"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Christopher Lasch

I first began reading Christopher Lasch as an undergraduate nearly 20 years ago now. He died early in 1994 of cancer, but his influence before and since remains considerable. Now at long last we have the first biography of him written by the historian Eric Miller of Geneva College and published by Eerdmans: Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch.

Lasch was a tough read at first. As a psychology major who was seriously contemplating training as a full-blown psychoanalyst, I was attracted to his use of psychoanalytic categories to understand culture, done most famously in his Culture of Narcissism, which became an unexpected best-seller. He was not an easy man to pin down or to pigeonhole, but this sympathetic and crisply written biography helps us to understand him. He was not a theologian, and struggled with a vague Protestant background, but he offered, and still offers, some extremely penetrating insights into the culture of North America in which so many Eastern Christians today find themselves, and to which they are struggling to preach the gospel. Lasch along with Alasdair MacIntyre was perhaps more acutely aware than most others of the unique pitfalls that the liberalism of modernity puts before Christians. As MacIntyre has said, if Pope Pius IX genuinely understood liberalism, he would have been right to condemn it.

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