A Response To David Brooks


David Brooks is so right about so many things – and his opinion piece last week on the "wonderful young people who are doing good" (Link) is on the mark as well.  His conclusion that their idealism is ultimately not enough because it does not address the harsh realities of politics systems corruption and the extent of "disorder" in those very places they are working is accurate.  Their ambivalence about the place of rough political process and their preference for cleaner and more virtuous nonprofit solutions will at some point bump up against the evils of the world.  The complexities ” trade-offs and deals that are inevitable will rear up in time and the question is how they will face those when they come. 

I also wonder how they will deal with disillusionment” ” easy cynicism and finding a smoother path for personal fulfillment.  Some will fade away.  Some will accommodate themselves to the common wisdom of "doing what it takes" and others will themselves be corrupted and "lose their souls" in the process.  I don't think there is any way to predict that just yet. 

All this is relatively new for a movement that for so long was focused on evangelism and uncomfortable – even distrustful of – the social side of the gospel.  Yes” there were a few heroes that are now being honored instead of marginalized – Dorothy Day Ron Sider ” Tony Campolo and others.  There are even some who are working on a credible theology that will support this new way and give it the energy and urgency that worked so well for a dispensational view of history and the eschatology that drove the growth of the parachurch movement of the last century.

Still” ” given the nature of movements and trends there will be many who will move on or drop out.

At the same time” I think part of the popularity of Eric Metaxas' book "Bonhoeffer" can be chalked up to this same generation's search not just for courage in the face of overwhelming evil but the tenacity to wrestle with the tangible and complicated evil of systems – political economic and yes religious.  I think there will be a few who will accept the responsibility and discomfort of  being fully in the world.  Bonhoeffer wrote "God wants to see human beings not ghosts who shun the world.  In the whole of world history there is always only one significant hour – the present…If you want to find eternity you must serve the times."  There will be those few who do not persist in their disdain for politics and will face the facts Brooks writes about so well: "In short there's only so much good you can do unless you are willing to confront corruption ” venality and disorder head-on."

Let me close this with this from Bonhoeffer because I believe he more than most understood this conundrum.  "Who stands fast?  Only the man whose final standard is not his reason” his principles his conscience his freedom his virtue but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God – the responsible man who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God."  


  1. Such good insightsFred. I think we can all reflect on the energy and desire to do something meaningful that accompanies one’s youth; such qualities we recall of ourselves when we beganand that which we see in the coming generation. What will separate those who survive well will certainly be whatever it was that motivated them in the first place: either the notion that we can do better because somehow we are better (one’s own pride) or that we will do better because by God’s grace and only by His enabling we refuse at all cost to fail. “Indeed we had the sentence of death upon ourselves so that we would no longer trust in ourselvesbut in God who raises the dead.” That is probably the only point at which we know we have made a true difference. Few are willing to accept it.

  2. Great thinking! That rlealy breaks the mold!


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