By Matthew Murphy
July 31, 2015 0 Comments
The religious landscape in America has been statistically shown to be changing. The Pew Forum reports that from the years 2007 to 2014, the Christian share of the population decreased by nearly 8 percent. In addition to these stats, it’s not hard to see materialist trends alive and well. You need only observe any mall on Black Friday.
Maybe you’re wishing for the next “great awakening,” in which Americans flock back to the church and begin to pursue the Christian life. This notion of a Great Awakening is directly related to periods in history in which people, by the thousands, returned to the church after a period of secularization. Though many might think this trend is impossible, I would argue that the next Great Awakening is more than just a possibility. It’s a reality to come.
Let me explain.
Alexis de Tocqueville came to America to study the American prison system, but the trip inspired his magnum opus, Democracy in America (maybe you have read it). In this massive work, Tocqueville comments upon various aspects of American society in hopes of understanding the nature of democracy.
In this book you will find a plethora of rich ideas about American democracy, but the one I find particularly interesting is Tocqueville’s commentary on the democratic soul.
Tocqueville takes the human soul seriously. Whereas Jean-Jaques Rousseau believes the human soul to be a historical accident of sorts, Tocqueville argues that “Man did not give himself the taste for the infinite and the love of what is immortal. These sublime instincts are not born of a caprice in his will: they have their immovable foundations in nature…” (Democracy in America, 510).
Though he does not say it directly, I believe Tocqueville is arguing for the natural presence of the soul in man.
But, if you read the quote again, you can also see that Tocqueville makes another metaphysical claim. He implies that the human soul is not content with the objects of the material world and has a “taste for the infinite and the love of what is immortal.” This obviously raises a number of implications.
According to Tocqueville, “the soul has needs that must be satisfied” and these needs cannot be satisfied by the material world. The simplest way to achieve consolation and satisfaction for the soul is religion, which connects us with God.
This hunger, on a mass scale, would inevitably lead to a third Great Awakening as more and more people seek healing for their souls via religion. It could, however, reflect the vague “spirituality” of the 1960s, so I can only urge the church be prepared and knowledgeable, ready to offer people the ailment to their hurting souls in a way that is lasting and good for the whole of society. For if the church misses this opportunity, there could be nothing short of drastic results.