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Individualism (Modern Notions)

“Our culture is rooted in individualism…The spirit of individualism is a spirit of ego and pride…“Once individuals become the locus of meaning, the social atomism that results means that disbelief no longer has social consequences. “We” are not a seamless cloth, a tight-knit social body; instead, “we” are just a collection of individuals — like individual molecules in a social “gas.” This diminishes the ripple effect of individual decisions and beliefs. You’re free to be a heretic — which means, eventually, that you’re free to be an atheist….People in Western cultures often think of themselves first as individuals, but the human being may be better understood as a focal point of embedded relationships.” (Father Stephen Freeman, Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, James K.A. Smith, Makoto Fujimura)

“…to lock myself behind masks and hide within is to die. We see this in the etymology of the English word idiot, which comes from the Greek ῐδῐώτης, (idiotes). The primary meaning of the Greek word is the individual who does not become involved in communal life—the one who is cut off from relationship and therefore lives a life of ever-decreasing meaning. To be primarily an individual is to be cut off; to be fully a person is to relate.” (Andrew Williams)

“Among the more pernicious ideas that inhabit our contemporary world is the notion that we are all isolated, independent, and alone. Even when we gather, we think of ourselves as but one among many. Among the most glaring exceptions to this form of thought, however, are sporting events. People attend a football game and declare when it is finished, “We won!” or “We lost!” We feel genuine joy at the first and sadness at the second. We do not say, “They won” (unless we mean the opposing side). This is not actually strange. Sport has, from its earliest beginnings, been a religious experience. That said, it is an experience that we fail to consider or understand. It is also a shallow, meaningless, religion.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Nowadays, human rights are safeguarded and protected all over the world. This undoubtedly constitutes progress and is an achievement for our civilization. Christian theology has played an important role in the defense of human rights, declaring that the human person is sacred and is made in the image of God. In this way, the concept of human dignity has entered public discourse and is not in question. On a personal level, however, because of the excessive emphasis on human rights, there is a lurking danger of spiritual disorientation, since individualism becomes highly developed. For the faithful in particular, the trend towards self-justification and the pursuit of one’s interests isn’t of benefit. On the contrary, self-condemnation and deference to one’s neighbor can contribute to the promotion of the Christian life.” (Konstantinos Kinas)

“In this time of individualism, when so many are insisting on their own right without considering others, it is easy to forget what we learn from our reading. We neglect the communal, corporate, and common nature of the Church. Surely one of the lessons of this time of crisis is that we need each other. We depend on one another not merely to pray for, help, and support one another. But we cannot be the Church on our own without each other. Together with one another, united in Christ, and built upon the foundation of Holy Tradition, we fulfill our calling to be the Church, the temple of the Holy Spirit.” (Fr. Basil)

“Most North Americans view the US as a country built by rugged individualism. But all too often, promoting individualism can hinder a sense of community. Growing up with this embedded cultural heritage, US citizens are taught to keep their noses out of each other’s business and to preserve individual rights at all costs. At best, this societal norm might keep folks from becoming overbearing busybodies. At worst, it promotes isolation and noninvolvement, splinters communities, sparks intransigent political debates, and impedes opportunities for folks to resolve disagreements in a communal, respectful fashion….We are social creatures. We fill hours with virtual conversations and often with virtual bullying, name calling, and argumentative diatribes. This is not the way God meant human beings to live. He created us to be social beings, needing one another, helping one another, and supporting one another. God Himself is not an individual but a community of Persons, a Trinity one in nature and undivided in purpose.” (Archpriest Steven John Belonick)

“There is virtually nothing about human beings that, strictly speaking, is individual. Beginning from our biology itself, we are utterly and completely connected to others. The same is true of our language and our culture. None of us is an economy to ourselves. Even those things we most cherish as uniquely individual are questionable. We celebrate choice as the true signature of our individuality. However, if you scrutinize decisions carefully, they are something less than autonomous exercises of the will. Americans have a strange way of choosing like Americans (often to the dismay of the rest of the world). We are “free agents” who play the game of life on a field that is deeply slanted.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Contrary to popular opinion, it is not possible to pursue the Christian life as an isolated individual. The Church is Christ’s Body and we are members of Him together. He is the vine and we are the branches. The Lord ascended with His Body and, by His grace, we will too as we serve Him together in His Body, the Church, by doing what needs to be done for the flourishing of our small parish.” (Fr. Philip LeMasters)

“Our personal faith needs communitarian buttressing, lest it degenerate into an individual spirituality. One solid and sure means of corroborating our personal faith is to check it against the faith of the church, the community founded by Christ upon the apostles.” (Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.)

“The value of each individual person is seen perhaps most simply in that when we approach the chalice for Holy Communion or participate in other Mysteries, the priest always says our name. We are part of the Body of Christ, but never as anonymous members. And yet, while the Church emphasizes the value of the individual, an individualist mentality is unacceptable. Just as the Church recognizes freedom rather than demanding submission or imposing authority over us, there is a similar tension between recognizing our uniqueness as individuals and rejecting individualism.” (Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou)

“There is no such thing as an “individual” Christian. Being “knit together in love” (Col 2:2), we are called in Christ to suffer together, be honored together, and rejoice together.” (Orthodox Study Bible, 1 Corinthians 12:26)

"Faith precedes the descent of the Holy Spirit but it is not the same thing. There is a trend in modern culture to stress the importance of the individual. Movies and literature celebrate the lone hero who faces down evil through his personal attributes and courage. This individualism is reflected in the privatization of religious belief." (Father Spyridon Baily)

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain...Our difficulty in taking up this challenge seriously has much to do with an ethical and cultural decline which has accompanied the deterioration of the environment. Men and women of our postmodern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today’s self-centered culture of instant gratification.” (Pope Francis)

“God is calling us even now to struggle against rampant individualism and self-indulgence.” (Dynamis 3/11/2019)

“In a world that is filled with self-serving individuals, the genuine love of Christians should attract others to the faith.” (Foundation Study Bible, 1 Thessalonians 4:10)

"The modern myth of human beings as individual, self-contained moral agents is not just incorrect. It is also a tool of deception. The myth is often used to absolve us from the mutual responsibility that constitutes a just society, as well as to falsely blame individuals for things over which they have little or no control. That contemporary Christianity is often complicit in this deception is perhaps among its greatest errors.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“The ideology of individualism first encourages us to question all authority. Then, when this insidious, radical independence becomes fixed in our personality, it creates an inner resistance to submitting to anyone who would direct our behavior and decisions. When such an ideology is accepted by Christians, it corrodes our willingness to obey the tough, saving commandments of God. We start to question the very idea of lordship, and our duty to obey Christ is unthinkingly ignored.” (OCPM 10/4/2017)

“…whatever happened to the concept of mutual responsibility. Yes, of course, as individuals we should watch we eat, exercise and take responsibility for the health of our bodies. But why shouldn’t the food industry, the securities industry and all others take responsibility for selling sound products that are good for all not just for profit. It seems to me that our country has become so much about the sale that we sometime sacrifice or subordinate quality and even morals and ethics to profit.” (Sacramental Living)

“The Gospel upholds the freedom of man and the unique beauty of each soul, but it also condemns self-centeredness, materialism, and apathy toward the poor. It condemns the modern notion of individualism.” (Jonathan Jackson)

“Too often, unfortunately, we are jealous of those who rejoice and apathetic toward those who weep. Believers are in the world together—there is no such thing as private or individualistic Christianity. We need to get involved in the lives of others and not just enjoy our own relationship with God.” (Life Application Study Bible, 1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

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