March 7, 2019
Workshop: The Challenges of Discipleship in a “You Be You” Culture
To get the juices flowing for the main lecture, Trevin Wax dove into a short speech on why “You Be You” culture is a hurdle for discipleship in the church. It seems like everyone nowadays tries to be self-made, self-sustaining, self-expressing solo acts whose main concern is with themselves alone, which contradicts Scripture on multiple fronts. With the “You Be You” culture that has grown to unrivaled providence over the last few decades, the idea is ‘you be true to the you that you perceive that you truly are, conforming to that mindset and lifestyle rather that conforming to the image of Christ’, which according to Trevin Wax, is the whole point of discipleship.
Citing Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” several times, Wax uncovered the issue with the “You Be You” culture by targeting its confusing logic and its moral flaws – such as its insistence on reaffirming yourself no matter the cost, even if you are engaging in a blatantly harmful lifestyle but are happy. He discussed how this culture impacts religion, claiming that due to You Be You’s pillar of happiness, self-definition and self-expression as being the highest goods, anything that tells you how to live otherwise is bigoted and wrong according to society. Wax, not wanting to give too much away from his speech that night in the Concert Hall, asked the following questions for those in attendance to discuss at their tables before inviting those in attendance into an extended conversation on a related subject later that night in the main lecture:
“In what ways does the You Be You culture create new challenges in the mission to create disciples?
What are longings of the people whose purpose in life is to find themselves?
What are the problems in imagining the world this way? How would other countries challenge us in You Be You thinking? How does Scripture challenge us?
What is right about the message of You Be You, what is wrong, and how is the Gospel better?”
Main Lecture: The Gospel vs. Expressive Individualism: Why “Being True To Yourself” is a Dead-End on the Road to Happiness
The main lecture of the ESI conference took place in the beautiful, 1600-seat Grand Concert Hall in the Music and Worship Building at Liberty University. The campus band Captivate opened the night up, leading students, faculty and staff in a few worship songs. The second half of the night included a convicting message by our speaker for the conference, Trevin Wax. Wax discussed why a life of expressive individualism will ultimately lead to a life of unhappiness. Wax describes expressive individualism as “a lifestyle when someone strives to find the deepest part of them self and attempts to express it to the world.” Wax also explained that, according to research, “84% of Americans would say that enjoying yourself is the highest goal in life, and 66% of church-going Christians would say the same.” He then compared the difference between an expressive individualistic lifestyle versus a lifestyle where one is living for the Gospel. He says that living an expressive individualistic lifestyle leads to a dead end on the road to happiness, and the Gospel is better because it avoids running into that dead end.
Wax gave many reasons why expressive individualism leads to a dead end on the road of happiness, and one of the reasons that he explained is “expressive individualism leads to loneliness.” Advanced stages of expressive individualism will eventually lead to isolation, due to pursuing one’s own path. Wax used the example of Elsa from Disney’s movie Frozen; Elsa wanted so badly to express who she was (a snow queen) that she ended up freezing her hometown and having to escape to a faraway land, alone. Wax also gave many examples of why the Gospel is better than striving towards expressive individualism, and one of the reasons that Wax gave is “the gospel gives rest.” Expressive individualism causes one to worry about what other people think about them because they are trying so hard to express themselves as “good enough or happy”. However, the Gospel gives rest because one does not have to live an exhausting life seeking out the approval of others, knowing that God’s opinion is what matters the most.
The evening closed with a Q&A between Trevin Wax and Dr. Karen Prior (English professor here at Liberty). This was an incredible night and we are so thankful for the opportunity to learn more about the discussion on expressive individualism and why the Gospel is better.
The Gray Havens featuring Chris Renzema and Gray
Packing the LaHaye Event Space with scores of fans ranging from Liberty students and Lynchburg natives to JMU and UVA students, this three-artist concert was noted by regular concert-goers as being one of the best concerts ever hosted by Student Activities. No stranger to the stage at Liberty University, Grayson Perry, also known by his stage name “gray”, started the night off with melodic songs that scored him many new fans and pleased many a loyal fan. From there, the stage became Chris Renzema’s, who was welcomed with a thunderous applause. “I Don’t Wanna Go” sticks out as being a highlight from his set, as concert-goers rose from their seats and happily swayed back and forth and sang along to the easily lovable chorus.
Headlining the show was The Gray Havens, who stepped onto the Liberty University stage for the first time. With Dave’s quick wit and Licia’s easily loveable personality being on full display, the crowd at the LaHaye Event Space not only had the chance to sing to phenomenally performed songs, but also to laugh as Dave read from “Gray Flowers”, the children’s book he authored. The Radfords shared the comedic story of how they met, which involves the awkward turning of a corner and a bottle of Sprite. All three artists gave a fantastic show, capping off the Every Square Inch Conference in fantastic fashion and leaving fans craving more, which likely led to many car ride beltings of the artists’ tracks on Spotify. Both new fans and longtime fans alike left with a smile on their face and a song in their heart; the exact feeling you hope to leave a concert with.
It was such an honor to have Trevin Wax here to speak to some of the students and faculty of Liberty, and we loved wrapping up the ESI Conference with a memorable show from The Gray Havens. We’re already getting excited for next year’s Every Square Inch!
Written by: Gabi Cormier & Landen Swain
Gabi is a Sophomore majoring in Business: Project Management. She loves being a part of the SA blog and having the opportunity to discuss crucial topics that she is passionate about with the students of Liberty.
Landen believes the human experience longs to be expressed; through our art, our labor, our songs, our storytelling. As a published playwright, author, and poet, he enjoys expressing his little chapter of the human experience through his writings and is thankful that the SA blog allows him to do that. He is published in numerous magazines, literary journals, and has several plays published by Off the Wall Plays, an online play publishing house.