Saturday, June 29, 2019

A Few Modest Suggestions for Making Your Megachurch Truly Mega!

There are so many people trapped in small or medium sized churches, where there is bad music and bad preaching and bad lighting and old people who might ask you things about your life. But thank God for the megachurch!

I've been thinking that these megachurches are not quite creative enough, or professional enough, to really bring in the mega masses. They have done some things, like abandoning doctrinal complexity, Biblical doctrines like hell and sin, intellectual depth in the faith, church discipline, accountability, real community, art, architecture, cultural engagement, Christian history, and the like, but they are perhaps not taking this thing seriously. Here then are my suggestions for making the local megachurch truly MEGA:

1. Food delivery during the service:

Clearly movie theaters have figured this one out, and there is no shame in acknowledging what people want. I know it is not like the church to rip off an idea from the secular culture, but this one could work! Jesus did after all feed the five thousand. We are only, as Sheldon puts it, "Imitating Christ." A question may come up regarding the wait staff. Since we all know that true Christian service and ministry takes place during Sunday services, then clearly expanding service opportunities only helps Christians grow. Serving sliders to the saints can be a Christian ministry! Problem solved!

2. Recliners:

This is another idea ripped off from theaters, but it is another amazing idea. No doubt recliners would be especially helpful for those rare instances when the pastor bogs the sermon down in some irrelevant theological or biblical point. The recliners could be sufficiently wide so as to keep a safe distance from all the strangers in the building, enabling each believer to experience Christian worship in solipsistic bliss.

Perhaps it would even be helpful to create multiple aisles that are only 2 recliners wide so no one has to step over anyone, and everyone has an aisle seat.

3. More technology:

Churches are always about a decade behind in technology. More people can be won to the Church if they see it is current with the times.

For example, many megachurches have, due to their mega-ness, expanded to multi-campus formats, where they have some onsite elements and some "projected" elements, such as the preaching. Churches like this have already discovered that television-addicted people love to have a jumbo-tron in their church, capturing the worship players and the pastor in various "shots" and moving from scene to scene, especially if the various players are attractive or charismatic or interesting. Why not use holographic images to capture the pastor from the remote site? Why not have a snappy dialogue between the holographic pastor and a witty side-kick at the various remote sites? We love celebrities, and it would behoove the multi-site church to do more to centralize the importance of the pastor. And holograms are awesome!

Another use of technology would be something like a video "mash-up" Sunday, where the creative director could be given freedom to produce a slick and humorous mash-up of various online videos that would inspire and encourage and entertain the faithful.

Another idea would be a partnership with Amazon.com to provide drone service to the congregants blissfully ensconced in their recliners during the service. We have busy lives, and it is difficult when one is not in church to remember to go online to purchase the pastor's latest leadership book, or the latest Hillsong album, or other church "merch," like the latest celebrity Christian's kitschy "Christian principles" book.

4. Extended daycare/Sunday school:

These megachurches, with their one whole hour of teaching the most rudimentary Christian stories and Bible passages to children, need to do more to shape our young people to be good Christians (meaning basically nice, moral people). Now one might think that parents have some responsibility in this, but they are not trained in theology, nor do they study the Bible, because it is hard and time-consuming. Megachurches could step into this problem and provide an all-day Sunday "life-on-life," "relational," "relevant" event for the young people, perhaps complete with interactive Bible-like games, and share-circles, and also taco trucks. All of this gives more church exposure to young people and gives the parents much needed rest on the Sabbath, and all for the price of their extremely generous tithe gifts to the church.

5. Music that melts your face, and your heart:

Now because you appeal to minds by grabbing emotions, the music is everything!

There absolutely must be a rock concert style of worship music, loud enough and awesome enough to crush out the sound of the amateur congregants and to make their singing (if they even try), like their recliner, totally solipsistic. And is it too much to ask for smoke machines, theatrical lighting, and good looking (or at least cool looking) people? Perhaps we can thrown in a few Abercrombie shirts, fedoras, skinny-jeans, tattoos, and sculpted beards. We want people saying they come to the church for the music because it makes them feel good and the people are relatably cool, and also accessibly cool.

