Club 8 (self-titled)
The Queen, RIP

More Rieff (2)

To end the spiritual impoverishment of Western culture, Jung recommends the following: that the rationalist suppression of myth and of other manifestations of the unconscious need mitigation, but not by a new theology or new dogmas; rather, by a therapeutic release of the myth components from the collective unconscious. The neurosis of modernity is defined by Jung as the suppression of precisely those irrational components. Therefore, Jung is recommending an essentially private religiosity without institutional reference or communal membership for the individual in need of an integrated symbolism....

In other words, "spiritual but not religious." In essence, this is a fairly common observation, though we usually hear it praised rather than viewed with Rieff's dry skepticism, and where it's criticized, not so precisely. What follows, though, is a little surprising:

This, then, is a religion for heretics in an age where orthodoxy no longer serves the sense of well-being. Jung's is a literary religion that demands more imagination than faith, more magic than science, more creativity than morality. Jung never analyzes the social structures within which all creative symbolisms occur. Indeed, he seems unaware of social structure. His psychology of the creative unconscious is remarkably old-fashioned, a secular version of the theology of the Creative Person which forms the central pillar of the huge and variegated growth we know today as Protestant theology. (p. 114)

My emphasis. I assume he's referring there to liberal Protestantism. It certainly doesn't seem to describe fundamentalist-evangelical Protestantism, at least not of Rieff's time. But I have the impression that the therapeutic mentality has made great inroads there in recent years, in what's been called "moral therapeutic deism." 

Oh look: MTD has a Wikipedia page


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One of the most telling things about liberal Christianity, in every "new" version that comes down the pike, is that no matter what it looks like on the surface J.G. Machen basically had the foundations of it all nailed 100 years ago in his book Christianity and Liberalism.
The fact that all these progressive Christians of whatever stripe think that all this stuff is "original" and "pioneering" and whatnot just demonstrates that they have no historical sense whatsoever.

I can remember 20 years ago discussing some of the new trends in evangelical Protestantism with a pastor friend whose exasperated response was, "Haven't these people ever read Machen?" The obvious answer was no. My guess would be that 95% of today's evangelicals, if not more, have never heard of him.

I'm not sure I had ever heard of him. Certainly never read him. But sounds like his major points have been made in one way or another by a number of people.

I must say I'm a little appalled when some supposedly bold new Protestant thinker, typically tattooed and pierced these days, announces his or her discovery that Christianity is really all about living your best life or something. I know that's a Joel Osteen thing (isn't it?) but the tattooed and pierced ones are basically saying the same thing.

Not a writer well-known outside of Protestant circles (although he once was), but famous among conservative Protestants at least up through the 80's. He led the resistance against modernism at Princeton Seminary in the early 1900's. My friend's point was that if these modern Evangelicals had read Machen like many of their forebears had they'd be able to spot the old liberalism in its new clothes from a mile away.

But would it bother them?

Hard to say. You might be able to salvage a few, if they're of the sort to which rationality actually matters.

Dreher posted a link to this yesterday. It touches on some of the same themes as your post.

Yes, I saw that, and if I hadn't been otherwise occupied was going to remark on it here. Whether she's right or wrong about the role of the internet (probably right or mostly right), it's the indifference of younger people that pretty much seals the doom of the republic.

The vapidity of the digital world and our younger cohort's indifference serve as a mutually reinforcing feedback loop, I'd say.

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