Limits to Therapeutic Worldview?
Back in the 1980s, in Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah examined the limits of what is at times called the "therapeutic worldview," namely, that view of human evil that imagines treating it in purely therapeutic terms, as though that evil were merely a pathology from which a person needs to be healed, with no moral judgment rendered.
Recently, I read a review of the television series Breaking Bad that shows how its creator, Vince Gilligan, also sees the limits of that view: David Zahl, "The Frightening -- But Biblical -- Moral Logic of 'Breaking Bad'" (Christianity Today, August 9, 2013):
Anguished after committing murder in cold blood, Walt's long-suffering former-student-turned-accomplice Jesse Pinkman attends a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in hopes of finding relief. After Jesse shares a thinly veiled version of his own crime, the group leader counsels self-acceptance. "We're not here to sit in judgment," he says, to which Jesse explodes:Zahl, as might be expected, has the answer in his review for Jesse's dilemma, but he's not too heavy-handed about that answer, and the review itself has merit.
Why not? Why not? . . . If you just do stuff and nothing happens, what's it all mean? What's the point? . . . So no matter what I do, hooray for me because I'm a great guy? It's all good? No matter how many dogs I kill, I just -- what, do an inventory, and accept?Jesse rejects a world in which his transgression garners no consequence or cost. He seems to know that clemency must have some basis, that as much as we might wish it were so, absolution cannot be conjured out of thin air, at least not if it is going to address a truly guilty conscience.
Full disclosure: I've never watched even a YouTube clip of Breaking Bad . . .