Is it really so difficult? All one need do is go to a Hillsong United concert and find the musicians in the congregation most closely matching them in talent and appearance and then do that! They don't even have to write songs! In the name of all that is holy, it would be better to play videos of Hillsong than to trot out some no-talent group of homely musicians on a Sunday morning.

(Now that I think of it, this one is already mostly in place in most megachurches. Well, then, if you want a mega, then go and do likewise!)

6. Luxury boxes and helipads for big donors:

Can we be honest and face the fact that churches do a lousy job of giving proper honor to their big donors. They usually only give them seats on the board or general sheepish deference, but if churches provided them with luxury suites complete with amenities, then surely retention rates would increase.

Of course the other problem for our biggest donors is the circus that is the megachurch parking lot, or parking garage. Some of God's sheep, let's recognize the fact, are a little more sheepy than others. At the very least the church could put in preferred parking and plug-in stations for Tesla's.

7. Sponsorships:

Megachurches have exposure to multiple thousands of people each Sunday. It seems foolish for an organization that already brings in so many donor dollars to leave streams of revenue on the table. The pastor could do a brief humorous spot for Chick-Fil-A, for example. He could say something towards the end of the sermon like, "I know I've been preaching for awhile now and you must be hungry. Perhaps you should go out for a nice lunch at, say, Chick-Fil-A! Oh wait! You can't! And you know why? That's right, my flock. It's because they love Jesus!"

Or you could imagine the pastor wearing a Word Publishing tie and saying, "This sermon brought to you by Word Publishing, the Word behind the Word." It's a sentence. Still plenty of time for the pastor's self-help coaching based loosely on the Bible. No one would publish a popular blog without ad revenue. It's time to start making some real cash for your church that can be reinvested in the mission of spreading the good news of how Jesus helps us achieve our dreams.

Please remember that these are just recommendations, from someone whose seen a mega or two in my day. Not all churches will have the resources to make a go of all this, but surely steps and stages are better than business as usual. Remember the great commission, where our Lord said clearly, "Go into all the world and make casual consumers of all nations, teaching them to observe some of what I told you. And lo, I will be with you most of the time (when I'm not vacationing in Tuscany)..."

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Tetelestai

Words are powerful. I am a lover of words. I was led to my present love of words by the master wordsmith C. S. Lewis. Much of my life has been an effort to be like him, to communicate with the same clarity and beauty that he did, for the sake of others, and just because it seems a worthy thing in and of itself.

It turns out that God is also a lover of words. There is one that He chose to use that has changed my life and perspective more than any other. That word is tetelestai. It is one of Jesus' sayings from the cross, a Greek perfect tense passive participle. A wooden translation would be something like: "having been accomplished it is." But that sounds a bit too much like Yoda, so most translators put simply "it is finished." 

My Greek professor loved the perfect tense, and often criticized the English language for not having it. He was effusive in his praise of the perfect tense. He would passionately impress upon us how beautiful it was that these were past actions that assure future standing consequences.

So, what does that mean in the case of tetelestai? It means nothing less than that God has decisively conquered evil. Occasionally you will hear Christians lament the dimensions of evil in this world, or in themselves. They will sometimes say things like this: "I yearn for the day when God will finally answer all this evil." But surely God has already given his answer; surely evil is utterly defeated. The cross is God's perfect justice and perfect mercy striking down into history, a past action that reverberates through history to the present, and will shape every future moment for all time, assuring final cleansing for God's children and final judgement for the enemies of the cross.

Christian, you are not waiting for God to win! He has already won. The only thing we wait for, and indeed participate in, is the unfolding glory of the magnitude of His victory. This is true of your salvation as well. You are perfected in Christ's work. His past work assures the future. When He acted, your perfection was galvanized for all eternity. It remains only for you to grow into the perfection that is already yours as wholly forgiven and adopted sons and daughters of the King.

