I’m not an expert, I’m not an expert, I. Am. Not. An. Expert. I want your opinions, these are just my thoughts.
Do you remember that song from the 90’s? It was always bouncing around my head, and I’d end up trying to sing the “wow wo oh…” or whatever it was at the end of the chorus and fail miserably, but it was alright because I was totally addicted to Totally Addicted to Bass. For the sake of this post, I’m going to define addiction as something that you have a compulsive need for. It could be a multitude of things – from Facebook to drugs. I don’t want to get into the specifics of addiction, unless it’s bass, but I do want to think for a little while about addiction and what it is and why addiction, to anything, is not good for the person addicted, the community they are a part of, and for their relationship with their Creator.
Addiction controls you. It compells you to act in ways you normally wouldn’t, say things you normally wouldn’t… all because you have this need that is nagging at you, making you restless and impatient or maybe making you sad and forlorn. Addiction changes who you are to the extent that the damage may never be repaired. Why does it do that? Because there is a change in what defines you, in what makes you who you are. It changes you from you, to a version of you who is consistently preoccupied with your addiction – you want to go smoke a cigarette, you must update Facebook before the world doesn’t know what you’re doing for ten minutes, you can’t live without that porn video before sleep. Addiction changes you. It controls you and it radically effects the way we interact with the world around us to.
I don’t want to go global in my thinking, so I’ll stick around in the world I live in for a little bit – that is, the smaller world of local churches. Church is not a place where you go to watch a performance, it is a place where you go to hear from God’s word and share life with His people. Of course, you share life with them over Facebook during the week, but honestly, I don’t think that counts – the Kingdom is not about Facebook statuses, it’s about people singing together “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty,” it’s about being actually together, not virtually together. Anyway, addiction pulls you away from community. I suppose here I have to be a bit more specific in my thinking – the addictions that society says must be hidden pull you away from community. Socially acceptable addictions are encouraged, almost. We’ll get to that later, though.
Addictions like self harm, drugs, alcohol, porn and anything else you can think of that is taboo, cause someone to feel massive amounts of shame and guilt. One of the greatest messages of the gospel is that of freedom. Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and it is true. What addiction does is wrap someone in those feelings of guilt again, so much so that it consumes you. Whenever you’re not indulging the addiction, you are covered in the shame that comes with it. You withdraw because of the shame. People withdraw from you eventually because they don’t know how to handle it. The way this breaks is openness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together talks about community and how we should confess to each other for the sake of accountability, not just in private prayer to the Father. I think I agree. That isn’t to say that all of the community I am a part of knows all my secrets – that’s uncomfortable, and inappropriate, but it is to say that freedom from shame is found in confession. In breaking taboo. Addiction brings shame. Shame drags you away from people…
But what about socially acceptable addictions? Facebook, Twitter, any other social networking site… I think it all comes down to an addiction to attention. Once again, before you abuse me, I’m saying those who are addicted to it are falling into the trap, not everyone who has one – put those pitchforks away, please. Much better. We have harboured a myth in our culture, in secular society and church, that the goal in life is to feel complete, and the attention that a comment or a ‘like’ on our Facebook status gives, inches us closer to that feeling of being complete. We matter. We are loved. As we encourage obsessive use of social networking, we encourage the culture. And over time, that will hurt the church massively. God does not promise we will feel complete today, tomorrow or the next day. He promises that when he returns, and lives with us and we with him, we will find that unity in the way it was meant to be… But until then, we ache and we groan. Or, we update Facebook.
What does addiction do to our most important relationship – that with God? It is a simple answer. It displaces him. I’m sure you’ve heard Two Ways to Live before, and seen those little pictures with the crown in different places. We put that crown over our own heads when we are in the midst of an addiction. Or maybe, I’m not sure about it, but we might even put it over the addiction… Perhaps over a needle, a razorblade or a computer. Either way, it isn’t where it’s meant to be. God needs to be in control of our lives, not an addiction.
Don’t be addicted to God. Be submissive to God, be controlled by the Spirit, be free from the condemnation that comes from guilt… We’ll never be perfect until the Kingdom is consummated, but we do need to try. Christ compels us, right?