The Pursuit of Meaning

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It is God with whom we have to do. People go for long stretches of time without being aware of that, thinking it is money, or sex, or work, or children, or parents, or a political cause, or an athletic competition, or learning with which they must deal. Any one or a combination of these subjects can absorb them and for a time give them the meaning and purpose that human beings seem to require. But then there is a slow stretch of boredom. Or a disaster. Or a sudden collapse of meaning. They want more. They want God. When a person searches for meaning and direction, asking questions and testing out statements, we must not be diverted into anything other or lesser.

–Eugene Peterson

A secularized culture is a corpse

eugene_petersonOur culture has failed precisely because it is a secular culture. A secular culture is a culture reduced to thing and function. Typically, at the outset, people are delighted to find themselves living in such a culture. It is wonderful to have all these things coming our way, without having to worry about their nature or purpose. And it is wonderful to have this incredible freedom to do so much, without bothering about relationships or meaning, But after a few years of this, our delight diminishes as we find ourselves lonely among the things and bored with our freedom.

Our first response is to get more of what brought us delight in the first place: acquire more things, generate more activity. Get more. Do more. After a few years of this, we are genuinely puzzled that we are not any better.

We North Americans have been doing this for well over a century now, and we have succeeded in producing a culture that is reduced to thing and function. And we all seem to be surprised that this magnificent achievement of secularism—all these things! all these activities!—has produced an epidemic of loneliness and boredom. We are surprised to find ourselves lonely behind the wheel of a BMW or bored nearly to death as we advance from one prestigious job to another.

And then, one by one, a few people begin to realize that getting more and doing more only makes the sickness worse. They realize that if it gets much worse the culture will be dead—a thoroughly secularized culture is a corpse.

–Eugene Peterson