So often we see people judging their Church, their faith, community, our faith community and saying, oh, it’s bad because it’s not helping people do these expressive individualist acts. If this were truly good, it would be doing that because they’ve adopted this idea of what goodness is through this world lens, and they struggle to say, okay, we have different ideas of what goodness is. There is an approach to goodness that is still internally consistent, but that’s unique to sort of a religious faith as opposed to what our pop culture is teaching us.
Hello, everybody. Welcome back yet again to another Samsung scripted episode. We’re so excited today. We have Christopher back with us.
We’ve done a few episodes with him, actually. So definitely be sure to check him out.
He’s got a lot of really good stuff.
I love being here, guys. I love saying some script in it. I love your audience. I love the questions I get in the comments section afterwards. I appreciate you having me on, oh, yeah.
We love having you on. We love all the insight that you have.
And it’s so fun to talk with you.
So we’re super excited to have you back. So today we’re going to be talking about expressive individualism. And those are two big words. And so I was actually wondering before we get into the meat of today’s discussion, I was just wondering if for us and for our audience out there, if you could just explain exactly what is expressive individualism for us, and then we can just kind of go from there.
So expressive individualism is a phrase that philosophers are using to try and describe what the sort of worldview is that’s happening right now. They’re trying to say, okay, how are we looking at the world? We look at history and we can say, oh, this period would have this kind of philosophy. This period has this philosophy. They’re trying to figure out what’s our philosophy. Now. This is kind of a phrase they’re using to try and identify what that is. And in essence, it means that what we think as a society is the most important thing.
Kind of what our goals are, what we strive for is to identify who we are and our psychological core like, who are we like when we say, Be yourself, be yourself.
Identify what that means as yourself. And then to express that to the world that you actualize this kind of stuff that you’ve discovered. And so that’s what expressive individualism means. Briefly, if you’re curious about it, probably the best book that’s right now, explaining this idea is called The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by a fellow named Carl Truman. And he’s kind of identified this idea he talks about kind of how it’s developed over the last 60 years and how it’s impacting lots of pieces of our culture.
So if the 32nd version wasn’t enough for you, that’s where you want to go there you go. Yeah.
So in all the studies that you’ve done and all your research, what have you grown to feel about expressive individuals? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Is it too extreme? One way or the other? Is it just kind of neutral? What do you think?
I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s kind of the best framework for it.
So I’m a big fan of The Wizard boss, a huge fan of the Wizards. And when you watch the movie, you get to the Emerald City, and it’s just this Emerald City, right? It’s made out of emeralds.
You see the green exactly what it claims to be.
Exactly what it seems to be in the books. Something different happens when Dorothy and her friends get to the Emerald City. The guy at the gate says, Stop, you can’t come in. I have to give you these glasses and they put on these glasses. And the book is a little weirder than the film they put on these glasses and they lock them to their heads. They cannot take these glasses off these glasses. The lenses are green. The Emerald City is not Emerald at all. It’s just part of the big trick of the wizard, who is a fake spoiler alert.
And so they think it’s green. All the people in the Emerald City think it’s green, but they’re not really seeing reality because they’re looking through these green glasses.
And so expressive individualism is kind of like those glasses. It affects how we see everything. And since it’s the worldview of today, everyone is wearing these lenses and looking at the world.
What’s bad? What should I do with my life? Who should I follow by kind of saying, does this align with this expressive individualism worldview? So your question is, is it good or bad? It just is it’s everywhere every movie you watch, maybe not every movie, so many movies. It’s like what it’s about trying to figure out who they are and making it happen.
Just be yourself.
It’s what it’s all about. I guess so. That’s not the right framework to put it in there. So how about this? How does expressive individualism relate to gospel principles? How do they fit? Do they fit at all?
Do they clash? It’s a really good question. I think if we look at the broad scope of history, right. If we’re looking since the Enlightenment, for example, we’re looking at 300 years, we see more and more focus on the individual, and we recognize in good ways that society is made up of individuals. And that if we want to take care of society, we need to take care of the individual person. And there’s a lot of good that comes from that. So much of what we do as Christians is about ministering to the individual, helping individuals work out their Salvation.
