This week I am preaching on loving the Lord with all of our mind. Our church is in the middle of a series on living out Jesus’ command to love God with our whole self. Beginning with Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect,” We are going to consider what it means to walk the path of having our mind renewed by the Spirit. When reading this week’s text, The Coddling of the American Mind, by Jonathon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, I recognized a possibility for analyzing their work in light of Scripture, particularly how they highlight specific growing cultural norms from untruth. If the inverse of their claims is actually true, then it should hold up in the Bible as well.
To give a little background on the authors, Haidt and Lukianoff are researchers who spend their time in higher education, Lukianoff as a First Amendment Lawyer and Haidt as a social psychologist and professor at NYU. They were originally curious about what was happening on college campuses with regard to free speech and student’s being triggered by material presented in the classroom. As they began to investigate, they found a set of underlying themes that made for three sweeping untruths spreading across the nation and beyond from parenting and education. These six interacting themes of “rising political polarization; rising rates of adolescent depression and anxiety; a shift to more fearful, protective, and intensive parenting in middle-class and wealthy families; widespread play deprivation and risk deprivation for members of iGen; an expanding campus bureaucracy taking an increasingly overprotective posture; and a rising passion for justice combined with a growing commitment to attaining “equal outcomes” in all areas” undergird the untruths that young people are fragile, that feelings should always be trusted, and that life is a battle between good and evil people.
Analyzing the three untruths and their reciprocal truth, or psychological principal, they are listed here, along with a brief narrative bringing them into alignment with biblical truth.
Untruth 1: “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.”
The untruth is that challenging life circumstances traumatize people and, once traumatized, are not able to withstand pain or wounding. This fragility is learned by either becoming stuck in the trauma without healing or avoiding pain altogether by protecting oneself. Yet, suffering and pain are part of the human condition and are inevitable in life’s journey. Protection from suffering is not the way of Christ or the cross, which every disciple must be willing to carry. The wisdom of the authors aligns with biblical truth in that all people need preparation for the good and hard aspects of life, so they may be prepared and able to bear one another’s burdens, rather than avoid burden.
Untruth 2: “Always trust your feelings.”
While feelings are always valid and need to be understood, they can easily be misinterpreted and lead to distorted cognitive reality. Emotional reasoning rather than reasoning from objective truth can create biases that lead people into irrational fear, isolation, and broken relationships. In this section, the psychological principal is real but Scripture takes it further. The moral compass is not from one’s own right thinking but from the authority of the biblical text in conforming not to our own emotions or logic, but rather to God’s character.
Becoming resilient is one primary way of overcoming these untruths. Resilience is a Brené Brown research hot button, as well as a focal point in Haidt and Lukianoff’s text, and is even in research done by scientist, Matthew Bloom of Notre Dame. People are resilient but, as Bloom explains, resilience is like a muscle, and must be worked regularly to continue to be strong. Working our resilience muscle is possible through a phrase Brown uses often that is a shorthand version of cognitive behavioral therapy, as noted by Haidt and Lukianoff. “The story I am telling myself is…” This phrase helps one to process what is going on in their head and be able to put their feelings into words to assess whether or not what they feel is even true and how it’s affecting them. Sharing the story with others helps us hear and undo distortion. Knowing biblical truth helps realign our thoughts so that we can unravel truth from untruth more quickly.
Untruth 3: “Life is a battle between good and evil people.”
This untruth hits close to home for many reasons. We have had a tragedy in our family with a crime being committed that has caused deep pain to many. In this process, it is easy to want to write a person off as evil, to wonder how you could be so wrong about a person. But this is just not true. What I am learning in new ways, is that everyone of us is made good and every one of us is sinful and broken. There are no “bad guys” out there. To even think that promotes a stereotype that only harms people and polarizes, besides being in direct contrast to Genesis 1. We are complex beings whom God loves and are worthy of love, no matter the harm we have caused. The wisdom of Haidt and Lukianoff contextualizes Romans 3:23, which says, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” in our culture today. They state, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
The Coddling of the American Mind is an honest and well researched look at culture and where culture is headed. It is wise for the church to critically engage texts like this to be able to best understand our congregations and offer biblical truth that informs and transforms us into Christlikeness rather than allowing ourselves to be conformed to the culture at large.
 Lukianoff, Greg. The Coddling of the American Mind (p. 264). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Bloom, Matthew. Well Being seminar. Indianapolis, IN. February, 2019.
 Lukianoff, Greg. The Coddling of the American Mind (p. 263). Penguin Publishing Group. 2018.