I’m Better Than You!
I’ve always hated it. The sneer down. The condescension. The toleration. The feelings of not measuring up, of not being “worth the time.”
Elitism. It’s all around us, embedded so firmly in the American culture that we can barely escape calling it normal. Because for so many in our country it is normal. For many, elitism is a way of life, an unspoken religion, a worldview that colors the most important of decisions — who to marry, how to raise kids, whom to befriend, where to live, even with whom to worship.
Yes. Worship. You can include American “Christians” in the lot as well. We’re often just as bad as the rest.
The Need to Feel Better
So where do you think this came from, this need to lead the pack and be a part of the cool kids? I admit it sounds a bit trite when you say it that way, but that’s really what it is. It’s a very “high school” kind of culture we Americans have cultivated. It’s just that as we grow older the definition of cool changes.
The need to be “cool’ is probably a combination of our need to be accepted (which I think is a gift from God) and the need to survive (which I think is an effect of sin). The two together drives the need for most of us to not only be welcomed into the fray as equals, but to be even better than that. To achieve every advantage necessary to, well, survive in as many ways as possible.
The Elitist is stuck playing the game of survival. They are sick about survival, and are in desperate need of assurance that, should a calamity or misfortune come that requires society to pick winners and losers, they will be picked as winners. They are fighting to be too important to lose, or too cool, or too powerful. They are actively seeking to gain some sort of control of their lives and their place in society because of a deep seeded fear of annihilation in some degree.
They are afraid to die. Afraid to be sacrificed, and they are willing to mortgage far more valuable and priceless ideals like love, compassion, and generosity for the security of the high and mighty chair of wealth, power, or popularity. If you ask me, it sounds like Elitists are scared people, always looking around the corner, worried the next elitist will take their spot. A spot they need. Because deep down, I think an elitist needs others to tell them how valuable they are. They need to be better, or at least feel that way.
This is all fine and dandy for people who have not been introduced to the grace found in Jesus. For them, now is all there is. For them, it’s a jungle out there and only the strong will ensure survival. But to find such elitism in the church, among the people of God, is to damage the hope of the gospel to some degree. If there was nothing else Jesus exemplified for us, it was that sacrifice and love are the greatest of deeds we can aspire to with our time here on Earth. Not only did Jesus’ death on the cross serve as a reminder that the purpose of our lives is to give, and give some more… but the very emptying of his heavenly splendor to even come to Earth in the first place tells us how upside down we have it.
Why do you think Jesus mentions so often how difficult it is for the rich to enter heaven? It’s not because money is a bad thing. It’s because, often, the rich has become so by living a life fueled by fear. And that fear prevents them from living out the ideas of sacrifice and love, and instead has them working to keep them and theirs as high up the societal ladder as possible. Jesus’ life was the opposite of that. While we are all trying our hardest to climb just one more rung up the social ladder, Jesus graciously descended the ladder one rung at a time, meeting, loving and adding value to people the whole way. Freeing them of the chains of fear and despondence, towards the hope and faith that this life is not the end.
On countless occasion, Jesus declared that the “first will be last.” Jesus is not concerned with our social class, with how much money we have, or with whom we decide to eat a dinner. He is not concerned with celebrity status, luxurious dealings, or even high class etiquette. He’s concerned with how we have loved. With how we have responded to the calling and purpose he places on our lives. Because in the end, our time here will be a drop of water in the ocean.
It would serve us well, then, to remind ourselves as Christians that our playbook is something entirely different than that of the world’s. And not just the playbook, but the end game entirely. The fact of the matter is, Christians are not meant to concern themselves with social survival, rather Godly surrender. We are meant to follow God’s lead and call on our lives despite the social survivalist rules they seem to break. The Bible says that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.”
Not much room for “being better” there.
Have you experienced elitism in the church? Are you an elitist?
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