Right. And so if we get too far beyond the individual looking at just society all the time. We can really miss that God loves each and every single person. And so this idea of expressive individualism, where we care intensely about the individual is in a lot of ways, really aligned with the gospel, that it’s really aligned with caring about people. But it’s also not the gospel, right? This is not a philosophy that’s kind of a Christian philosophy springing from scripture. And so you are you’re going to see things that are kind of inherently sort of maybe violating that.
So, like, as religious people, we say, who do I want to be? And we say, Well, I’m going to look up, right. I’m going to look to a higher power. I’m going to look to religious leaders. I’m going to look to scripture. I’m going to look to my own personal revelation from God to inform who I should be. And then my goal in life is to align myself with this better person, try to become something better that’s in line with a holier vision. Expressive individualism is fundamentally not that it’s all about.
Okay. Who do I want to be? Well, I’m not going to look to a higher power. I’m going to look to myself, look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. I’m going to look inside myself and say, okay, who am I? I’m trying to find myself through myself. Now, you’re hearing that I think there’s a little bit of muddle in this philosophy and then try and become that. And that’s fundamentally not a religious point of view. And so there is going to be some conflict.
But I think it would also be a mistake to try and throw it all out because there is a lot of good things about caring about the individual and the individual experience.
Yeah. Because as you were talking about it, my first thought was like, there’s no scripture anywhere that ever tells us to be ourselves. In fact, more often than not, there are scriptures that say the opposite. Delay or deny yourself, forget yourself and put off the natural man is what they call, wouldn’t that? And that would be like yourself. Get rid of certain elements of yourself. But then to your point, there’s a lot of parts of you that are inherently good that you should be embracing that are part of your identity and will help you serve other people and love other people and project that outward to help.
So that’s really interesting.
All right. So since we just talked about the good and bad parts of expressive individualism, I just want to ask, what can we do to help avoid the pitfalls of expressive individualism?
I think a lot of it is about awareness.
I think a lot of times we’re living our life, we’re kind of getting all of these ideas from a broader culture, and we’re not really clear on why we believe what we believe. Okay. We end up sort of embracing this idea, which my guess is, I’m an expressive individualist in terms of I’m in this culture. I’m getting these ideas, you guys, I’m guessing a lot of your watchers are, too, but they probably never really thought of it in those terms before, like, they probably never stopped to think, oh, I believe these things about what it means to be a person, what the greatest good is in the world.
And those are really important beliefs. And yet we’ve kind of got them almost passively. And I think as people who are trying to be conscientious about their faith and conscientious about the way we live, it’s important for us to say, stop what parts of my world view of these core beliefs I have. Am I really bringing from my faith? Which ones am I choosing to adopt? And then, like I said, there are the good and bad parts. You can be conscientious about where this worldview fits within the gospel and where it doesn’t and make specific choices.
But because we don’t recognize it as sort of this thing that’s independent from the gospel and from religious living. We end up often just kind of living the gospel through the lens of expressive individualism and judging the gospel through the lens of expressive individualism. So often we see people judging their Church, their faith, community, our faith community and saying, oh, it’s bad because it’s not helping people do these expressive individualist acts. And if this were truly good, it would be doing that because they’ve adopted this idea of what goodness is through this world lens, and they struggle to say, okay, we have different ideas of what goodness is.
There is an approach to goodness that is still internally consistent, but that’s unique to sort of a religious faith as opposed to what our pop culture is teaching us? And do I want to adopt this pop culture philosophy, or do I want to adopt this religious tradition? And if we’re not conscientious of it, we can end up really struggling to reconcile our faith because we have all these ideas in our head that we don’t even recognize our independent, like, we almost describe these ideas to ourselves.
