Theme of the 21st Century: Powerlessness

I wish I could shout it from the rooftops: The theme of western culture in the 21st century so far has been powerlessness. The rate of change has been so fast that people feel helplessly caught in a a rushing stream which they fear is headed for a deadly waterfall.

That helpless feeling is overcome by exerting some fort of force (maybe bullying, random shootings and murders, Brexit) or by identifying with someone who does have power (Hitler, trump, nationalism). Being the first to own the latest and greatest cellphone or video game is a form of identifying with someone who knows what is going on and is doing something about it.

Unfortunately, our politicians keep identifying themselves as among the most powerless in our whole culture. That is in large measure because they have been gripped by one of our culture’s illusions of power: the refusal to compromise. A stubborn No somehow feels like power, though in fact is is mere cowardice.

Our advertising industry — one of the greatest forces for evil in our culture — have taught us to believe that we are entitled to have whatever we want whenever we want it. That feeling of entitlement keeps being frustrated by the bounds of reality, which then is transformed into depression for some, anger for others.

The atheists are sure we can get by just fine without God. It sure doesn’t look that way to me. As each generation is another step removed from faith, the powerlessness increases.

When we entrust ourselves to God we trust his justice, his wisdom, his power, his love. And we gradually learn through experience that the Lord is in fact profoundly trustworthy, so we don’t get too excited or depressed by the ups and downs of society. Justice will win in the end. Thanks be to God!!

God sees us, knows us, accepts us, forgives us, loves us, restores life to us, gives us peace and purpose and joy. Are you too proud to accept God’s love? Or are you ready to say, “Please, Lord, I cannot find my own way and need for yo to show me your way”?

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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2 Responses to Theme of the 21st Century: Powerlessness

  1. essiep says:

    Powerlessness has always been here. In the past, people were tied to their factory/mill owner, their religious organisation, ship, mine and so on.
    There never was a time when people felt they had power over their own lives. Unless you count the wealthy minority.

    • mthayes42 says:

      Thanks for the note, essiep. I agree that few people have ever had anything like a modern sense of being people of power. I do think, though, that there are two differences now.
      One, while people did not have much power over their circumstances, they were always free to choose their sense of selfhood, their own character. Now I believe most people have been torn in so many directions that they are deeply confused about the question, Who am I?
      Two, today’s powerlessness is more starkly a problem because our society (driven in large part by our advertising and entertainment industries) have promised us that we can be and do anything we want. That has never been true and is not true today. When can stretch the bounds of our own realities (and I applaud those who do) but we cannot break them altogether. the promise of life with no compromises is a simple lie, especially in a day when the masters of manipulation and coercion are more talented than ever.

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