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The Conversion of a Culture: Crisis and Resolution

Can an entire culture “be converted”i.e., turn away from entrenched patterns of selfishness and self-indulgence and replace them with patterns of altruism?  Can an entire society begin to act in accordance with the Second Great Commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39 KJV)?  So fundamental a change in orientation cannot be commanded by dictators, however sincerely and earnestly they may try, as the disastrous failures of Communism show.  Neither can it be organized by social engineers nor be effectively promoted by moral preaching.  The spirit that Sorokin, Buchman, King, and others like them wanted to see permeate society can come only in the wake of a massive cultural shift.  Our analysis suggests that such a shift is beginning to take place.  Such a spirit accompanied the rise of Christianity; perhaps it would accompany a renewal of Christianity—not of ecclesial power or theocratic structures but of the spirit of its Founder, as expressed in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5:3-11).

The late Roman Empire was so jaded and disillusioned that it was ripe for transformation by the new religion of Christianity.  Is our sociocultural supersystem similarly ready?  It surely is jaded and disillusioned.  Virtues, ideals, and heroism are regularly derided in the media and the arts.  It is inevitably...

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