The Religious Impulse Behind Progressivism
I find the follow blog post so affirming of the spiritual depth of most of our society, going far to explain our tendency to express self-righteousness, even those that are agnostics or atheists.
Mar 30 2014 The Dish blog
David P. Goldman praises Jody Bottum�s new book, An Anxious Age, for revealing it, noting that "the inner life of secular Americans remains dense with spiritual experience":
America�s consensus culture, Bottum argues, is the unmistakable descendant of the old Protestant Mainline, in particular the "Social Gospel" promulgated by Walter Rauschenbusch before the First World War and adopted by the liberal majority in the Mainline denominations during the 1920s. Although this assertion seems unremarkable at first glance, the method that Bottum brings to bear is entirely original. A deeply religious thinker, he understands spiritual life from the inside. He is less concerned with the outward forms and specific dogmas of religion than with its inner experience, and this approach leads him down paths often inaccessible to secular inquiry.
Michael Brendan Dougherty explains the connection:
Over a century ago Rauschenbusch wrote, "If a man has drawn any religious feeling from Christ, his participation in the systematized oppression of civilization will, at least at times, seem an intolerable burden and guilt." Bottum deftly notes that in theological terms this signals "a nearly complete transfer of Christian fear and Christian assurance into a sensibility of the need for reform, a mysticism of the social order � the anxiety about salvation resolved by ecstatic transport into the feeling of social solidarity."
Can we not hear in the progressive�s soul-searching examination of his own "privilege," as well as his unconscious participation in structural injustice, an echo of Rauschenbusch�s words?
Whereas Catholics make an examination of conscience before confession, and confess their personal sins before promising to amend their life, today�s progressives examine their place in the social structure of oppression, and then vow to reform society. That is what it means to have a "social gospel without the gospel" � to be motivated by religious impulses, but believe it is entirely secular.
In an interview on the book�s Amazon page, Bottum describes the work�s origins:
In some ways, An Anxious Age really began when I was sent out to report on the protestors at Occupy Wall Street�and couldn�t finish the assignment. I could feel a spiritual anxiety about modern civilization radiating from nearly all of them, but I could find no easy way to explain it.
Now, two years later, this book is my answer: Not just those protestors, but nearly everyone today is driven by supernatural concerns, however much or little they realize it. Radicals and traditionalists, liberals and conservatives�together with politicians, artists, environmentalists, followers of food fads, and the chattering classes of television commentators: America is filled with people frantically seeking confirmation of their own essential goodness. We are a nation of individuals desperate to stand on the side of morality�anxious to know that we are righteous and dwell in the light. The trouble, of course, is that we�ve lost any shared cultural notion of what exactly that goodness might entail.
Here is a link that might be useful: The Religious Impulse Behind Progressivism