The project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they had no story. Such a story is called a story of freedom – institutionalized economically as capitalism and politically as democracy. That story, and the institutions that embody it, is the enemy we must attack through Christian preaching.
Stanley Hauerwas, “Sanctify Them in the Truth,” 197-198.
The chart I am sharing with this post came to my attention through my newsfeed on social media. It is an outstanding example of how the modern world understands the meaning and role of the individual. It is, on its surface, a guide towards “purpose.” And, as can be seen, purpose is composed of the intersection of what we love, what the world needs, what we’re good at, and what we can pay for. It is a map of a “responsible” version of the American Dream. It is also an illustration of the false understanding of what it means to be human upon which our culture is built. This, Stanley Hauerwas would say, is one of the “enemies we must attack through preaching.”
Our modern world (dating from the late 18th century) set the task for itself of redefining what it means to be a human person. This was in reaction to various forms of classical Christian civilization that had come before. The new man was to be the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment. Freed from the superstitions of the past, he would discover a new freedom and dignity in the world that was being created.
The result was the birth of individualism and the rise of freedom and self-determination. Free of the shackles of Church and tradition, the new man was free to choose how and whom he would worship, if he worshipped at all. He was free to choose his path in life without regard to station or his father’s last name. This march towards freedom was not clearly meant for all – at first. But with time the notion of equality extended the same freedom of choice to others – to women, to blacks, to minorities of all persuasions. Humanity was a blank slate and modernity empowered each with his/her own chalk and eraser.
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