David CookWe love the idea of the last person standing. Our most popular TV shows end with one person: Last year, David Cook won American Idol. Melissa Rycroft won on The Bachelor. JT won Survivor. Gymnast Shawn Johnson won Dancing with The Stars.

If you knew none of that, you are a superior person.

We have a love affair with the winner, the best. We dig Wyatt Earp, left standing at the OK corral when the smoke and dust settles.

I still remember winning the ping pong tournament in my high school gym class. Ten feet back from the table, I slammed my way to victory while the cheerleaders went wild. Wait, there were no cheer leaders at ping pong games, and I was close to the table. Never mind, I was still euphoric. I also won a monopoly game once.  I have never forgotten the flush of power as my stacks of fake cash grew in front of me. Donald T. Winner. 

 It’s socialized, this get-one-dollar-above-the-rest thing. In school, we graduate ranked, A’s received diplomas first, flags brought up the rear. In history class, we studied mostly risen-to-the-top American men and women, mostly men.

Columbus discovered America. Jedediah Smith opened the West. Harriet Tubman saved the slaves. FDR fixed the Depression. Colby Bryant saved the Lakers,  Billy Graham saved America, or was it Bono?

Forget the fact that none of this discovering and saving happened because of one person. We Americans love rugged individualism, the Horatio Algers rags-to-riches myth, Emersonian self-reliance, to thine own pickup truck be true, if you want it done right, do it yourself.

Admittedly there is reason in this view. Competition motivates. People excel. Individualist should take responsibility for their actions. If you do nothing, nothing will happen.

“Yes” to personal responsibility, but the superior person at the top thing, it is really a myth. Every person on earth is held up everyday by an army of supporters. Someone grew the breakfast you ate today, made the shoes you walk in.

Melissa All the celebs and heroes of history won a place with a virtual network of support and co-contributers with them: everyone was gifted by God, taught by teachers, nurtured by a parental adults, carried along by their following or voting fans. FDR didn’t stop the depression, all hard working Americans contributed, but we love to trumpet the lone hero with the office and the trophy. Melissa Rycroft dances well with Tony, her professional guide.

In reality, life doesn’t nicely fit in the individualistic groove. Life is not lone heroes, self-reliance, individualistic identities. There is a deep connectedness, interdependence and unity to all living things. And as we struggle for the best life, we find that it isn’t about beating anyone else to the top, nor about creating rank, nor about making superior distinctions.


We painted the high windows on the exterior of our church recently. With my camera, I caught the painter framed in the windows,  him outside painting, me inside shooting, him distorted in the glass, a glowing solo figure. The picture doesn’t represent reality. There was a team behind the man in the glass.  A historic building specialist recommended the right color. An artist chose the exact hue. At the paint company, a person mixed the color. A friend prepared the surface of the wood.  One man, in the glass? A whole team renewed the church.  

In the Bible there is a verse that radically undercuts the distinctions that keep us apart.

Galatians 3:28 says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

For Christians, this blows up the individualistic, better-than-thou, hold-some-down, rise-to-the-podium, super competitive living thing.  Galatians 3:28 is the emancipation proclamation of New Testament.

Boom, no race, no Greek nor Jew. Boom, no class, no slave nor free. Boom, no gender, no male or female. Boom, no division, no exclusion, no discrimination, no stand-apart individualism – in Jesus. Just liberating, freeing, thriving-together life.

This Christian truth smashes national prejudice, social domination, and gender exclusion.  In Christ the only real nationality is humanity. The only social class is the forgiven class. Gender? We are equal inheritors of God’s promises.  

Freedom from oppressive restrictions or divisions is the essence of the gospel of Christ.

The women in leadership question? I believe the restrictions placed on women in other parts of the Bible were addressed to specific problems, but here we find the universal Christian perspective.  Women are in no way spiritually less than men. Men and women are free to serve side-by-side, at all levels. Christ empowers women.

The race issue? True Christianity equally accepts all races.  The bride of Christ is not racially defined. She, the church, is Mexican and Black and Asian and Anglo and Middle Eastern, all family, all wonderfully racially intermarried, one in Christ.

Does this bother anyone? Then they may want to pick a religion that discriminates.  Christianity doesn’t.

Rich and poor? White collar and blue collar? Slave and master? In true Christianity, there are no collars, only various imitations of Jesus. There is no class but the forgiven class. Homeless and homed sit and serve side-by-side. 

Recently I made chicken soup for party. I cut up onions, carrots, celery, chicken. I threw in rice. Then I put in my secret ingredient, the spice Cumin. Bam! It kicked the soup up two notches.

Try Cumin straight. You won’t go for much. Spices, alone are not very palatable. Try Cayenne pepper straight.  But put it in soup, on chicken? You’ll want to go back for seconds.

Each one of us is a spice. Thrown in the pot together, something very good, very desirable, very life-giving comes out. 

American Idol begins a new season soon. The goal will be to find out who gets to the top. But real life begins right now, and the best goal is to see who can be included next in the mix. 

  1. Sue Hekman says:

    “Galatians 3:28 is the emancipation proclamation of (the) New Testament. . .(bringing) liberating, freeing, thriving-together life.”

    “Freedom from oppressive restrictions or divisions is the essence of the gospel of Christ.”

    You spell out this freedom so eloquently, Randy. I would like for the whole world to read this article. It would open many eyes that see only the flawed public portrayal of Christ’s followers; they would see what Christ intends for the world.

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