I know a lot of brick and mortar bookstores are closing down, and I now live 90 miles from the nearest Barnes and Noble, so I don't get to just wander a lot of large bookstores anymore (we have a Hastings in Enid, which is nice, with big tall shelves, so when you head to your Fantasy/Sci-fi section you can pretend the rest of the store doesn't exist). But there was a trend which I had noticed back in the day when I'd know every Borders and B&N in the metro where I lived. Two sections would always back up right against each other.
Self-help and Christianity.
And it used to annoy me in my younger days just how big the Self-help section would be -- of course the late 90s and early 2000s was the time, the era of self-help, when that was the trend. When you read a book and it's supposed to give you 7 steps to making you a better you!
Of course, that also was the popular idea of what Christianity was. Christianity was viewed as self-help + Jesus. It wasn't just "do what this author says and you can make yourself _______"; Christianity was just "do what Jesus says and He will make you _________."
Not a large difference. Still, not a lot of "Gospel" - not a lot of "this is what Jesus HAS done for you, and you ARE forgiven, you ARE a new creation, you ARE holy and precious in His sight." Or if you got that, it was followed with a "but if you want to get the good blessings, toe this line...."
When I think of that trend, the height of it, I think of 1999 - the end of my time in college, just as I'm getting ready to go to Sem.
Now, let's jump 15 years forward to today. When you are speaking about current LCMS theology, you really need to go back culturally 15 years, because LCMS "power" types are a bit slow. Around 15 years slow. We will inevitably get the "new" trend from the higher ups that are designed to "reach the peoples" that are already out of date (the 2010 or so "EXTREME" focus is a good example of this). And even among the clergy, there will be those hitting their mid thirties or their forties, just starting to get established, and they will think of their glory days of College and Sem and when they first started out - and they will *know* how to FIX THE SYNOD --- by recycling what was trendy when they were a student.
I shudder to think how in 2030 there will be some watered down form of twerking... maybe "shake it for Jesus". The cultural misappropriation surely has to known some bounds.
But, I digress.
Well, it seems as though the time to re-appropriate the late 90s self-help craze is upon us. See, I remember being a young Lutheran in the bible belt laughing at all the then self-help craze. It's not the gospel, it's all Law, Law, Law. It's nothing about "me" doing stuff with a thin veneer of a cross-less Christ. His death and resurrection was incidental - the resurrection of the dead was not looked forward to, instead it was the resurrection of my self-esteem and confidence. The life now surplanted the life of the world to come as the basis of our hopes.
The good old days are here again.
Listen. Read. Watch. And tell me if I am wrong - or are we not getting more recycled "here's the way you go about living" as the focus of Christianity taking the foreground. Even as Christ is pushed to the corner - as we are getting ready to celebrate Easter, which most of our country seems to think is merely an excuse for colored eggs, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies, are we redoubling our proclamation of Christ Jesus, died and risen for you - or is more and more of the talk about... you... your life, your moral improvement, how you can do better?
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Except by preachers who have become Martha trying to relive the glory days.