On Tribes and Community: Part 9, Liberalism is Loneliness

In light of my recent posts about post-evangelical Christian loss and nostalgia, our longing for a tribe, let me point you to Christine Emba's recent column in the Washington Post, "Liberalism is Loneliness."

Emba's column is a reflection on Patrick Deneen's recent book Why Liberalism Failed.

The heart of the matter, as I wrote about two weeks ago, is how Western liberalism dissolves traditional and historical sources of connection and community. Liberalism dissolves group affiliations and treats us as rights-bearing individuals who stand alone before the state. In my posts I said that liberalism has an aerosolizing effect upon groups, it atomizes and then disperses us.

Here is Emba summarizing this impact and its consequences:
As liberalism has progressed, it has done so by ever more efficiently liberating each individual from “particular places, relationships, memberships, and even identities — unless they have been chosen, are worn lightly, and can be revised or abandoned at will.” In the process, it has scoured anything that could hold stable meaning and connection from our modern landscape — culture has been disintegrated, family bonds devalued, connections to the past cut off, an understanding of the common good all but disappeared.

And in the end, we’ve all been left terribly alone.

That’s the heart of it, really. Liberalism is loneliness. 
And like I mentioned in my series on tribes and progressive Christianity, we suffer when we're not a part of a tribe. As Emba observes:
Over the past 15 years, the U.S. suicide rate has increased by 24 percent; the rise in so-called deaths of despair is constantly in the news. The most liberal nation in the world reports less happiness and more pain than its illiberal counterparts. We may have traveled to the “end of history,” but the majority of Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track. And we’re desperately, desperately lonely. 
So what's the solution? Emba concludes by suggesting that we're going to have to become a whole lot more intentional about forming close knit communities. She brings up the Benedict Option, a vision that appeals to conservative Christians but leaves progressive Christians cold. But as I've argued, progressives need their own version of the Benedict Option to deal with the isolation and loneliness that liberalism is producing.

But this is going to be a hard labor, especially for progressive Christians whose embrace of liberalism makes it hard for them to form the close-knit churches they crave. Again, progressive Christians need to embrace their own Benedict Option. As Emba concludes:
Yet the deepest solution to the problem of liberalism is as personal in scale as its deepest quandary. To overhaul liberalism, we will have to overhaul ourselves, exchanging an easy drift toward selfish autonomy for a cultivated embrace of self-discipline and communal responsibility. As daunting a project as reforming a political order might seem, this internal shift may be just as hard.

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