In Free of Charge, theologian Miroslav Volf writes, “Left unchecked, the slide away from generosity robs us of significant cultural achievements, on which our flourishing as individuals and communities depends” (15).
The book was published back in ’05, before so many were aggressively thinkpiece-ing about political polarization, the deleterious effects of social media, fears of automation, etc. It was oddly prescient back then, and, having been written before the aforementioned hot topics were much of a thing, suggests that our current cultural malaise, real as it may be, is an issue of the human heart before all else; a spiritual problem that precedes a technological problem. Nonetheless, I think a slide away from generosity is one possible description of what our culture currently experiences.
My senior thesis in college was on the influence of Jonathan Edwards in the fiction of Marilynne Robinson, which included the theme of generosity — not just material generosity, but spiritual. The kind of generosity that assumes the best of others and seeks to give grace in spite of difference and disagreement. Such a disposition toward another person is profoundly challenging, and, as I argued back then, and still do, profoundly necessary.
We’ve achieved some great things. But before we tackle the big problems, perhaps we’d be wise to tackle the problems of our own miserliness toward one another.