Wild and Wasted Virtues

“The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues.

“When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage.

“The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.”

-G.K. Chesterton

With that said, what unbalanced virtues have actually become wild and wasted? What virtues have actually become vices…
In my life?
In your life?
In our families?
In our culture?
In our churches?

To touch on that last one for a moment, perhaps the decade-long divide between mainstream and conservative churches could be described by the unbalance of virtue found in Chesterton’s example. The mainliners recognized the real Christian virtue of pity (care for the poor or social justice) while the conservatives realize the importance of articulating truth (doctrinal or ethical).

This is a rather easy example to recognize that one must embrace both to truly embrace either. The moment we become satisfied with only a particular virtue, a particular truth, or a particular emphasis in our lives, we end becoming distorted at best and monsters at worst.

The life that God extends to us is holistic and all-encompassing—evidenced not least by its promise of both carrying the cross and rising in resurrection.

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