Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Manliness of Minivans

James Joyner asks "Can a real man drive a minivan?" and rightly answers that masculinity has nothing to do with possessions. Manliness has to do with responsibility first and foremost.

Which brings up a good point. All too often I hear adolescents equate their self worth with the stuff they own. As we get older most of us figure out just how shallow that is. But I know adults that still derive part of their identity from their possessions. You may tell how sensitive and caring they are by the high percentage of recyclable materials they wear or because their new ride is a hybrid. An aging man may buy a fancy sports car to prop up his self esteem. An aging woman indulges in plastic surgery to prove to herself that she still has it.

I'm conflicted because I'm a huge fan of capitalism. But I am not a fan of its evil twin materialism. The free market has been and remains the single best way to distribute goods and services. Materialism is in its essence the worship of Mammon.

Classic theology tells us that there are no unmixed blessings in this mortal coil. Where there is love, jealousy and envy follow. Where there is honesty, pride and stubbornness accompany. Our villains have great virtues and our heroes have hidden vices. So the question isn't whether the free market is bad (it isn't). The question is how do we wean ourselves away from the desire of material possessions?

The failure to decouple the one from the other is a historical failure of the Church writ large in recent decades by the ubiquity of marxist thought. It is this failure that has resulted in great damage done by the modern church. More on that later.

No comments: