Columnist David Brooks has a new book coming out, so he wrote a New York Times column about the “Five Lies Our Culture Tells Us.” He believes we have created a culture based on lies. Columnist Robert Samuelson responds to David Brooks in a Washington Post column by telling him to “lighten up.”
Let’s look at the five lies. They are that we believe that “career success is fulfilling” and that “I can make myself happy.” They also include the belief that “life is an individual journey” and that “you have to find your own truth” and the “rich and successful people are worth more than poorer and less successful people.”
If you are a Christian and look at that list of lies, you will probably reject every one of them and agree with Brooks. We shouldn’t get our significance from work and career. We are part of the body of Christ and should reject the lie of self-sufficiency. We certainly should not try to “find our own truth” but instead seek truth in Scripture.
Why then would Samuelson advise Brooks to “lighten up?” He begins by acknowledging these insights are true, but “they’re also utopian.” We haven’t arrived “in some Garden of Eden paradise where almost everyone is happy, fulfilled, responsible, and respected.”
He points out, for example, that ambition can be both a blessing and a curse. It encourages people to try new things and to stretch their abilities. But people obsessed with their projects and with themselves mistreat others and cause problems.
I applaud both of them. Brooks focuses on some of the major problems that have surfaced in our society, like spiking suicide rates and a coarsening culture. Samuelson reminds us that most Americans have jobs and we live in a time of relative peace. Both are true and deserve our attention.