“A Society and Culture in Crisis,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
At the present time, our society and culture are in a spiritual crisis, or, better put, a philosophical crisis in thought and ideas. At one time, thinking and ideas and, if you will, philosophy had great effect and these ideas had and produced many followers. Marx and his ideas of a communist system had great influence, as did the writings of Lenin. Socialism was a powerful idea and had many followers at one time throughout the world and had its roots in 19th century thinkers. Of course, Christianity will always be considered one of the great and enduring ideas. An example of some Christian thinkers are Dorothy Day, the founder and leader of the Catholic workers movement, Tolstoy, and Albert Schweitzer. Gandhi was greatly influenced in his thinking and his movement by Tolstoy.
Our modern world, for good or ill, has little or no interest in these thinkers who at the time had great and significant influence and many followers through the world.
There are, I think, many factors that have resulted in the present situation. One factor is that the society is intensely to a great degree secular and materialistic. This means that people are almost solely concerned with advancing themselves materially and functioning in the society and world that they find presently before them and must face. Most people largely focus on having and obtaining sufficient material goods and having more money, or at least sufficient money, so that they can enjoy their lives to the fullest extent possible. Thus, one might say that religious belief, or, better put, taking account of a world outside of ourselves, or a supernatural realm, is not societally-connected to the extent it was formerly. Perhaps one may say that the church or, religion in general, has less and less influence on people in their lives at least in the West. However, it should be noted that religion still has great influence in Africa; most parts of Asia; the Middle East; and Arab Countries. I am told that the number of Christians in China, for example, is growing greatly and that there has been great church growth in Africa as well.
It is also obvious that the emphasis on money and material goods and secularism in our culture has come to define people’s wishes and desires greatly. The second factor in what I think is a spiritual crisis is the growth and prevalence of technology, cell phones, computers, television, and our image culture in general. I think that these technological advancements, although good in many ways, divide people from one another and set up walls and boundaries. The result of this technology and the increased emphasis on materialism and the secular worldview has brought a kind of empty loneliness in people’s lives. A life devoted to self and money and personal advancement and the focus on technology creates walls and divisions.
The current and constant mass shootings emanate from an empty, lonely, and loveless society and system where people are crying out for love or at least to be noticed. I often hear people say about others, and even about culture and ideas, that they have no interest or concern and do not care. What is meant here is that our society has been directed to self alone and all other forces have been decimated and cut out. More exactly put, when we say we are only concerned with self, technology, and personal aggrandizement, the result will be that love in any form is cast out the window. Perhaps one could more specifically state that when God or Christ is absent from a system which is only concerned with self-love, there can be no love. Jesus makes an unequivocal demand on all of us that we love our neighbor as ourselves. He commands us because he first loved us as his children and creation and that love is unconditional.
In the absence of God and Christ, and the rejection of the possibility of any spiritual or supernatural realm, we will always be divided as persons from one another, functioning in some sort of individual, capsulated, and cold alienation. The increasing isolation, coldness, alienation, and individual self-involvement will create a society of walled-off robots, incapable of feeling, of expressing feeling, or, most of all, giving and receiving love. The price of prosperity and wealth that we so desperately want will be a loveless, stale, and unforgiving society. In the absence of God and Christ, this is the prospect we all will face.
This essay is taken, with alterations and modifications, from chapter 60 of my book “Essays on the Christian Worldview,” published by Hamilton books, 2016, pp. 160, 161.