The therapeutic captivity of the Church

Some more wisdom from James Hitchcock. This time on the “triumph of the therapeutic”.

Following Philip Rieff he describes the shift in Western culture from “inhibitory” to “remissive”. From a society whose dominant symbols carry religious and moral affirmations, which include prohibitions, to a culture which systematically grants permission to the individual to transgress these prohibitions in the name of personal freedom and fulfillment.

The result is a “culture of indifference” which uses the rhetoric of faith and commitment to undermine both and to establish a counter-faith, a secular vision of comforts that renders all salvations obsolete.

Unfortunately, much of Western Christianity in both its modern and postmodern forms has accommodated itself to the ethic of the therapeutic.

In such a world the universe is increasingly perceived as a vast empty space waiting to be filled by an infinitely expanding self. In this vision religious authority must be shucked off not primarily because it is false but because it is binding, because it impedes the self's continuous unfolding.

In the end the promise of our culture is one the Judaeo-Christian tradition has heard before: You shall become like gods.

Hitchcock and Rieff wrote thirty years ago. Regrettably they are still up to date.