Thursday, August 16, 2012

Neo-Hermitism

When did it happen? When did we overly privatize & individualize the Christian faith? I've heard of hermit-types in the old days that would go off by themselves to live somewhere in the wilderness so they might avoid temptations and distractions and focus solely on their relationship with God.  Many of today's believers that I've run into (and I've been guilty of this too) seem to have embraced a sort of "neo-hermitism".  Can I claim a new term there? Allow me to define neo-hermitism as the practice of secluding oneself from society in all matters regarding faith.  In all other matters of life, the neo-hermit is free to be a social butterfly...embracing, rather than fleeing from, the temptations and distractions that hermits of old sought to avoid.

Our society contains many true neo-hermits.  People who, when surveyed: believe in God, pray, are very spiritual, even describe a close relationship with Christ. Yet they don't talk about their faith and don't practice their faith publicly.  The advantages are: no one can call them intolerant based on faith association, no awkward conversations about something that the rest of the culture deems a personal choice best made and kept in private, and no worries about being held to anyone's standard of living but what they work out for themselves--it's all between them & God.

Church-goers often practice a less potent form of neo-hermitism.  These neo-hermits do make the effort to attend a public worship event from time-to-time.  However, they are very strategic about how they approach this.  Many of them choose churches where they won't actually have to build relationships with other believers at all.  They can just drift in and right back out.  Others choose smaller churches where you do get to know a certain set of people but they are mostly "their kind of people" and they make certain to keep the conversations on non-faith-related topics like the weather, sports, family, vacations, etc.  More often than not, these neo-hermits even avoid praying or addressing issues of faith with even their closest family and friends. The advantages here are: they don't feel the need to work out  their faith since they get all they need once a week and, at the same time, they keep many of the afore-mentioned advantages of a private, personal faith.

Despite the perceived advantages, facing temptations and distractions without faith-oriented relationships to act as encouragement and support is a recipe for disaster and an obvious downside of living as a neo-hermit.  At LifeQuest, we're trying to counter neo-hermitism with a small group ministry we call Transformation Groups.  They're not perfect but they are helping some people break out of faith-seclusion into faith-community. If you think there's any chance you could be a neo-hermit on one level or another, we invite you to consider joining a group.  Come to our TG Celebration event, share some food and just observe.  Who knows, it might be just the thing your faith needs!

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