Think about what this means. What have you gone through, or what are you presently going through, that just feels like evil is winning? Whatever the word is, be it divorce, or terrorism, or cancer, or doubt, or pain, or injustice, or enmity, or persecution, or fear; there is another word, spoken by the rider on the white horse, and the blade of this word protruding from his mouth is of such metal that it can never be broken. God has the final word, the word that vanquishes all others, and that word is Tetelestai!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Musings on Humility

Two things to say immediately about my post on humility: One, it will be the best you've ever read on the subject. And two, I am aware of the irony of writing a post boasting of my learned humility (note the pronoun "I" so frequently mentioned in a post on humility). As in all endeavors on this blog, my only hope in making it public is to learn how to communicate important things well, and to hopefully benefit one of my six readers (see, only humble people do self-deprecating wit). 

They say that you should never pray for humility. I've never been so foolish, and yet God has seen fit to teach me anyway! I'm struck by how God teaches humility. He does it through hard experience. Humiliation is his truest school room for the formation of humility, and it is no process. It is full immersion learning!

Two years ago I lived in the small California city of Bakersfield, and taught at a large Christian school there (large for Christian schools, that is). Our life there was lovely in so many ways, and I liked to believe that I was pretty amazing. Let me count up the ledger of my deluded, and, as it turns out, imminently fragile sense of glory:

1. Successful career: I was known in my small community as a good teacher, even praised fairly regularly in public in various ways. The height of this came the year I left the school, when I was given a congressional award for teaching by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. I came to believe that I was an important teacher in the lives of my students. I believed that I would always be a sought after teacher, especially in the Bible and Philosophy subject areas. I was a realist. I knew I wasn't a first-tier researcher or a creator of new Philosophy, but I thought I was pretty special as a mediator of high things to young men and women.
2. Bakersfield famous: My kids coined this term. Because of my connection with the school, I came to be known in Bakersfield and encountered people who knew me everywhere. My kids were in a small Christian school as well, and I was known there. They even told me how important they felt because everyone knew who I was.
3. The Blog: I connected my teaching at the school to this blog, where I had my first few semi-viral posts. As it turns out, there were only a few posts that got significant attention, but I made it out in my own mind that I was going to be the next C.S. Lewis as a result.
4. Family: My family life early on in Bakersfield was happy, even on the border of idyllic. My three kids were loving and gentle and compliant and joy producing. I was proud of my family and my family life.
5. Health and Appearance: I was fit, strong, able, and always knew I was a better than average looking individual.
6. Financial Stability: At the center of this financial stability was our big and beautiful home in West Bakersfield. I simply felt important when I returned after work each day to this large and beautiful home with towering Sequoia trees dotting the back yard.

All told, I really did believe that I was doing life right. More than that, I believed that there were precious few people that did it as well as I was doing it. While I resisted it through Christian effort, pride was growing in my heart.

And then it all collapsed. It began with my divorce in 2013, finalized in 2016, which of course began long before that. I convinced myself that I had not failed at the most important endeavor of my life, but the fact is that I had. And then our broken family began to impact my relationship with my oldest daughter, who made it rather clear that she wanted nothing to do with God and Church and me.

Then we moved to Austin, Texas, after my ex-wife's company moved to the city. I was confident that with my credentials I would find a position at a Christian school quickly, and in the subject area I had spent 20 years teaching. But the job never came. One school had a Junior High Bible position, which I emailed and called about numerous times, but they never returned my calls or answered my resume. There were at least six schools that passed on me and I was devastated.

I knew that it meant I would have to live off the proceeds of the sale of my beautiful home in Bakersfield until I could find work that was sufficient to support a family of four. That work never came. Financially, I had to abandon the dream of a home for my kids because the only money I could invest was the equity from the house, and it was disappearing rapidly.

On top of it all, the stresses of the situation aggravated my heart condition, multiplying the number of A-fib episodes I endured, and all without a good health care plan to address it through the surgery I knew I needed.

In short, the things I was most proud of were all systematically taken away. A few weeks into the move I realized that to this community I was a foreigner, and made often to feel that way. The suffocating traffic made me feel that way. The swarming masses at the mega-churches I attended made me feel that way. I was disappearing. There was no boasting of my excellence, even to myself. It was a hollow claim coming from a jobless and lonely man living in an apartment in a wealthy suburb of Austin where I didn't belong. Whatever the truth was, whoever I was, I felt like a nobody swallowed up in this city.

