Individualism is the current cultural ethos that we inhabit in the West. It is the air we breath and the water we swim in. Almost every facet of our culture hinges on the concept of individual autonomy and self-fulfillment. Your education, marriage, job, hobbies, and consumer choices are all heavily catered to you as an individual. Ironically enough such an extreme bent toward individualism has very clear consequences on a culture’s social and group behaviors.When a society believes that the ultimate goal is the exaltation of the individual then the non-individual aspects of a society (education, politics, religion) will begin to reflect that. Ultimately there are only two ways the collective society bent on individualism can go: Anarchy or Socialism.
This might sound strange to you but once ample thought is given to the subject then it is very clear. When the individual is exalted then the one thing it cannot allow is the exaltation of other individuals above itself. This means that every individual must operate on the exact same playing field. Once this point has been reached there are only two ways to make the playing field even: 1) authority or 2) possessions. See the following quote from Ray Sutton from his essay “The Baptist Failure in the book The Failure of the American Baptist Culture (Eds. James Jordan & Gary North)
On one side of the coin individualism is equality of authority—Anarchy. On the other side it is equality of possessions—Socialism. (p. 173)
Unfortunately, America currently seems to be caught somewhere between these two extremes. Our political climate is one where votes are bought by coercion in the name of “equality”. On the other hand, our cultural (educational and religions) climate is one where each person’s own thoughts are counted as equally valid as the next persons. We are in an interesting place where two forms of individualism are fighting it out on the national stage and few people seem to be noticing it.
My hope is that neither anarchy or socialism win out but instead reformation in hearts, families, churches, and eventually our society would dethrone our individualism and raise Christ to a place of honor in our society.
Food for thought.