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Overcoming Narcissistic Christianity

Overcoming Narcissistic Christianity

Have you ever thought that the Resurrection of Jesus could lead Christians to become narcissistic?

Of course, I don’t want to blame the Resurrected Jesus for this. It’s not his fault. Rather, it’s the way that the Christian church has historically depicted the resurrection of Jesus in art.

The Western Church and the Eastern Church have very different ways of depicting the Resurrection.*

In the East, the Resurrection is almost always depicted by showing Jesus with other people. The Resurrected Jesus is often shown defeating Satan and hell. He then grabs Adam (the first human) by the hand and drags him and the rest of humanity out of hell with him.

In the East, the Resurrection of Jesus is a communal event. In other words, the Resurrection is about Jesus, but it’s also about you and me and all of humanity.

But if you look at Western Christian art of the Resurrection, you will almost always find a solitary Jesus depicting his glory and power. In the West, the Resurrection is all about Jesus. Humanity is nowhere to be found.

I think there is a lot of danger in Western Christianity’s portrayal of the Resurrection. The art of Western Christianity makes the Resurrection primarily about Jesus. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Look at me! Aren’t I great! Hooray for me!”

I fear that this makes Western Christianity more prone to creating narcissistic Christians. After all, if the Resurrected Jesus was all about himself and we are supposed to direct our attention only to him in his Resurrected glory, that makes Jesus a narcissist. And if we are supposed to follow Jesus, then we will become narcissists as well. We will be more prone to thinking God only cares about us and that we are to use God’s power to foster our own power and glory over other people.

This creates movements like Christian nationalism, where Christians falsely use the Bible and Christ as justification for narcissistic power grabs over others.

This mentality of Christian nationalists betrays the very words of Jesus, who says in Matthew 25:25-28,,

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus didn’t say that his mission was about his power and his glory. He actually said the opposite, “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” He also didn’t say that he came to dominate other people with violence and power. Rather, he came to “give his life as a ransom for many.”

Throughout his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus knew that his mission was not about himself. Narcissism played no role in his life. His mission was to reveal and embody God’s nonviolent and healing love for all of humanity. As Christians, that is our mission, too.

*For a good survey of these differences, see Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision by John Dominic and Sarah Crossan.

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Adam Ericksen

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