Signs of the Times
Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s The Coddling of the American Mind examines the recent phenomenon of college age intolerance, phobias, stress, and suicide. The authors focus on three “Great Untruths” surrounding fragility, feelings, and conflict. These untruths, according to Haidt and Lukianoff, are manifested in all sectors of social life and are creating division, distrust, and destruction of our secondary and university level education systems. I see many connections in this book that link directly into my dissertation research into the problem with spiritual warfare. This post will examine how The American Mind narrative compares to spiritual warfare and how both are influenced by principalities and powers. I will start with reviews and articles to set the stage and then infuse the author’s themes and ideas to try and guide you to a safe place where you will be happy to put on your full armor of God.
First, how do dissenting views influence current thinking and the administration of higher education? For example, GFU encourages their Dmin students to critically analyze, challenge, and argue their points with other students and LGP staff. According to this book, this type of academic and scholarly rigor is considered on the level of hate crimes if encouraged at the lower levels of secondary and post-secondary education. For example, Anondah Saide and Kevin McCaffree’s review describes how dissenting views are “considered imminent threats to the safety of marginalized people” and are now equated with impending physical harm and give rise to the idea that dissenting views may “threaten to undermine civil society.” Another book review by Howard Doughty gives a poor performance grade to the Western educational system because it is not adequately preparing youth and young adults to successfully contribute and function in a 21st Century society. Doughty says that our society has lost its “greatness” and as a result may also be “losing the intellectual and psychological strength to restore it.”
Second, what is the impact on college campuses who are experiencing this new spectacle of radicalized student behavior? This new type of student movement, largely undirected, is creating fear, anxiety, and tension on and off the campuses in the West. One alumnus wrote, “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me.” Wow! What is in this new state of student uprising? How is this phenomenon influencing national media in the way they report the news?
Here are some new terms that we need to understand so we can answer the how and why questions that critical thinkers might pose.
- Microaggressions- are actions or words that appear to have no malevolent intent but nevertheless are considered a type of violence.
- Trigger Warnings- are “alerts” that our professors, under this new philosophy, are supposed to issue to students a warning if they get out of line during their Zoom video conference, sidebar chats, or commit any microaggressions towards another cohort member or professor.
- Safetyism- is the idea that the children of the internet generation, those born after 1995 and who entered the college scene after 2013, “should be shielded from disagreement.”
Wow! If anyone was tracking all the cohort microaggressions and mentors use or un-use of trigger warnings over the past two years I think we would all be in “coddling jail!” This is quite a new paradigm for scholarship I think.
Third, what is the influence on the free press? There was a media axiom in the 80’s, when I worked in public safety media that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Almost 40 years later, it seems to continue to be a primary characteristic for any news story. In practice, almost all the news for the first few minutes of any broadcast seems to bleed over every aspect of life that they might be reporting about.
I believe this emerging fear phenomenon of untruths and safetyism are more examples of how principalities and powers, hiding in plain sight, influence people and societies. Furthermore, there are “Witch hunts” happening all the time now on the news, workplaces, politics, and campuses where progressives are going after anyone and everyone who does not agree with their personal ideas and beliefs. I offer an interesting citation from our authors by Eric Hoffer, “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.” In my experience, their belief in the devil is not one they want to talk about in the open or even acknowledge his presence. People fear the devil and as such block him out of their conscious thinking. I definitely agree that the devil is present, lurking, and scheming just below the surface of most people’s conscious thinking. Like an iceberg, the devil is safe looking on top of the water and dangerous below the surface.
So, what are the author’s solutions then? In short, stop overprotecting children and let them play outside, scream, yell, and soil their clothing. Don’t trust your feelings alone, seek the truth. Engage in evidence-based discussions. Humanize your enemies by extending charity.
In conclusion, what is the application to the LGP8 ministry leader? I think it means that your congregants, seekers, patients, and people from the iGen, those in college now or who just graduated in the past couple of years, are potentially your greatest challenge to teach or reach with the Gospel of Christ. I wonder if this “safetyism” phenomenon is subtly causing us to adjust the Gospel message for ministry survival? I encourage a strong dose of the Apostle Paul’s principles and an intentional “putting on” of Christ as your full armor of God.
Finally, the phenomenon described in this book can be used in my chapter 4 “other relevant aspects” of my dissertation on spiritual warfare. Safetyism, microaggressions, and trigger warnings are good examples of how spiritual warfare is being played out in the church’s ministry fields. Like spiritual warfare, many people do not perceive where the problem is coming from and therefore do not apply the right defense for survival.
 Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. (London: Penguin Press, 2018) 4.
 Anondah Saide and Kevin Mccaffree. “Coddling Untruths: A Review of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.” Skeptic (Altadena, CA) 24, no. 1 (2019): 51.
 Howard Doughty. “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.” The Innovation Journal 23, no. 3 (2018): 1.
 Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. “The Coddling of the American Mind.” The Atlantic Monthly 316, no. 2 (2015): 42.
 Haidt and Lukianoff, The Coddling of the American Mind, 23.
 Ibid., 99.
6 responses to “Signs of the Times”
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Your discussion on how the LGP program would get us into coddling jail made me laugh out loud, and yet in my talk with Dr. Berger this week it is one of the things I appreciate most about this program. We may not all agree all the time but we certainly are able to have civil discourse without hate and that has been a blessing don’t you think?
Excellent post and encouragement to be committed to seeking truth together! I’m glad we can pursue this together! Thank you.
I thought of our culture’s inclination to safetyism when you mentioned churches, and I started thinking how does this impact churches? In my (non-politically correct) view, the seeker sensitive movement has created church communities more akin to social clubs; these are comfortable, non-threatening spaces, often located in suburban areas. They’re for nice middle class people.
Except Jesus calls us to die! What of that?? Sounds pretty dangerous to me. 😉
Have a good week and see you Monday!
I too was impacted by the authors discussions of “trigger warnings” and was thankful you highlighted it.
I am contemplating Mark’s thoughts above, and agree that seeker sensitive may have taken us off course, for sure as least as consumerism is concerned. Talk about being coddled…
Great post, Mike!
It was interesting to see how you interweaved spiritual warfare into this week’s text.
The American mind as a whole has the inclination to lean towards idolizing one’s rights, which in turn, creates a tendency towards idolatry of comfort.
Sadly, the preference towards isolated thought and censored conversation have been made popular by the media’s portrayal of the left-wing; however, “microaggressions, trigger warnings, and safetyism” is also prevalent within the right-wing community.
What are some ways that you’ve seen conservative Evangelicals create safe spaces and communities driven by antifragility? How are we overprotecting our congregations?
I think the changes described in this book will impact how evangelism is done as I don’t believe that ways that were effective in the past will have the same impact on this generation. I am not sure how I feel about that but I am certain that those of us in leadership attempting to reach this upcoming generation need to be fully clothed with the armor of God as well as aware of the cultural changes taking place so that they can reach them effectively.
Hi Mike! Such an interesting response to the book and helpful to hear how spiritual warfare is infused into your thoughts. I love that you think coddling jail could be a by-product of our blogs and chats…made me laugh! I am thankful for our spirited discussions and dissenting viewpoints. That’s how we learn to critically think and are molded. One interesting thing to consider – as you talk about progressives feeling offended – it’s the opposite at our conservative university. The students who are very conservative take offense to progressive students…