Civil unrest in America has been increasing. As a nation, we hold our collective breath, hoping it will not escalate into civil war. Personally, I lament the deep anger towards people of faith being accused of “hate speech.” To express our views is seen as “violence.” What gives rise to such disconcerting reactions?
I found insight from a two-part essay in Public Discourse, by Carl Trueman, discussing the rise of “Psychological Man.” Trueman writes, “The notions that human flourishing is found primarily in an inner sense of wellbeing, that authenticity is found by being able to act outwardly as one feels inwardly, and that who we are is largely a matter of personal choice not external imposition have become common intuitions that lie at the heart of our society’s many ills.”
However, the gospel story is one of looking up and out to a loving creator God, who has rescued us in Christ and filled us with his Spirit, so that we might flourish in Christ. We receive personhood as a gift bestowed by loving heavenly Father, who deeply desires relationship with us. This is still the “Good News” for our fragmented age.
In Trueman’s words, “The Expressive Individual” or “Psychological Man” is a “psychological construction.” It is a denial of reality. “We think of ourselves in terms of our inner convictions, our feelings.” We then “interpret the purpose and meaning of our lives in line with” this view of self. “Thus, the church, family and nation can be viewed as potential hindrances to personal authenticity.” For example, a woman can still really be a man.
This shift in personal consciousness now views language as oppression, while regarding traditional social virtues as political vices. Oppression is characterized as “making people feel bad about themselves, less than fully human or preventing them from being outwardly that which they are inwardly.” Victims now need protection from moral values.
Trueman helps makes sense of our cultural confusion. Our speech as Bible-believing men can be viewed as hate speech. Words become “speech-acts,” seen as instruments of violence because they cause psychological injury. Think of the “snowflakes” who need a “safe space.”
Policing language then becomes necessary. Declaring the “Good News” is viewed not as virtuous, but as a vice. “A society built on the notion of radical individual autonomy,” observes Trueman, “where the policing of language by the authorities becomes a vital part of the social contract” will mean that “individual freedom perversely comes to require political authoritarianism.”
Human flourishing is now found in sexual satisfaction since the freedom of the inner self is shaped by our sexual desires. Sex becomes a matter of identity, rather than an activity. “Sex is something you are, not merely something you do.” Culture is seen as repressing our sexual instincts. “The psychological self thus becomes central to the political struggle as do sex and sexuality.”
Trueman envisions a two-fold response: First, we need to see the depth of the problem. We need to explain the world to the church. Second, we cannot underestimate the depth of the changes taking place. Trueman’s advice: “….only by modeling true community, oriented toward the transcendent, can the church show a rapidly destabilizing world of expressive individuals that there is something greater, more solid, and more lasting than the immediate satisfaction of personal desires.”
My advice: 1) Know who you are in Christ, 2) Be wise and loving in your speech, 3) Know that speech is going to get more contested, 4) Build on the solid foundation of Jesus, 5) Find a group of like-minded men.
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