But how many theologians and Christian mentors had taught me that this is precisely where God teaches us true reliance on Him. I was fond of reminding students that God owes us nothing, that as sinners we deserve only the hell and separation from Him that our sins merit for us; that this knowledge should keep us humble. But the central truths of the Christian faith are sometimes hard to learn outside of personal experience.

The only thing I knew to do was to hold fast to Christ, pray, seek Him, keep looking for work, and, yes, begin dating again. I believed I was ready in Bakersfield, but didn't pursue anything due to the impending move. It was time. I had grieved my divorce, learned from it, and now was hopeful for the future rather than living in the past, even in the midst of so much uncertainty.

It is nearly two years now since that move to Austin, and while I would appreciate it if God would stop teaching humility, He has nevertheless provided blessings I could never have imagined, nor would have been well prepared for without my season of emptiness and need. I hold the gifts God has given the way I should hold them after so much striving and difficulty.

Indeed, God is good, even in the desert, but no desert is His final place of habitation for His children. Perhaps the best way to say where He has led me is to describe a few brief scenes from my day:

1. Made a beautiful goat cheese, sausage, sun-dried tomato, spinach, and garlic omelette for my godly and loving and true and devastatingly beautiful wife.
2. Drove through a column of brilliant blue wildflowers to my job at Stone House Vineyard near Austin, where new challenges await in an exciting new career in the winery business, and with better pay and upside than any teaching position here in Austin.
3. Watered the new garden boxes in the back yard of our humble south Austin home.
4. Played Clue with my wonderful girls, all of whom are doing well in the big public schools of the Lake Travis school district.
5. Prayed with my girls, and my wife, expressing our gratitude for the life God has given.
6. Sat downstairs and wrote this article while my wife slept because I am awake with another A-fib episode. (I await a surgery that will, God's grace permitting, allow a solution to this frustrating health problem.)

I've learned well that I am a simple man, but God has not provided simple pleasures or simple joys or simple lessons to this simple man. He pours an ocean into me every day, and I have only these hands to hold it. Indeed I've learned it is better to be taken out into the current of His ocean than to try to take it all in. And that is the secret isn't it? The prideful man insists that the universe somehow fit within himself, his desires, his plans, his needs. His instinct is to swallow it up into his infinite need. He would reduce it all to an occasion for himself. The humble man is drawn out into infinite space and discovers how great God's world, His plan, is; and because of it discovers himself truly! He can be a player in a story that is infinitely bigger, and because of it he can become bigger. The prideful man collapses everything into the narrow and vanishing world of his own ego. He becomes small by insisting on being big while the humble man becomes big by finally, painfully, truly understanding his smallness.

Friday, February 22, 2019

The End of Envy


When you know a love like mine,
envy is at an end.

For there are those who will boast artfully, not audaciously, 
exuding elegant sophistication, 
speaking blithely, 
full of aggrandizing humility, 
confident of having won the world, 
affirmed and applauded at every turn.

I pity them for making that 
great uncritical assumption,
for living unoriginally,
for the impoverishment of riches.

Let them believe they are enviable—
indeed I will feign envy among them as a charity to them…

Let them hope in the mastery
of the ruin that is this world…

Our love makes a mockery of it all—
not just that they might have a comparably better experience of this life,
but that comparison can be made at all.


She is incomparable among women,
beauty that over-awes the glories of nature, light that outshines the starry hosts.
She is soft texture and color and vibrancy and definition and sweet aromas of life,
elegant, gentle, strong, deep,
infinite in its expressions and impossible to hold
in one’s senses or one’s mind. 
There is no thing in all of God’s creative genius 
more sublime than this woman!

And our love is as true as any love has ever been,
our union as whole,
our passion as consuming and dazzling and overwhelming,
rolling us in a tide of inexpressible wonder and pleasure
and joy crashing down on us in wave upon wave of undeserved abundance.


Our love brings an end of self, 
sweet abandonment for the sake of the other,
and, because of it,
the truth of the unprotected self.

It is impossible to envy another when you have already
received such excesses of love and beauty and grace that it will take 
forever to know them all.

February 14, 2019


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Beauty is NOT in the Eye of the Beholder



We must disabuse ourselves of the cultural wisdom that says that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." It really is foolish to think so, and all one need do to expose the folly of the idea is to do a few simple thought experiments.

