[Note: Forgive my scattered thoughts. I’m writing commentary about something grand, spiritual, and abstract, so if there are things that seem incoherent or open-ended, that’s why. This is going to be less like solving a math equation, and more like painting a picture to get you to experience something I sense within my heart, through shapes and colors.]
The west has been at war with a rebellious individualism and relativism for many years. Fake news, conspiracy mentality, the distrust of media, distrust of vaccines, distrust of science, distrust of experts, nostalgia-based films, TV, and videogames, time travel, Brexit, transgenderism, Anonymous, the rise of divorce, the simultaneous growth of both liturgical forms of Christianity and atheism, the election of Donald Trump… it’s all connected.
“What is truth?”
Western culture at large continues to ignore the spirit of Individualism and its offspring, known as Relativism. Pontius Pilate is famous for coining the phrase, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), and such a question was no doubt a result of being a product of a pluralistic, syncretistic, and relativistic culture. Pilate’s environment was so saturated in individualism that he could not even discern truth when it stared at his face. Such is the case with the western world today:
News organizations now care more about being first than being true.
Citizens now trust an ignorant self more than an educated other.
News that sounds good enough to be true is now the new standard of truth, because it reinforces what we want to believe.
For example, I could fabricate the most absurd and unfounded claim about Hillary Clinton, and there will be people who believe me. Not because it’s true, but because they want it to be true. If Hillary Clinton was ever late for work, a way-too-large portion of conservatives would think it was because she was just having sex with children inside a secret basement of a pizza shop, rather than the more logical reason being, ‘traffic.’
Alex Jones of Infowars literally makes a living by making X-Files statements like, “aliens gave us life-extension technology and the government is hiding it from us.”
People now argue with their doctors because what the doctor said didn’t line up with the quick Google search they fired off before the appointment.
People now think climate change is a conspiracy created by the Chinese.
People now think that gender has nothing to do with anatomical biology.
People now think that getting a vaccine means you automatically get autism.
People now think that to let a Muslim into the country will then cause Sharia Law.
People still think Barack Obama is a Muslim from Kenya.
Rolling down the Mountain
Perhaps the western world has been searching for a trustworthy authority ever since the Protestant Reformation. Perhaps it even goes all the way back to the Great Schism. Perhaps the deep-rooted individualism that spawned the Enlightenment is what got us here.
Humans are deeply spiritual creatures, and what occurs in the heart will effect everything else. Therefore, the happenings of the religious landscape will dictate the course of what happens politically, sociologically, economically, etc.
Over a thousand years ago, the western world began to really struggle with authority and individualism. It began with Rome choosing ‘self’ over the East. An isolated Rome then led to the Protestant Reformation, which was Protestants choosing ‘self’ over the papacy. Protestantism then led to the American Revolution, which was a group of Protestants choosing ‘self’ over an English authority. All throughout this process, the Enlightenment is in full swing. People begin to encourage one another to think for themselves and trust no one. People think individual wealth and the ability to live the American Dream is the definition of success. Is it any wonder why we are where we are today? The western world is built on this worldview. It is the very heart of everything we think we know to be truth.
This is why we love films like Star Wars, we love rebels. We love seeing a small group of defiant people take down a large evil empire. We don’t really even want to know any nuance about motive, we just need to be told the Empire is bad, make a snap-judgment of their funny outfits, and we immediately join the Rebels. We join the Rebels simply because of how they look and what others tell us about them. The problem is, ‘rebels’ are only righteous when they are righteously informed.
Our individualism has blinded us. We do not “judge righteous judgment,” (John 7:24) we judge according to appearance. We judge according to headlines, soundbites, and turbans. We invade other countries, kill their leaders, install our puppets, and we spin a story to make it seem like we were had to do it. We support countries like Saudi Arabia, who would publicly decapitate anyone they want in the streets. We are not the good guys, we are the Empire.
The Way Out
Even though we have been fighting against authority for so long, I don’t think it’s necessarily because we inherently hate authority. I think it’s partly because of feeling a sense of betrayal. There are wounds that still have not healed (such as Protestantism remembering how the Catholic Church failed them), and rebellion is the unfortunate consequence. We live in an age of nostalgia and time travel because all of us sense the need to go backwards to a time in the past. There is a great schism, and we all feel it.
We need to heal our souls with repentance, starting with rejecting our obsession with the ‘self.’ If we can’t submit to authority, we become our own truth, and truth is always useless if deemed subjective. Rejecting all authority is not the answer to abuse. If a shepherd abuses his sheep, the sheep should find a new shepherd…not become their own.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but I’ve seen some pretty terrible art that makes millions so I don’t feel too bad.