Charles J Chaput: “America’s problems grew up along with its virtues”
“The question is: How did we get from the America of Tocqueville, where on Sundays “the commercial and industrial life of the nation seems suspended [in piety, and] all noise ceases,” to the America where”borrowing the words of Pascal Bruckner”we’re the “galley slaves of pleasure;” an America of obsessive consumption and confused sexuality where “the intention was to produce freedom, but the result was advertising; [where] what was liberated was less our libido than our appetite for unlimited shopping”?
By the way, Bruckner is not some overheated Bible-Belt preacher. He’s a thoroughly secular French skeptic who writes what he sees.
I think the truth is that America’s problems grew up along with its virtues. In a sense, they come from the same seed. Reformation theology and Enlightenment thought elevate the importance of the individual. But they can also feed a destructive individualism and a hostility to any religious authority outside the sovereignty of personal conscience.
And here’s the result: Without the restraints of a common moral consensus animated and defended by a living religious community, the freedom of the individual easily becomes a license for selfishness. The meaning of right and wrong becomes privatized. And ultimately, society ends up as a collection of disconnected individuals whose appetites and needs are regulated by the only project they share in common: the state.”
Archbishop Charles J Chaput