Consider the glories of White Sands, New Mexico, or Yosemite National Park, or a simple garden. One could say that they don't think white sand is all that beautiful, and they would be within their right of preferences to say so. My question is why on earth think that such a proclamation makes it the case that there is no beauty in the place? Surely the foolishness of thinking that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" commits us to the conviction that if someone condemns a thing as ugly, then it really is ugly. It is abominable precisely because it grounds beauty in perception alone.

The truth is that beauty is no more subjective than goodness is subjective. We can thank modern popular art and modern education for convincing many people today that both are subjective, but if they are correct then there really is no meaning to proclaiming anything good or beautiful. There would be no meaning to growth in aesthetics. A child's scribblings would have to be considered as beautiful as any masterpiece. Why do we even speak in terms of excellence in art if there is no standard of true beauty? Why do we rank music or films or wine?

As one who works in the wine industry and studies it on my own time I can see that there really is such a thing as bad art in winemaking. There are wines that are dull, flabby, thin, burnt, corked, painfully acidic, one-dimensional, past their glory, and flawed. Just because there are people who might interpret such wines as good does no more to make them good than does a fool's appreciation of folly make it wisdom. Truth makes a constant appearing in aesthetics, and when we think about it we know it to be a good thing that it does.

The odd thing is that the first reaction of most people when you start arguing for standards in beauty is to think you are a snob; that you are enshrining your own tastes as though they should be the standard by which all interpret beauty. But curiously it is the subjective beauty advocate who ends up truly enshrining human ego as the basis for all beliefs about beauty. I'm arguing that beauty is objective, which means then that anyone who is serious about finding it will be able to do so. He is arguing that beauty is a constantly moving target, and that the only way to find it is to agree with his capricious convictions about what is beautiful. But he might be one of those cranks who thinks that feces thrown against a canvas is art.

My own conviction is that while beauty is true and meaningful and objective, it is also magnificently plentiful! Why is it that we think of beauty as a scarcity? I may be wrong, but I see this problem among women. A pretty woman may encounter another pretty woman at a party and secretly believe that the other woman's beauty makes her own illegitimate. But surely when we are thinking clearly we realize that there may be two or more beautiful women in a room, and isn't that a glorious fact? Their beauty may be merely unique expressions of beauty in much the same way that a hill in Texas and a hill in California are both unique expressions of beauty, though they are different in myriad ways.

Back to wine for a moment. Why think that the beauty of one wine or one region invalidates the beauty of another? Is blue more glorious than red? Again, I'm not advocating for mere subjective preference as a foundation for beauty; nor am I suggesting that everything is beautiful. I'm saying that both red and blue are beautiful, and to prefer one over the other is fine, but it is laughable hubris for a person to think that his preference for blue makes red ugly. To say that one excellent wine that exhibits currant and blackberry notes is better than another excellent wine that exhibits truffle and earth notes is to enthrone one's ego as the final arbiter of beauty rather than allowing beauty to announce itself for what it is.

On the other hand, to suggest that simple mass produced jug wine is as good as a Duckhorn Merlot is simply incorrect! It may come from an immature pallet or arrogance or ignorance, but simply drinking easy bulk wine to extract alcohol from it is not to appreciate wine as art. This is one of the problems with young drinkers. You notice that teens rarely have wine-tasting parties, where they are studying the artistic production of quality wine in order to appreciate its complexity, subtlety, and beauty. No, they are usually drinking cheap beer and wine and hard liquor in order to alter their pubescent minds. They are moved by their passions alone.

In many ways I'm arguing that maturation assumes an end. We hope that children grow up and learn to appreciate the good, the true, and the beautiful. That assumes there are such things, and also requires allowing the suppression of the passions of youth for the emergence of reason and spirit in one's life. We hope that our young people will abandon foolish occupations and ideas as they mature, and we hope they will be compensated for their maturation with the pleasures not just of the body or the passions but of the mind as well. We hope they will be supplied with the gift of wisdom to make sense of the whole human experience. In short, we hope they learn to live truly good and truly beautiful lives.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Glad Tidings of Great Joy

It is amazing that Christmas often turns into a moralistic affair. What I mean is that Christians often don't really receive it! We are inspired by it. We are motivated by it. We try hard to do good because of it, volunteering at this or that charity, giving, feeling, hoping that humanity will be inspired to be better because of it. But who really merely sits passively and receives it?

