Fear, individualism and consumerism: Have they replaced realism among American Christians?
Peter Laarman thinks so. He urgently calls for a renewed commitment to realism.
I want simply to focus in on Niehbuhr’s core insight that Christians should see the world as it is and act ethically in the light of a clear-sighted realism. For the neoconservatives and for most other Right ideologues, “realism” means understanding how bad they are–all the “enemies of freedom,” “Islamo-fascists,” etc.; yet surely a major part of Niebuhr’s realism entailed understanding our own propensity to sinning, our own capacity for self-deception and hubris. It’s this kind of Christian Realism that is in critically short supply right now.[ ]
Consumerism pits me against other consuming monads. It invites me to think about how well I will fare when I’m ready for retirement, how I am going to cope with outrageous health care costs, how I will finesse getting the education I need in order to compete for material success; it definitely does not invite us to think collectively about how we will fare in retirement, maintain our health, or gain education for the enhancement of life itself rather than for purposes of workplace competition. [ ]
But aren’t Christians supposed to be about the “we”? Did not Jesus teach us to pray, ”Our Father, who art in Heaven” and “give us this day our daily bread”? Did he not warn us not to “store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal”? Did he not say, “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” and “woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation”?
While the above quote emphasizes his concern about U.S. Christians’ individualism and self-deception, Laarman also warns against Christians’ creeping acceptance of fear, torture, and totalitarianism, as well as unrepentant immorality among those who present themselves as defenders of morality.