The Loneliest Generation

We are living in a culture that is so incredibly lonely and it’s happening at a rate that is really different than probably any other time in history. And a lot of people are asking the question, “Why is that?” Why, in a society when we have more freedom of choice than we’ve ever had in history, are people seem to be more lonely than ever? And really these things are related. This obsession with freedom of choice and the loneliness that we feel. And a lot of this implicates the family and I was blown away. I’m curious what your reaction is to this, Jeff.

I was reading an article by a Missouri Senator named Josh Hawley. And he said, we’re living what he’s calling the age of Pelagius. And this is kind of a weird word, but Pelagius is the name of a guy from Rome who was a monk. And he started a heresy or a belief system that was really anti-biblical. And it’s fascinating what Josh said about this guy and how we’re kind of living in his legacy. He says, “For decades now, our politics and culture have been dominated by a particular philosophy of freedom. It is a philosophy of liberation from family and tradition, of escape from God and community, a philosophy of self-creation, an unrestricted, unfettered free choice. It is a philosophy that has defined our age. Though it is far from new. In fact, it’s most influential proponent lived 1700 years ago, a British monk who eventually settled in Rome named Pelagius. So thoroughly has his teaching informed our recent past and precipitated our present crisis, that we might refer to this era as the age of Pelagius.”

He said that the sort of spirit of the age was really summed up well in a decision made by the Supreme court. It was in Casey vs. Planned Parenthood, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, in his decision, “At the heart of Liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life.” And so this is what the Senator then wrote after that. “The Pelagian view says, the individual is most free when he is most alone, able to choose his own way without interference, family tradition, neighborhood and church. These things get in the way of uninhibited free choice. And this Pelagian idea of freedom is one our cultural leaders have embraced for decades.”

And so one of the questions that I want to like kind of push or pose for you guys as dads is, men, have you embraced this idea of freedom? That you are most free when you’re most alone, when things are not impinging on your free choice, right? If that’s your idea of freedom, you guys, then family’s always going to feel like an obstacle to freedom. And because this definition of freedom is almost the highest value now in our culture, then family will feel like a indirect opposition to what your goals are or what it would look like for you to live a meaningful life.

But of course, you guys in the gospel, freedom is not a unfettered choice, right? Freedom is the… The essence of our slavery is something going on internally. It’s the things that are happening, the impulses in our flesh, the things that are driving us towards legalistic religion, these elements of the flesh are the things that enslave us and that freedom looks like actually coming out of self-centeredness and into other centeredness, which would mean fatherhood is actually the path into freedom. And so this is why the definition is so important.

If you have a Palegian view of freedom, then fatherhood and family is going to be the thing that’s going to stand between you and what you ultimately want to have or achieve in life. If this is your cultural value. But if you really believe the gospel and understand that what freedom is, is to be freedom from this slavery to sin, then fatherhood is a pathway into freedom. And so I just thought this was a really interesting thing that he was sort of teasing out in public in his article that kind of went viral. And I wanted to get your thoughts on this, Jeff.

Yeah. I mean, I agree. One last thought I’ll give that’s interesting is, yeah. I think this is the absolute air we breathe, the water we’re swimming in as a culture. And I think this is like actually, we’re actually living the logical conclusion, if even like the founding fathers. Like you go back to enlightenment, you go back to the French Revolution obviously, which wasn’t our revolution, but just same era. And you go back to some similar things of the time, philosophers, this was exactly what everyone wanted and where everyone was going. Of the individual autonomy and the individual freedom is the highest ideal. And if we make that so, what will that look like? Now that gives an immense amount of benefits with individual rights, with democracy, et cetera. But now we’re living on kind of the back end of that, which doesn’t show itself well.

One kind of metaphor I’ll use that’s really helpful to me is, it’s exactly what you said of like, if you actually buy this view of freedom, especially as a father, then you’ll actually think family stands in your way from having your best life and your hobbies and that nice car and all these kinds of weird pseudo dreams a lot of fathers have or whatever. When instead, true freedom actually always inherently has true restraint. So true freedom is not just completely uninhibited. That’s like a false pseudo freedom, just like skydiving. Right? So skydiving would be seen as a cultural example of one of the biggest, best moments of true uninhibited freedom, right? Like that’s just the moment you’re most free, jumping out of a plane and just plummeting to the earth. That’s seen as like people who are crazy, have no inhibitions and are free, something they’d do.

But yet, for you to still be that free, you’re wearing a restraint called a parachute, right? If you were to not even wear the restraint, then what would happen? It wouldn’t be true freedom, it would be called death. But that would actually technically make you even more free though, right? To the feeling and whatever, and the risk and all that stuff. But true freedom inherently has risk, I mean not risk, restraint. And when there is a form of restraint, like there is the parachute in skydiving, then you actually can enjoy the freedom more, then you actually can use the freedom. Then you can actually be within the bounds of the freedom.

And like you said, it’s freedom from sin and that I would also say, freedom to serve. Like we’re freed up to do something. That’s the whole point, right? Like when you’re free, you’re freed up to do something and that’s not to just kind of indulge, or bloat yourself, or chase some hedonistic dream, but to actually free to love God and love neighbor, which the scriptures say is the ultimate ideal and the thing that will actually kind of call us back to our own genuine humanness. So yeah, guys think about that today. Be challenged with that today. Is what view would you put yourself in? Have you bought the American line, the American dream of freedom, or have you understood and lived in the more biblical view of what freedom is?

And remember you guys that, that the end of this story that Jeff and I are talking about, is to be alone. The end of this idea is to die alone. And God does not want that for us. And so we either die to ourselves or we’re going to die alone. And so we need to die to ourselves. And you guys who are struggling with young families and all the challenges that are invested into that season, it’s really good for you. It’s really good for your future. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

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