Should We Not Have Noticed This?

Chapter five of Well's book is called simply "Self."

In a nutshell, what happened was that our individualism, which had always been a potent factor in American life, turned inward in this decade. It withdrew from the outside world. And during the 1960s a new worldview emerged. To a great majority of Americans, it now became clear that the self had become the source of all values. The pursuit of the self was what life was all about...

It is not unreasonable to think that this turn in our culture would have found resistance among the religious. And it did at the more liberal end of Protestantism, ironically enough, but evangelicals fell headlong into this new way of seeing life. It could be heard, in the 1980s and 1990s, every time Robert Schuller’s cherubic countenance appeared on television. He was moving in a new direction, though he also claimed to be traditionally Protestant. He announced that this new self-focused preoccupation was nothing less than a new Reformation. He went on to construct the whole of Christian faith around the self and its discovery...

And so it came into our pulpits. In sermon after sermon over the last two or three decades, preachers of an evangelical kind have latched onto this cultural way of thinking… Imagining themselves to be speaking the language of their congregations, and being quite au courant, these preachers actually ended up buying into a worldview that is deeply hostile to Christian faith. They seemed not to notice that feeling good about yourself is not the same thing as actually being good. In fact, people often feel good about themselves in moments when they should not. Some feel good about themselves in moments of great self-indulgence, of revenge, and certainly in moments of inebriation. Is this not the warning that we should have heeded? Should we not have noticed this?

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