At first it sounds like a sketch from those 70’s icons of British comedy, Monty Python.
The Ministry of Loneliness.
Surely you mean the Ministry of Silly Walks? And surely you jest?
Nope, the Ministry of Loneliness. It’s been set up by the Conservatives in the UK, even though it sounds more like an earnest Labour initiative.
UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced the first Ministry of Loneliness to account for what she calls “the sad reality of modern life.”
Here’s how TIME magazine reported it:
“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with,” May said on Wednesday before appointing the minister Tracey Crouch, according to the New York Times.
Physicians have long warned that social isolation is a growing epidemic that can have physical, mental and emotional consequences. It’s been associated with higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more, according to researchers.
Good luck expecting “all of us”. The classic response will be “Can’t somebody else do it?” And by that they mean the government.
The report states that a British commission found that nearly nine million people in the country either often, or always, feel loneliness — a condition that can have harmful health repercussions.
So now loneliness is the Government’s problem to solve. This comes as no surprise, what with the collapse of mediating institutions such as clubs and associations since the 1960s, along with the almost ideological push by government to get bigger and bigger and fill the gaps.
What’s also no surprise, though I’ll get no thanks for saying it, is that the constant drive in our modern age to find oneself; to be the most authentic person one can be; to be the autonomous individual in charge of every part of themselves, was also going to head in this direction.
As Dale Kuehne notes in his excellent book Sex and The iWorld; the utopia promised by the ultimate good of extreme individualism is not arriving:
Despite the promises, the culture is not delivering. Two of the primary difficulties facing people in our culture are loneliness and insecurity.
Yet the deep individualism the government promotes in every ethical program it pushes, is now to be resolved by yet another government program? Gimme a break! What do they say about people who are part of the problem offering to be part of the solution?
Rusty Reno, in his book Resurrecting The Idea of a Christian Society observes that the loss of mediating institutions simply means governments fill the gap, only more expensively and less effectively. Hey what’s not to like?
Truly free cultures are built on “in-between groups”, but as these wither and fade, or are chased from the public square through threat of litigation for not signing up to this or that ethical directive, it’s not like people in need go away.
The TIME article goes on:
According to the government’s research, about 200,000 elderly people in the country have not had a conversation with a friend or a relative in over a month.
And I bet you can add to that any number of mentally ill people, and the poor who have fallen through the gaps.
It’s notable that the collapse of religious faith expressed in church attendance in the UK is tracking with the rise of the Ministry of Loneliness. The church has been given a ministry of reconciliation, yet the declining mainlines across the West spend so much of their time making ponderous pronouncements about “right on” stuff that people couldn’t care less about.
The good news of course is that churches that love Jesus will love people and will go out of their way to love people like Jesus loves people. And churches like that are vibrant bodies of Christ that meet in local areas, and are vital mediating institutions in our hyper-modern lonely culture.
These communities are just going to shine all the brighter as the vast wasteland of hyper-individualism gets a head of steam. Unless of course the local atheist society decides that one of its core values is reaching those who no one cares about, and can help with the task (sound of crickets chirping).
You think 200,000 elderly people never visited by anyone is a social catastrophe? Just wait until the next wave. Just wait for forty years of self-focussed narcissism to do its dash. There will be millions of 70 year olds sitting waiting for no one to visit. Abe Simpson’s aged care experience will seem like nirvana compared with that.
A man I know, in his fifties now, has suffered from acute psychosis since his early twenties. He has been in and out of institutions and has been unable to hold down a job. He makes big demands of people, often. When he’s good, he’s great. When he’s not doing well, well let’s just say it’s not so great for him or anyone around him.
At his 40th birthday party there were nearly 100 people in attendance.
From his church.
Every one of those people was looking forward to the day when that man’s great burden was lifted and the ministry of reconciliation would be completed. That day when his whole being would be reconciled with himself, with others, and with his Saviour. And since this man loved dancing, they danced.
The Ministry of Silly Dancing leaves the Ministry of Loneliness for dead.