Losing our soul

by Greg Linscott

From David Wells’ No Place For Truth (pp.67-68):

…The truth of the matter is that most Americans are impatient with nay-sayers and are disinclined to indulge, or even attempt to understand, those who think the basis for such hope might be gone. It is not merely that Americans typically think that such arguments are wrong; more importantly, they think that these arguments are offensive. They violate an important tenet of the cultural creed– namely, that there is always hope because things are always improving, despite the fact that under secular auspices there is no truth by which one can judge whether a culture is moving forward or backward.

America loves its optimists. It loves them not only because everyone prefers good news to bad but also because it needs them to affirm this cultural creed. By the same token, it dislikes pessimists. To say that a view is pessimistic is to destroy it even before the merits and liabilities of the argument have been aired. The pessimist is going against the cultural grain. More than that, the pessimist is assumed to be violating some kind of deep trust that lingers in the American soul about its own greatness, its destiny. Simply put, the pessimist is un-American. That being the case, the judgments of the cultural critics who have wondered aloud about the viability of Western culture seem jaundiced and unhelpful, and this regardless of what evidence they advance in support of their judgments. They are taking away hope at the very time when it is most needed.

They may, however, be correct. It may be the case that Christian faith, which has made many easy alliances with modern culture in the past few decades, is also living in a fool’s paradise, comforting itself about all the things that God is doing in society (which is the most commonly heard religious version of this idea of progress) while it is losing its character, if not its soul.