Why Good People Need Jesus
Part 7, Healing for the Ache
Why do good people need Jesus? Joy comes to mind.
When you look at the modern world, especially young people, two things jump out at you.
First, post-Christian society is highly moralized. Some have even described our new moral ethic, call it "wokeism," as the "new Puritanism," even a new religion. In a series last year I wrote about Joseph Bottum's argument that the social justice movement is post-Protestant, the social gospel minus the metaphysics. As I pointed out in Part 1, a strong case could be made that the very puritan and highly charged moral atmosphere of social justice activism is evidence that Jesus has won.
Second, our highly charged moral world is also profoundly unwell. Young people are woke, yes, but they are also anxious and depressed. As many have noted, the modern world is experiencing a crisis of meaning which is having a pervasive and adverse impact upon mental health. In Hunting Magic Eels I call this the Ache.
Are these two trends--a highly-charged, puritanical moralism and a crisis of meaning--linked?
Yes, they are linked. First, the trends are linked historically. As mentioned above, the modern world preserved the core of the Judeo-Christian ethos--Love Wins--while rejecting its metaphysical, narrative, sacramental, and communal infrastructure. Trouble was, it was this metaphysical, narrative, sacramental and communal infrastructure that provided the deep and rich meaning-making structures. Morals were preserved but meaning was lost. The post-Christian world is characterized by supercharged morality within a vacuum of meaning.
Beyond history, the trends are also linked psychologically. Stringent moral performance has never made anyone happy, light, free, and joyous. Puritanism, old or new, is a grim affair. It isn't news to anyone that supercharged activist circles are angsty, angry, and anxious. Activists are winning the goodness game, as all Pharisees will, but they are emotionally unwell. Puritanism just isn't healthy or sustainable.
Does that mean that activists should give up the fight? That we should stop being woke and go back to sleep? Of course not. But what does have to happen is that the puritanical moralism of social justice activism has to be re-embedded into the metaphysical, narrative, sacramental, and communal matrix that birthed and sustained that moral vision. This larger matrix provides resources for rest, grace, mercy, peace, fellowship, joy, wonder, beauty, and meaning. When moral performance, even stringent moral performance, is embedded within this matrix it becomes psychologically and relationally sustainable. Meaning in life is more than strict moral performance.
Good people are good, but they are also lost and hurting. Good people need Jesus because they need more than goodness, they need healing for the Ache.