In part 1 I discussed Individualism as the American Heresy. While it is not unique to the United States, it is particularly rampant here. In this part, I will further explore what the heresy of Individualism causes to happen in the Church - particularly in our relationships with our fellow Christians.
If we accept that we are all individuals, then it follows that we all have different takes on the Truth because our lives are all different. It also means that we don't really know whose "truth" is better - mine or yours. This leads to the idea that we should have the freedom to explore the truth as we see it. So, if a person sees the truth that they married the wrong person, then he should be free to explore what live would be like with a different person or without that person in his life.
The logical conclusion of "You're not the boss of me!" is "I'm not the boss of you!" We don't want to hear criticism and so we are not willing to give criticism. We are obsessed, as a culture, with "do not judge." It used to be that the most common scripture quoted in society was John 3:16 (For God so love the world...."). Today, the most common scripture quoted is "Do not judge, lest you be judged." We are afraid to tell each other when we are doing wrong or going the wrong way.
This fear leads to a denial of the Church as the Body of Christ. I think it is a true statement that if you don't harm anyone, do what you want. The problem is that every sin harms someone - especially yourself. If we take the metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ, then when one part of the body is harmed, the whole body is harmed.
So, what is the solution? First, we have to be willing to receive crticism and be honest enough to understand that those who criticize us are doing so because they love us. One of the best things that my first Spiritual Director said to me was: "Phil, I love you. But when you do this you are hurting yourself and the church. Please stop." I learned from him to receive correction to my behavior and attitudes. Second, we have to examine ourselves when we begin to offer criticism. Are we reacting out of anger or love? Are we coming across as judgmental or caring?
When should we approach others? Well, I think that the best way to do this is in a small accountability group or in some other intimate setting such as Spiritual Direction or a mentor/mentee relationship. I believe that each Christian should have a group of friends that are not afraid to say what they are doing is wrong. Each Christian should have a Spiritual Director or Spiritual Mentor.
Too many of us see the Christian Faith as an individual faith where we go to Church to receive what we need to get through our week. Christianity is not an individual faith, it is a personal and interpersonal faith. It is a trinitarian faith where our communities reflect the self-giving life and love of the Holy Trinity. That is how God designed us to work, but we prefer to look after ourselves first and thus we miss the glory and joy and peace of the Holy Trinity.