What does the Bible say about today’s culture? Christ Meets Culture is a recurring series of commentary articles, exclusive to The Western Journal, examining that question.
Pride is the day’s most celebrated virtue.
This began with “pride” marches and festivals celebrating homosexuality but has since has moved far beyond a mere commemoration of sexual preference.
Now, there exist pride movements on the mainstream left (and in some cases, the fringe right) honoring all sorts of immutable characteristics and personal identity traits.
Gay, straight and bisexual pride; black, white, Hispanic and Asian pride and even transgender pride.
Our culture teaches us to be proud of ourselves merely for having a unique personal identity. In other words, we are told to take “pride” in merely being ourselves, as if simply expressing our subjective “identity” is some sort of moral virtue.
Scripture warns us against such haughtiness.
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” Proverbs 16:18 reads.
Exaltation of the self inevitably leads to destruction — not by God’s hand, but rather a destruction of one’s own making.
This is why, in many circles, pride is considered to be the worst of all sins.
Pope Gregory I, quoted in Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica,” refers to pride as the “queen” of sin because it “vanquishes” the heart and “forthwith delivers it into the hands of its lieutenants, the seven principal vices.”
In other words, pride begets other sin.
Consumed with their own self-worth and an inflated ego, prideful individuals believe they are above any moral law, that they have the right to craft their own moral standards apart from God.
This inevitably leads to man creating his own destruction.
This sentiment is exemplified perfectly in the story of the Fall.
Adam and Eve believed that by rejecting God’s commands they could become as powerful and wise as God himself.
This then led to the corruption of man.
Pride leads to more sin because it causes man to believe he is above God himself.
Pride movements today don’t merely celebrate individuality by encouraging acceptance and tolerance; they encourage individuals to exhibit unabashed revelry in their personal identities.
Nomi, a transgender character in the since-canceled Netflix series “Sense8,” gives a perfect glimpse into the mind of a culture that treats pride not merely as an acceptable indulgence, but rather as an admirable virtue.
“For a long time I was afraid to be who I am because I was taught by my parents that there’s something wrong with someone like me — something offensive, something you would avoid, maybe even pity. Something that you could never love,” Nomi says in one episode.
“My mom — she’s a fan of St. Thomas Aquinas — she calls pride a sin. And of all the venial and mortal sins, St. Thomas saw pride as the queen of the seven deadly sins. He saw it as the ultimate gateway sin that would turn you quickly into a sinaholic. But hating isn’t a sin on that list. Neither is shame.”
“I was afraid of this parade because I wanted so badly to be a part of it. So today I’m marching for that part of me that was once too afraid to march and for all the people who can’t march — the people living lives like I did. Today I march to remember that I’m not just a me. I’m also a we and we march with pride.”
“So go f*** yourself, Aquinas.”
Pride is the antithesis of humility.
According to Bible Study Tools, “pride is both a disposition/attitude and a type of conduct” and is often exhibited by “a sinful individual who shifts ultimate confidence from God to self.”
One who is prideful is “insolent, presumptuous, or arrogant, a scoffer or a mocker.”
We see this exemplified in Nomi’s speech.
To him, the wise words of Pope Gregory I, echoed by Thomas Aquinas — one of the most influential philosophers and theologians of all time — are something to scoff at.
It isn’t simply a desire for tolerance that Nomi is after. Instead, he demands absolute acceptance of his personal identity without compromise because he has shifted his “ultimate confidence from God to self.”
From Self-Love to Sin
Nomi finds purpose, meaning and love in the revelry of his self-ascribed identity.
This is why political discourse today is so divisive.
In a secular society like ours, with the influence of God’s Word waning, individuals are left to create their own meaning.
This need manifests itself in expressive individualism.
In his book “The Fractured Republic,” American political commentator Yuval Levin gives a detailed analysis of the modern-day phenomenon of “expressive individualism.”
“That term suggests not only a desire to pursue one’s own path but also a yearning for fulfillment through the definition and articulation of one’s own identity. It is a drive both to be more like whatever you already are and also to live in society by fully asserting who you are,” Levin wrote, according to The Gospel Coalition.
“The capacity of individuals to define the terms of their own existence by defining their personal identities is increasingly equated with liberty and with the meaning of some of our basic rights, and it is given pride of place in our self-understanding.”
Pride begets a philosophy of individualism and humanism in which ultimate authority and meaning are granted to man himself rather than God.
Truth is no longer considered absolute. Rather, it is a subjective phenomenon to be determined by each individual (i.e. “your truth”).
Pride is then intrinsically tied to personal identity grounded in subjective “truth”; therefore, you cannot discuss “truth” without violating someone’s identity and therefore their pride.
When we challenge a prideful individual’s personal truth, we are not just contending for ideas but also challenging their misshapen identity.
The response then, inevitably, becomes personal and hateful.
Again, this is the primary reason why today’s political discourse is so aggressively spiteful.
This is not a right vs. left issue. It is a human heart issue.
Our sinful nature is wired to find identity and meaning apart from God, to try to become gods ourselves, as Adam and Eve did when they ate from the forbidden fruit.
Ultimately, sin is life apart from God and sinful pride is rooted in seeking autonomy through personal identity, through pursuing purpose and meaning grounded in self-affirmation.
In today’s political climate, people on the left and right are both guilty of this.
Jesus Christ modeled humility, the antithesis of pride, as a moral virtue.
Only if we are growing and secure in our gospel identity can we fully live out this virtue illustrated perfectly in Philippians 2: 3-10.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others,” Scripture reads.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
Click here to read the previous installment of Christ Meets Culture: Would Jesus March with Black Lives Matter?
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