Kenda Creasy Dean is our guest speaker at the Texas Annual Conference this week. Having read her books, I knew where she’d be coming from. If you have the least interest in youth ministry or leading a church that disciples young people effectively, read her Practicing Passion and Almost Christian. The latter, which provides material for her presentations this week, is a strategic attack on what Christian Smith has called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Dean began her presentation talking about video gamers. Gamers look for an “epic win.” Pursuing that win in the context of their game is totally engrossing. Wouldn’t it be great if we in the church could help people achieve an epic win with Christ?
Sure it would! But here’s the challenge, a challenge she only hit tangentially when she contrasted the Apostles’ Creed with the five beliefs of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Video games provide a story. Some stories are pretty minimal, some exquisitely detailed. In the game you are a player, an actor in that story. Your epic win is defined in terms of the narrative within the game.
Inasmuch as our churches are infected with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – or other forms of dehistoricized, denarrativized faith – we will lack the kind of shared narrative in which an epic win makes sense. We are too much in thrall of voluntaristic individualism. There may be a Win for me, or a Win for you, but (like some postmoderns) we’ve rejected the metanarratives (the stories that are bigger than we are) in which epic wins are possible.
If we’re going to help people experience an epic win in Christ, the Gospel is the perfect context. But until we recover a sense of the Gospel story as a shared narrative, the ongoing story of God in which we are all participants, that epic win will be hard to come by.