Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

What if we have it all wrong?

Written by: on March 2, 2020

This book lends itself to be a self-help book. In The Coddling of the American MindJonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff argue that well-intentioned adults are unwittingly harming young people by raising them in ways that implicitly convey three untruths and that the explicit threats are commonly from the right side of the political spectrum:

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
  3. The Untruth of Us vs. Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt focus on students demanding “protection” from arguments they find challenging and the professors and administrators who cave in to them. The first section elaborates what the authors call the “Great Untruths” that supposedly dominate college campuses: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Weaker; Always Trust Your Feelings; Life Is a Battle Between Good People and Evil People. Their targets are “safetyism”, the language of microaggressions, identity politics, and intersectionality.[1]

The methods they teach come from cognitive behavioral therapy, which Lukianoff credits with having saved his life when he suffered from depression. He and Haidt argue that student demands for social justice are expressions of “cognitive distortions” that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can correct, and that the problems that young people and their parents worry about are not as grave as they think; they are simply, “problems of progress.” The lists and diagrams distributed throughout this book make it clear to me that their genre is self-help. Maybe quasi self-help for community-help of sorts.

Their framing of the arguments leaves little room to consider how historical and social change might legitimately change institutions or individuals, or that individuals might want to change their world. Scripture focuses on our change coming at the mind and heart level then affecting the rest of life (Ps. 51:10, Rom. 12:2, 1 Thess. 5:23-24).

The Coddling of the American Mind is less interesting for its anecdotes or arguments, which are familiar with being the embodiment of a contemporary lifestyle. For example, the labeling or terms expressed by their “privilege to power” wheel that helps to describe “intersectionality,” yet I am not the same labels would be expressed in the 1600s when Jamestown, VA was being established. There is nothing on this wheel of intersectionality expressing the surge of English farmers growing by an African workforce. And,  there is nothing said about different professions have less credibility in contemporary societies by either the right or leaning political positions.[2]


And, yet, the power of visuals is effective in helping us see where there might be intersections as see above in the chart.[3]

The authors speak to the reality of “the polarization cycle.”[4] “you have to start by recognizing the mid-twentieth century was a historical anomaly.”[5] The foundation of the argument that the anomaly for the political bipartisan state, particularly between 1940 and 1980s in the USA were the number of common enemies within our borders and beyond. Since the 1980s the authors convey in this chapter that the common enemy is for the most part coming from the right side of the political spectrum (see the dialogue on page 137-138 for example). However, the same could be said in equal balance from the left towards right-leaning political views. This silo effect can create more focus and comradery by any view in particular. And, yet, the resistance to stay siloed can only do harm in the end.

I refer you to what the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” To make this even more complicated the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:16-18. “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  The essential truth here is that we are all slaves to that which we give our affections and reasoning to. And, we can be free from truly harmful political commodifying if we give our affections and ourselves to Jesus Christ as Savior then Lord.

In my research, I seek to utilize a portion of the theory behind intersectionality to help prove that neither fully funded nor co-vocational pastors have major stock in helping congregations become more mature. Around the world, we are witnessing church growth exceeding in different sectors and stagnating where there was once abundant advancement of the Gospel. I will aim for creating a network or an institute for co-vocational pastors that produces resources, retreats, book reviews, virtual assistants, shared cost centers, and more.

For me, it seems that we all have the same mission yet can be carried out in different even somewhat opposing visions. The mission is, Matthew 28:19-20, “19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

            [1] Greg Lukianoff, and Haidt, Jonathan, “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure,” (New York: Penguin Press, 2018), chapter 1.

            [2] History.com Editors, “History,” A&E Television Networks (August 13, 2019), https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-african-slave-ship-arrives-jamestown-colonyMarch 2, 2020.

            [3] History.com Editors, “History,” A&E Television Networks (August 13, 2019), https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-african-slave-ship-arrives-jamestown-colony, March 2, 2020.

            [4] Greg Lukianoff, and Haidt, Jonathan, “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure,” (New York: Penguin Press, 2018), chapter 6.

            [5] Ibid., 130.

About the Author

Steve Wingate

7 responses to “What if we have it all wrong?”

  1. Joe Castillo says:

    Steve I am encouraged about your theological input. Jesus did said that he is the way and the truth.

  2. Shawn Cramer says:

    Steve, I love the idea of a network for a project! Cheers that that. You mentioned CBT…. I was pleasantly surprised how open Lukianoff is about his bouts of depression in interviews about the book. Here’s a person who has taken a lap on Campbell’s hero’s journey and deploying that which helped him. I think his vulnerability with that is showing a helpful posture to de-stigmatizing depression along with their other practical ideas from the book. I do fear his personal success might make him a bit myopic on the boundaries of its effectiveness.

  3. Dylan Branson says:

    Steve, there’s a book I read recently called “Get Out of Your Head” by Jennie Allen. One of the things she hits on is that the greatest spiritual battle we fight each day is in our minds. Part of what Haidt and Lukianoff were hitting on with their critique of university culture is that we allow our minds to spiral when we divide against one another. We let ideas take hold and, if we don’t agree with them, often end up chasing them to various ends (some can be positive, though I would argue when we spiral, most of those thoughts end up being negative). Part of what Allen argues for is reclaiming the idea of “taking every though captive” that Paul argues for in 2 Corinthians 10:5. I do think there’s a lot value in what these three authors say, particularly because if we aren’t on top of our thoughts, this ultimately will affect our heart’s attitude and our spirit. Like Haidt says in The Righteous Mind, we have to learn to tame the elephant of our emotional responses.

  4. Chris Pollock says:

    Steve, thank you for bringing scripture into the midst of the conversation. Seems to be missing a little from our texts and focus these days. There’s sweet relevance!

    The visual proves that it is not in our best interest to trust politicians or those who are in positions of power in government.

    I like the way Paul affirms his loyalty in the first verse of Romans, ‘a servant of Jesus Christ’. In this, he is making it quite clear in whom his allegiance rests. How have we missed this as a church? What would an awakening in the church look like if we were to be so set-sure, clear and bold as Paul?

    Thanks Steve! Appreciate your care, time and thoughts put in. God bless you, today.

  5. Darcy Hansen says:

    I appreciate how you highlighted the importance of affections and our heart dispositions. I felt this book was a great tool for implementing practical steps toward change. Yes, very self-help-y. But I also think there’s a deep heart transformation aspect missing, and that is done by the work of the Spirit. CBT is a helpful tool for changing thoughts, but by Grace and Spirit, hearts are transformed. The two must go hand in hand.

  6. Greg Reich says:

    I find it interesting on your graph that our health is the number one item we trust strangers with the next would be our children. I wonder what that says about the American people? Thanks for bringing in CBT. You refer to the Apostle Paul and his letter to the Romans. I always thought the his letter to the Philippians was some of the best advice when dealing with dealing with cognitive behavioral therapy especially 4:8 – ” Finally brethren whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellent and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. “

  7. John McLarty says:

    My friend who is a college administrator is convinced that there are many students on campus today with mental health issues similar to PTSD. It’s not that we’ve just made kids soft, we’ve raised them to be afraid. 24/7 news, terrorism, active shooter drills, online predators, etc. Many of them lack basic coping skills or dive into the pit of despair because this is how they’ve learned to deal with pressure, stress, anxiety, and fear. I believe in Jesus’ power to heal as much as anyone, but let’s acknowledge the actual mental health damage that’s been done and seek to better equip these young people (as well as the rest of us.)

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