Term of the Day: Therepeutic Individualism

From the excel­lent reli­gious jour­nal­ism site The Reveal­er is “Scott Korb’s review of the new book”:http://www.therevealer.org/archives/main_story_001837.php by the Nation­al Sur­vey of Youth and Reli­gion (“I talked about the sur­vey a month ago”:/martink/archives/000535.php). It’s an great review, made bet­ter by the friend­ly dis­agree­ment in the com­men­tary. But what struck me was his use of the terms “ther­a­peu­tic indi­vid­u­al­ism” and “moral­is­tic ther­a­peu­tic deism.”
bq. The authors first iden­ti­fy the social con­texts in which ado­les­cents live and believe, start­ing with a dis­cus­sion of ther­a­peu­tic indi­vid­u­al­ism, a set of assump­tions and com­mit­ments that “pow­er­ful­ly defines every­day moral and rela­tion­al codes and bound­aries in the Unit­ed States.” Per­son­al expe­ri­ence is what shapes our notions of truth, and truth is found nowhere else but in hap­pi­ness and pos­i­tive self-esteem. In reli­gious terms, accord­ing to teenagers, God cares that each teenag­er is hap­py and that each teenag­er has high self-esteem. Moral­i­ty has noth­ing to do with author­i­ty, mutu­al oblig­a­tions, or sacrifice.
But we’re not talk­ing about the teenagers here, are we? The review hints that this is the con­di­tion of the adults too, only we’re bet­ter at couch­ing it in more con­vinc­ing­ly religious-sounding lan­guage. Did I say I attend­ed two days of Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing ses­sions this week­end? More to come.

  • Hel­lo…
    So glad I found your pages. Almost embar­rassed to say that I am a native of Rich­mond Indiana…Earlham College,Dr. Elton True­blood, Rich Mullins, and, as a young min­is­te­r­i­al stu­dent grop­ing for truth..The Quak­er Hill Bookstore.
    Your writ­ing has been a time of “refresh­ing” for me..
    Be Blessed,

  • Robin Mohr

    Oh my. I final­ly fol­lowed the link to the review. It is very inter­est­ing to me that they found the same water­ing down of reli­gious con­tent across reli­gious tra­di­tions. This is my favorite part:
    “The authors real­ly seem to care about these kids, who, in being treat­ed by most adults like rebel­lious aliens, have been entire­ly mis­served. The instru­men­tal­ist par­a­site of Moral­is­tic Ther­a­peu­tic Deism is killing off the ‘his­tor­i­cal­ly key ideas in America’s main reli­gious tra­di­tion, Chris­tian­i­ty’: ‘repen­tance, love of neigh­bor, social jus­tice, unmer­it­ed grace, self-discipline, humil­i­ty, the cost of dis­ci­ple­ship, dying to self, the sov­er­eign­ty of God, per­son­al holi­ness, the strug­gles of sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, glo­ri­fy­ing God in suf­fer­ing, hunger for right­eous­ness.’ And this is lamentable.”
    This does describe a lot of what is hap­pen­ing, doesn’t it?