Upper Arlington Lutheran Church
This week I attended another Lutheran church (which I think is technically my 3rd Lutheran church this year) in Upper Arlington. I went alone, which is becoming a theme of this journey now. I crossed off a lot of my friends’ churches already, and with it being summer, most of my friends are off having adventures and I can’t drag them to church with me as regularly. Going alone is still intimidating, which is why I picked Upper Arlington Lutheran Church. On their website, they have an FAQ section with some info about “what to expect on Sunday morning.” In this section, they clearly explain that you won’t be singled out if you are new, and no one will draw attention to you if that makes you uncomfortable. They lay out the dress code (casual) and suggest alternative environments besides Sunday morning service for you to get to know the congregation in smaller settings, so a new person won’t get overwhelmed. That was a God send (haha) for me, someone who does constantly worry about sticking out and being singled out in a new group.
UALC is doing a series of services called “Unselfie: Let’s Get Over Ourselves” which made me internally cringe when I read the bulletin at the start of worship. As a millennial, I am subject to all kinds of millennial stereotypes. We are too self-absorbed. We are entitled. We are the “participation trophy” generation. We are delicate snowflakes. We are killing every industry with our spending habits. The rise of the selfie is a commonly used example of our so-called self-absorption. We take, filter, and share pictures of ourselves constantly because we are so self-obsessed and shallow. Attacking selfie culture is such a cold take and, after reading one too many headlines about my generation, I am exhausted with it.
I’m not saying millennials are perfect, but like with any stereotype, characterizing our whole generation as one thing is unfair. More people than ever are sharing images online, but this is also the first time in history we have had the means to share that information so broadly. We are sharing more images of ourselves, sure, but we are also sharing more images of our friends and our family and our food and our pets and everything else that has some meaning in our lives. There is more of everything. And having ourselves as the subject of some of this media frenzy is just showing that we put ourselves in some regard in our lives.
Is every Instagram-selfie a masterpiece? No. Do I need to see another beauty guru share a glow up image of themselves on a beach in Malibu? Nah. But if it makes them feel happy and good about themselves, WHO CARES? Manny MUA always says at the top of every video, “if you don’t like my videos, don’t f*cking watch.” His point is: there is more content than ever and we can be selective about what we choose to ingest. If you don’t like my selfies, don’t f*cking comment on them. Unfollow me. Go follow some nature Instagram or cat Instagram or whatever you do like and stop telling me that I can’t like myself without being a self-absorbed snowflake.
So now that that is out of the way, I can talk a little more about the service. UALC was trashing the selfie, which was annoying, but they were using the selfie as an example of an idea Martin Luther wrote about extensively: that when we turn inward in self-sufficiency, we do not seek God. The selfie, the camera turning inward on ourselves, is an example of us turning our focus inward and not outward. It’s a good analogy, millennial-bashing aside, and the church’s point wasn’t so much to shame us as it was to encourage us to spread empathy. Also, to stop assuming we have everything we need to succeed. I am guilty of that – I am the queen of self-sufficiency. I’ve got it covered, I will figure it out, and I don’t need your help to do it. However, when you do that, you close other people out, and you are likely so focused on your own achievements you don’t make time to help others. I hope that isn’t true about myself, I hope I do help friends when they need it. However, if I asked for help more often, then I probably would be more freed up to give help when asked. UALC said when you are driven by ambition, other people either become an obstacle or an opportunity, and you fail to see other people as something outside of your own goals. The message, which was to step back and try to think about others instead of yourself, is a good one. I just wish they didn’t have to attack the selfie to make their point (but maybe that’s just the fragile snowflake inside of me crying).