In the end, Christmas isn't about Jesus inspiring us to be our better selves, stirring in us the better angels of our nature. Christmas is about an act of the Triune God to send the second person of the Trinity into the world, robed in the frailty of humanity, divested of the privileges associated with His deity, in order to do one thing! He came on a mission that only He could fulfill. He came to die at our hands, for us, to redeem us, to be for us what we could not be! Jesus' mission was not to join us in some commune of equals, each taking up his place in some great moral cause for the improvement of humanity. Jesus does not save by leading. Jesus leads by saving.

Christian, please this Christmas take the right posture! You are not first to be inspired to do better next year because of Jesus. You are first to sit stupefied that the God of the universe would give you so extravagant a gift. Raise your empty beggarly hands to heaven and receive, for that is all you bring to this great day; this day that fractured open the universe at the entrance of the divine into the human world.

And what exactly is the gift that God has given you? In the great Triune counsel, the plan has always been that The Father would present before you His perfect Son. And the Son would add to himself a human nature so that in His great condescension and vulnerability He could be the human being in whom God could be well pleased. Note well that He is not pleased with any other human being! Jesus was righteous and good and kind and true and everything good that you are not! More than that God has declared that the goodness of this only good man He will give to you, as though it were your own, when you simply receive Him by faith. More than that The Father declared, and Jesus agreed, that Jesus would go to a miserable wooden cross to bear upon himself the punishments that you deserve for your many sins.

Where are you in this grand equation? You are a helpless, empty, shattered soul that gives precisely nothing to God. And yet He has not given you simply enough to raise yourself up and start to be good again. He has not supported you or come along side of you or given you therapy until you are strong again. He has made the dead person alive! He has already given you everything! He has made you whole, gloriously perfecting you in the foreign righteousness of the Incarnate Son! If you will set aside the foolish project of thinking that you can do it with His help and instead accept that He has done it for you, in spite of you, because you can do nothing, then everything the resplendent Son is will be counted as yours.

Glad tidings of great joy indeed!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

"Love me as I am!"

It is fashionable to complain about narcissism these days, and the irony is not lost on me that the narcissist is probably the person most likely to complain about perceived narcissism in others, and probably because it is an affront to his own ego.

I'm keenly aware of this problem because my life, like yours, has slammed up against these people in various ways. This modern, moribund cultural narcissism is curiously asserted as a bold declaration of individual identity, and yet it is impotent in the extreme. You have heard them say it! And if you have said it, then it is likely you are as narcissistic as any. Here is the motto of the modern narcissist: "This is who I am! You will have to love me as I am!"

This motto of narcissism is everywhere because there is a truth in it. Each individual is distinct and should be recognized and appreciated as such. The problem is that some people want to help you recognize their individuality. They are not happy with your apparent obliviousness to them. And in their relentless efforts to be seen, heard, clicked, they lose what makes them unique and begin to dissolve into the mass of narcissists clamoring for attention.

There is a more sinister dimension to the motto of the narcissist. Many who proclaim it do so because they have no intention of changing for anyone else in the human race, including those closest to them. An alcoholic might parrot the motto because the several broken relationships in her life are not her fault. It is obviously to be blamed on the pathetic souls who couldn't accept her as she is. It was a defect in their ability to love. The entire universe must alter itself to an equilibrium around her as she is, and not demand the slightest alteration from her.

This kind of thinking can be fatal in a teenager. Imagine a young person, who by definition is unfinished, demanding that the universe accept her as she is. She is supposed to be in process. Those who love her most will lovingly coach her in her process of becoming. If she boldly asserts that she is finished, that others will have to accept her as she is, then she will clearly forgo the opportunity to develop during the years when becoming ought to be the project of every person. Plato once remarked that the young must be taught to feel liking and disgust for those things that really are likable and disgusting. But an undeveloped narcissist will thunder through life never questioning that what she presently thinks is likable and disgusting makes those things likable and disgusting.

