Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Prophetic Word on Emergent Culture

Philip Rieff's book, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, was published in 1967. (A 40th-anniversary edition with new introduction was recently released.) Here is a prescient word from Rieff:
In the emergent culture, a wider range of people will have "spiritual" concerns and engage in "spiritual" pursuits. There will be more singing and more listening. People will continue to genuflect and read the Bible, which has long achieved the status of great literature; but no prophet will denounce the rich attire or stop the dancing. There will be more theatre, not less, and no Puritan will denounce the stage and draw its curtains. On the contrary, I expect that modern society will mount psychodramas far more frequently than its ancestors mounted miracle plays, with patient-analysts acting out their inner lives, after which they could extemporize the final act as interpretation. . . .

L. Gregory Jones (in his book, Embodying Forgiveness) comments, "But according to Rieff the effect of this psychodramatic interest in spirituality will not be a return to classical Judaism or Christianity, in which human life is shaped and transformed in relation to sound doctrines and teachings; it will consist, rather, in a consumerist desire to pick and choose one's own spirituality through broad experimentation." Rieff writes:
The wisdom of the next social order, as I imagine it, would not reside in right doctrine, administered by the right men, who must be found, bur rather in doctrines amounting to permission for each man to live an experimental life.