As civilization corrodes before our very eyes, even intellectuals have begun to say, “Uh-oh…”
Not many intellectuals, I grant you: most of them are out there rejoicing that “the Left has won the Culture War,” and made the world safe for abortion, sodomy, euthanasia, gender-bending, and out-of-wedlock births and fatherless homes. This is going to be the way it is for humanity from now on, they believe, and they are tickled pink.
But in a recent Wall Street Journal article, written to herald the publication of his new book, Religion for Atheists, Euro-intellectual Alain de Botton seems to be getting cold feet. Maybe, he suggests, the secularization of society has gone too far. In nailing down our freedom to fornicate without restriction, maybe we’ve thrown out some things we should have kept.
What our Euro-intellectual wants, of course, is some kind of “religion” that will keep society from making like the Titanic—but a religion without God. Trust an intellectual to come up with something that moronic.
We’ve lost our sense of community, he complains. We focus too much on our work, on our status, and we can’t get close to people. What he is describing is a people that has totally lost touch with God—but he won’t go there.
Instead, he goes to church—church minus God—as a place, a building, where people can have a “joyful immersion in a collective spirit.” Gee, it makes me nostalgic for that old Maoist pop song, “The People Joyfully Gather Manure in the Fields.” Then again, didn’t we get enough of that old collective spirit when we were kids in public school? And didn’t what we learned there help turn us into the poor miserable schlubs we are today, Mr. de Botton?
His idea is to mimic the “love feasts” of the early Church and set up something called an “Agape Restaurant” (“agape” is a Greek work for love). Here you would have a building set apart from “the mercantile world.” Here would be a place where what you do for a living, and how much you earn, wouldn’t count.
Once inside, the management will tell you where, and with whom, you are to sit—our intellectual doesn’t want families and couples sitting together—and then tell you what to talk about, and with whom, and for how long. (In fact, they tell you everything: nothing is left to chance. Who knows what people might come up with, if you don’t tell them what to talk about?) There will be a list of “talking points… carefully crafted to coax guests away from customary expressions of pride… and toward a more sincere revelation of themselves,” blah-blah.
He is careful to add that this “initiative as modest as a communal meal” is in no way intended as an alternative to “legislative and political solutions to cure society’s ills.” It is, rather, “a prior step, taken to humanize one another in our imaginations” before the government comes along and taxes the pants off our butts.
Salvation through rap session! Can you gimme hallelujah? Can you gimme kumbaya?
It’s all supposed to ease our isolation and our loneliness (can’t you just join a bowling team for that?), and help us cope with the inescapable travails of life—dying, disease, aging, failure, guilt, loss of loved ones.
How highly educated do you have to be, before it makes you feeble-minded? God is that Person in whom we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). We are the work of His hands and the sheep of His pasture, and His children by adoption. Our names are written on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:6). And we’re supposed to be satisfied with empty rituals and stilted conversations at some souped-up sushi bar?
I’m getting sick of this, and I guess you are, too. Let’s pray.
Father in Heaven, we have turned away from You and turned to the false prophets of this world, and our whole civilization is poisoned by our sin. We have listened to all the wrong people, we have chased headlong after folly, and we’ve been only too eager to have our ears tickled by the lies we wanted most to hear, and to heap money and honors on those who lied to us the most.
Turn us back, O God, back to You: not because we are worthy, but because our salvation will bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord, and dismay Christ’s enemies.