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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

The Secularization of Virtue, Shame & Identity

As they attempt to fill the void left by religion, many people in today’s culture are increasingly finding their identity and purpose in things such as dating, parenting, eating or voting. Is it possible that these things have now become vehicles of our own self-justification? On this program, Michael Horton and Adriel Sanchez discuss this issue with David Zahl, author of Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It.


Anytime you’re curating or editing your own personality, in order to get love or acceptance from another person, you’re in justification mode. To justify yourself is to basically assert that I’m valuable. I am loveable for this reason. And we do it in all sorts of ways. We do it by signaling our political beliefs. We do it by dropping names at a party. We do it by putting a sticker on the back of our car. And so, whatever you’re religious about is the place that you are looking to tell you that you’re okay.

David Zahl


“Narrative Collapse”

Narrative collapse is the loss of linear stories and their replacement with both crass reality programming and highly intelligent post-narrative shows like The Simpsons. With no goals to justify journeys, we get the impatient impulsiveness of the Tea Party, as well as the unbearably patient presentism of the Occupy movement. The new path to sense-making is more like an open game than a story.

Narrative Collapse is what happens when we no longer have time in which to tell a story. It is the experience of living in this fast-moving, chaotic information environment which destroys our capacity to conceive of our lives as stories, with a beginning, middle, and end.

(Adapted from Douglas Rushkoff, http://www.rushkoff.com/present-shock)

More from this Series: Seculosity

  1. The Secularization of Virtue, Shame & Identity Listen Now ›
  2. Virtue Signaling & The Culture of Busyness Listen Now ›