In a recent article on wng.org, university professor Thaddeus Williams chronicled the history of the West moving from the Age of Faith through the Age of Enlightenment to the Age of Science. He then asked the question, “What label best describes our current era?”
Given the amount of time we spend in front of mobile phones, tablets, computers and televisions, some suggest an age of screens. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor argues that we are now in an age of authenticity.
Rather than focusing on influences, values, and histories that exist outside the individual, Taylor’s label focuses on finding the throne of the psychologicalized self: oneself, one’s own authenticity, to human existence. It focuses on the emotional belief that is the primary goal of a mass of personal power.
Taylor hits the nail in the head. As evidence of that, if we look where power is found in our world, it is clear that all societies bow, scrape, and celebrate whatever individuals decide to be their identities. We see it in the way it is expected. It is only the most obvious sign. The enthronement of the Self was a deliberate abdication of the supernatural, the very concept of God.
But this inward turn did not come without serious consequences. It turns out that self-enthronement also requires self-justification, as Jonathan Lehman wrote. If we are on the throne of our lives, able to determine our identities and choose our own paths, then we are also responsible for our feelings, decisions, actions and consequences. “There is a problem.”
As many have discovered, friction is actually an onslaught of anxiety.Charles Taylor’s insight is spot on. We live in a time of uncertainty. In a very real way, in the midst of a battle for personal sovereignty, we have met an enemy and are discovering that it is us.
Sadly, it started with the self-esteem movement many years ago. remember? Historically, recognition came after achievement, but we decided that if we just told our children how great they were, they would continue to achieve greatness. We live in a society full of mistakes, but no one makes them. As a result, old school absolutes are obsolete. Hard work, paying dues, striving to get it right, faith in God, understanding the value of experience are no longer believed and practiced.
why? The true self sits on the throne of public opinion, up is down, evil is right, gender is fluid, parents don’t know what is best for their children, and there is no weight to the laws of nature, history, or plain common sense. There is also. What matters is how the sovereign self feels about it.
And, as a great politician once asked, “Are we better now?” We become gods to ourselves, and when we fail, when we are wrong, and when our failures take a toll on our heads, we have no excuses and nowhere to run. , find a way to justify ourselves, stave off disillusionment and despair, and are forced to live a life drowning in anger, anxiety, and depression. You start looking for ways to make yourself feel good about the world of fiction again.
So where do we turn to to restore our happiness and success? All too often we take advantage of the escapes society is willing to provide. Some run to therapy, some to alcohol and drugs, some to dangerous drugs and crime. Even though the treatment schedule is over and alcohol and drugs wear us down, they fade away. And drugs and crime only add to the lie that we are good, responsible, and capable of fulfilling our dreams.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen young people die from fentanyl poisoning at an alarming rate. We cried because the sheriff’s deputy died in the shooting. We have been driven by unprotected humans whose lives have been taken by addiction and mental illness. Yet most of the time we attribute it to a lack of money, or a lack of good jobs or affordable housing.
Dear friends, all political and financial issues must be acknowledged. But humans are more than purely physical. At our core is the soul, that immaterial part of us that craves what only faith can offer. That faith is only as strong as its purpose. Simply put, we’ve pushed our belief in God to the margins, almost off the page, and only now have we begun to realize the truth that God is irreplaceable. Stop looking for authenticity and truth from within and look for both.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Speaking Ethically” appears on Sundays.