A Modern Day Problem
David Brooks is a 57 year old, American conservative political and cultural commentator who writes for The New York Times, as well as a New York Times list best-selling author, with books such as The Social Animal and The Road to Character to his credit.
He is also a sufferer. In 2013, he began a journey of great difficulty: his marriage ended, his kids left home and he became an empty nester, he left the political movement he had been a part of his whole life, and, in his words, he became “lonely and disconnected from people, imprisoned in individualism, facing a spiritual emptiness and void in myself.”
All this lead to some deep soul-searching and a rethinking his foundational beliefs, which birthed his newest book, The Second-Mountain: the Quest for a Moral Life.
I listened to an interview with him recently where he provided some insight to the quest he speaks of in that book title:
“I no longer believe the social and cultural structures of our society are fine, and all we have to do is fix ourselves individually. Over the past few years, as the result of personal, national, and global events, I have become radicalized. I now think that the rampant individualism of our current climate is a catastrophe. The emphasis on self, the individual’s success, self-fulfillment, individual freedom, and self-actualization is a catastrophe…we must escape the mentality that the best life is the freest life.”
And a bit later in the interview,
“I realized it was not just me feeling this way. There is a rise in loneliness in our nation, a rise in suicide rates, it is happening all around us, [even in our wealth and prosperity].”
“I came to the realization that political freedom is good, economic freedom is good, but social freedom is NO GOOD…when you are in the valley, freedom and individualism stinks. If you are unattached, you are unremembered and uncommitted to anything, and I have learned from that lesson.”
A Modern Day Problem
Brooks writes of his terrible discovery that rampant individualism and social freedom and unattachment is an unequivocal catastrophe in our nation and culture.
But what’s the answer? Where does a culture look for an alternative, to bring hope to the lonely, the unattached, and to some so desperate they see death as the only escape?
I’d like to turn to another writer with his own story—a story that holds the answers. His name is Paul, and like Brooks, he too is a sufferer, who finds himself in a valley; and like Brooks, he is writing into a culture of sufferers, a people in the city of Thessalonica (a city still thriving in modern-day Greece). But unlike Brooks, Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s story is backed by and filled with instruction and answers from God himself. It is a beautiful story of human flourishing that is in the Bible because it can be our story, in our time, too.
And what does this story reveal?
I can sum up 1 and 2 Thessalonians in one sentence (my wife thinks it’s a paragraph, but if it only has one ‘period,’ in my book, that’s still a sentence). Here it is, and it will guide the rest of our study together:
The power of the good news creates communities,
of holy people,
who flourish in the midst of loving relationships,
as they prayerfully, eagerly, and expectantly await the coming of their Master
and Messiah — Jesus.
I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.
May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.
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