just accepted each other as the incredibly complex and different individuals that God created us to be, we would find life to be much simpler.
Of course, that wouldn’t work for American Christianity. We wouldn’t know what to call it.