Teenagers are encouraged towards narcissism by todays various pop culture anthems. "You are perfect!" "You are beautiful!" "They are haters!" "Be who you are!" "Follow your heart!" "Proclaim your truth!" You, YOU, YOU!! You are the center of the universe. The only problem with them is that they don't see you! They don't like your instagram page enough. They don't give you a voice. They don't listen to YOU! 

Leave these teenagers to develop along these lines, and you will end up with an adult that is perfected in his or her narcissism. They will light the world on fire, destroy lives, dance upon graves, and then have the audacity to think you mad when you complain about their behavior. They will call you judgmental when you think them selfish. They will act audaciously, impetuously, irreverently, and then think you hateful when you fail to suspend all judgment in your praise of their "originality." Have you ever noticed how every narcissist thinks they are so unique? In my experience they are clones in the most fundamental ways.

Consider a few other interesting characteristics of the modern narcissist:

1. The "Narcissistic Cycle:"

It usually looks something like this: The narcissist initiates some hurtful, insensitive, damaging behavior (objectively, not based on the hurt person's perceptions). The narcissist is confronted for this, which is perceived as a rejection. The narcissist then feels hurt, but only briefly as his or her pride works on this pain, fomenting it quickly into rage against all that would dare to reject him or her. The gap between pain and rage is minuscule, which leaves no time for the narcissist to approach anything like a self-critical phase. There will be no humility, no contrition, no correction, no meaningful apology.

2. Extension:

Note that the depth of the "extension" of the narcissist is shallow at best. Things don't ever extend far beyond their own minds. In their often outrageous or selfish behavior they are expressing themselves, and they are wronged when others are anything other than perfectly celebratory of their utterly scintillating and unremitting commentary on the world. It never occurs to the modern narcissist that others think he has nothing of interest to say. It could be that people who have read Shakespeare or Nietzsche or the Bible or Lewis find him boring in the extreme, and yet it is the narcissist who complains ceaselessly of the world's inability to hold his interest.

3. Acceptance of behavior:

Narcissists often think that any rejection of their conduct arises from hatred of them as people. Of course they also think that they are perfectly accepting of all people in all of their idiosyncrasies.  They are the pattern of love that others should follow.

One way to test this is to propose the "proximity test." It really is a simple question. What do we mean by "loving others as they are?" Does that mean I can have a safe distance from certain people? Does it mean that I have to accept their lifestyle choices such that I could live with them under the same roof? Would they want to live with me? Does it mean that I have to marry someone like them in order to validate their existence? To put it plainly, I think all narcissists should be free from the judgmentalism of others, as they desire. My interpretation of "loving them as they are" will be to leave them alone in their narcissism. I certainly don't plan to live with one!

4. Unhappiness:

Another curious aspect of the psychology of narcissism is that they seem to wish their unhappiness upon everyone else. If they think that someone slighted them, or snubbed them, or said something hurtful to them, they demand that you join them in their suffering. When their narcissism in the end leaves them alone and miserable, they can't imagine that anyone could possibly move on from them and be happy. In truth, many people become happy by distance from the narcissists in their lives, or at least their happiness is permitted the space to grow. In hell there will be endless vexed narcissists staring across the chasm at the laughter of those in heaven and wondering how anyone can laugh without their presence, and more why the residents of heaven laugh while those in hell are miserable. The narcissists of hell will reason that their own warped and frustrated and sinewed and inward-bent psychology should be extended to all; that everyone should be exactly as they are forever.

In fact hell will be the perfect place for narcissists. They will be allowed to be exactly as they are forever. And it will be hell for precisely that reason above all. There will be no more judgment from God or others unlike them; that is, there will be no more righteous judgment. In its place, they will be judged by their fellow narcissists forever. That is another reason it will be hell!

Finally, the narcissist is utterly impervious to critique. It is the world that has the problem. To the extent that anyone should venture into anything other than praise of them, that is the extent to which the critic has a problem. You will never stump a narcissist. You may get an apology from them, but it will be self-serving. There is nothing wrong with them. They are perfect exactly as they are! If any narcissist should chance to read this little piece, they will immediately see only the defects of others in it, or more likely the defects of the author.