Themes and Thoughts
Food From Thought


Individualism is good for us

When Christian leaders, clergy, and prominent commentators on ethics and morality, complain about the wretched individualism that bedevils modern life in our society, what they’re really referring to is selfishness, and the greed and arrogance that normally goes with it, the seeming-ubiquity of people convinced that it’s only themselves that matter, that they have no need whatever to care for, or provide for, those around them.

Such people are often considered to be products of the return of belief in capitalism, and its ethical re-evaluation of itself, which occurred in the 1980s. Individualism, of this kind, was seen as a direct denial of the value of community, the inter-dependence of society, and the mutual concern we owe one another.

Certainly this kind of thinking was a feature of that “new capitalist” movement in society, if it can be so called, but it would be quite misleading to see it as a feature of only one kind of thinking, and the product of only one system of running society, or just one world-view; there is a “left wing” version of this kind of attitude as well as a “right wing” one, and if there was a version prominent among some Christians (seen in the so-called “prosperity gospel”), there is certainly a secularist/atheist version.

But because the rejection of the ills of “individualism” has such a wide appeal, and can be heard from representatives of various different viewpoints, it can serve to mask the really good things about real individualism, and help in the promotion of its unpleasant opposite (and failing to call it by its true name, selfishness, also masks the bad products of selfishness that so-called “liberation” has brought us, such as “sexual liberation”).

Rejection of individualism (the ism really is important) becomes the negation of people, the disregarding of ordinary individual humans and their needs and circumstances. Regard – as materialists must – people as just the chance, short-lived, by-products of random processes, and they become of little worth; no doubt, can there be, that, in our materialist society, promotion of euthanasia, abortion, eugenics and population control – the culture of death – inevitably goes on apace, promoted by governments, NGOs, and powerful pressure groups.

For today’s rulers, actual individual people are much like the mere “statistic” by which Stalin dismissed the millions of his victims; and the victims of the culture of death are a much greater statistic than anything Stalin ever managed.

Although there have been attempts to claim otherwise, Christianity is fundamentally about individuals. Of course there is a strong communal strain in our Jewish roots – Judaic religion and belief was the religion of the people, the race and nation – and in the New Testament we read of mass-conversions.

But Jesus’ words were always addressed to individual people, not the mass, a one-to-one encounter with ordinary people (certainly not national leaders or religious/political power groups). He challenged them – as he does today – to decide, choose, and make a personal life-changing response; other people, the group or community, cannot make it on your behalf. Salvation comes just to individuals, and the promised experience of eternal life is not as part of an impersonal mass Real freedom, I consider, comes from valuing humans first and foremost as individuals, not a homogenous lump, from the realisation that God created us (as I have claimed elsewhere) purposefully, intentionally, and individually.

Regard, and value, each person you meet – each person on the planet – as an individual (who ineluctably possesses a personal, eternal destiny) – as the person for whom Christ died – and you have the key to loving a person, and thereby all people; and this love, alone, is the emotion, concern, and valuing, which will create real community, real compassion and responsibility for all, and a really peaceful, happy world.