I am fundamentally have these ideas and it’s like, Well, no, you’re just thinking this because this is where our culture is, that’s the world you grew up and do you want it? Do you want it? And I think that’s probably the biggest key. I think for so many people this idea that I said, oh, we’re going to look at ourselves. They’re like, Well, I don’t I am trying to look to God, but because of these goggles that they’re wearing, they see God as almost the ultimate expressive individualist.
That what God wants more than anything, is for you to figure out who you are and express it to the world. I don’t think so. I think they end up ultimately sort of still expressing themselves but trying to say, oh, this is religion because I’m seeing God. I’ve created God after this pop culture philosophy image. And so I believe what God wants is for me to do it. Do I think God wants it in a lot of ways?
God does want us to express our talents. This is a huge theme in the New Testament, finding what we’re good at and making a difference in the world and that aligns a lot with it. But God also is a God of Commandments, and God is a God of identity. Right? Like, who are we in a Christian worldview? We are children of God. And what do we do? We keep the Commandments and we repent when we don’t. And we try to become more like him. And that’s something that, in a lot of ways doesn’t comport with expressive individualism, because in this view, who you want to be would be prioritized over what some institution religious tradition says you should be has got an expressive individualist.
I don’t think so. I think some of the things expressive individualists taught us helps us do some of the things God has asked us to do. But I do think there’s some real incompatibility there that people who are now living in this culture wearing these lenses probably want to be aware of if they’re trying to live a life of faith.
That’s so interesting, because as you’re talking, I’m like, I see this in myself a lot. I’ve totally been there. I’ve looked at certain parts of the gospel that I was like, that’s not really compatible with it. And it’s like this idea that this is right. This is good. And you see this conflict, and I don’t even step back out of myself enough to realize that this is a worldview that’s changed and shifted over centuries of time. And this just happens to be our worldview today.
We kind of think, oh, this is it. And it’s 60 years old. I mean, this idea has only been around for 60 years, and then we just treat it like it has to be the truth because it’s the waters we’re swimming in.
So how can we do better at that? How can we do better at finding that Christian worldview and differentiating from the well.
I think you modeled it literally on camera right now, right? You’re like, oh, I’m listening to this. I’m learning about what this worldview is, and I’m thinking, oh, I’ve done this. I have applied this worldview to my understanding of the gospel. And now I imagine you’re asking yourself, Do I want to do that? Am I comfortable with that conclusion? Is this a worldview that I want to keep as I’m trying to wrestle and understand what the gospel and my guess is, in some ways, the answer will be yes, but it’ll probably be a yes a lot less than it would have been if you hadn’t asked yourself that question because otherwise you would have just done it without ever thinking.
And then as we’re moving forward, you’re going to start identifying it. You said you already were looking at movies, every movie you’re going to watch. From now on, you’re going to be like, oh, yeah. Here it is. They’re going to teach me this moral and this moral is through this world lens. So as I’m kind of identifying, oh, what is this moral mean to me? How do I want to let this movie affect me? It’s going to change how you interact with the pop culture. As you see, kind of these slogans like, Be Yourself or Ubu or things like this, you’re going to be like, oh, this slogan, which sounds really pithy and sounds really meaningful, is just an embodiment of this pervasive world view we have.
Do I want that? Do I really want to maybe me or not? And I think one of the reasons why we hear the prophets tell us over and over and over again. Read your scriptures every day is because we’re getting this culture every day. And the only way to really say, how does this comport with the gospel is to be getting the gospel every day in a form that’s a lot more pure. That’s a lot more straight from the source, which is what the scriptures are.
And then we can kind of be wrestling with that idea.
That is really cool. Well, thank you for educating us, calling us all to repentance.
Well, I certainly didn’t do that. One other source I’ll give you at the end, a fellow named Jeff Fene. He’s a philosopher. He just did a presentation called The Water Reswimmon, which I kind of referenced a little bit earlier, where he talks a lot about expressive individualism and how it impacts a lot of other pieces of our culture. So if you’re interested in learning more awesome.
We’Ll be sure to get those links down in the description as usual. And right down there beware of your worldviews and read your scriptures every day. Thanks for watching.