Most Americans believe in God. What is the percentage, like 80%? I'd peradventure, however--and I'm just guessing here!--that most of that percentage is concocted of an image of God informed more by the American culture's ethos and pathos than any concept derived from an institutional church, a denominational creed, or a theological paradigm. Go to a local bar or NASCAR event, walk the aisles in the Wal-Mart or sit in the stands at a local ball game, and most people will tell you they believe in God. And they usually mean with a big "G," because don'tcha dare spell it with a small one. "My God is a big God and he's the only one." So, the concept of God in the mind of most Americans who are not informed by the aforementioned systems of thought and inculcation, usually have their own preconceptions about who this God is, and what he is like (most Americans don't have a problem with the masculine pronoun, either).
Now of course, because this concept of God is not informed by a description of doctrines derived from a sacred text, denominational creed, church or theology, it moves in the category of kitchen table philosophy and tends to meander around American pragmatism, individualism, and romanticism. It is pragmatic in that "whatever works for me" and it is individualist in that "My God is like such-and-such," or "My God would never do thus-and-so," (emphasis on "my"). It is romantic in that "I'm a good person, and God wants me to be happy. When I'm not happy, then I ask him for a blessing."
A prime example of this is fleshed out in the pithy statements some well-meaning friends throw around, when life has got a person down. Just today, I noticed someone on facebook whose status stressed a great deal of distress over failure to get ahead in life either at work, or with family. The response from a friend was...
"Just be true to yourself."
Now, my first temptation in reading this response is to decide whether to curse, or puke. But then I remain calm and try to just analyze it, because that's what I earned my degree in, so I might as well put it to good practice (you can be the judge on whether I fulfill my perceived duty). The cursing option is out, per my previous posts on cussing (yes, it's titled, "On Cussing"). Right.
"Just be true to yourself," is a load of poo. Or should I say, It is an American, sentimentalist, pithy bit of nonsense that takes for granted the emboldened prize of self-aggrandizement at the cost of eliminating any sense of the inherent nature of humans made in the image of God and who are desperately void of any present union between God and man. "Just be true to yourself" can only come from the American Transcendentalist and romantic notion that man is essentially good and the the real problems are "out there" (think Emerson and Thoreau). Well, if the real problems are "out there," aren't you included yourself in what is "out there?" After all, you're not the only person with problems. "Just be true to yourself." Do you know who was true to himself?
Adolf Hitler was true to himself. His methodical, rationalistic madness haunts the dreams of many to this day.
Joseph Stalin was true to himself. The blood of Russian peasants still seeps into the ground of cold tundra, and in fields at the edge of town.
Pol Pot was true to himself. 2 million Cambodians rest in the earth long before their time.
Hugh Hefner is true to himself. His hedonist lust for pleasure wreaks havoc in the mistreatment of women by the millions, having popularized and made glamorous the idolatry of the female body put to use for nothing more than men to use themselves. Women don't have souls, they are mere images.
The homeless man strung out of the most powerful mind-altering and addicting material known to man is true to himself. He gave up his family, his job, his
health, his mind, his life, in order to pursue his desires for pleasure, escape and fulfillment.
Shall I mention the politician who gets paid off by corrupt officials and dismisses justice? Should I bring up the professional athlete who holds out for just a few million dollars more on a 95 million dollar contract and is exhausted with disappointment when he doesn't get what he wants? Or, we could discuss the woman at home who leaves her husband because she's "not having fun anymore," and vice versa.
So much for Idealism. "Just be true to yourself" is absolutely human, not just American. It is absolutely human because it denies the reality of sin, the guilt of sin, and the corrupting power of sin. "But your sins have separated you from you God. He has hidden his face from you, so that he cannot hear you," (Isaiah 59:2). Rather, the proper response of us who believe in God should be "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight," (Proverbs 3:5-6). My recommendation to you is to not "Just be true to yourself," because "the heart is treacherous above all things and desperately sick, who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9).