Some Thoughts On Preserving American Culture After Reading Martin Heidegger and the Bible

I think an issue for Christians is whether or not they think saving a culture’s civilization is a worthy activity. Wycliffe Bible Translators, as I understand it, is in the vanguard of preserving civilizations on the point of extinction through their work in linguistics. Certainly the church is “one new man.” Do we expect cultures to be “one new man?” Or do we think that differences in cultures are to be preserved? If so, and I believe the Bible seems to indicate this, in what way do Americans work toward preserving their cultural patterns? My thoughts on this have been stirred up by reading Martin Heidegger lately, the German existentialist philosopher who took the seminal ideas of Soren Kierkegaard and helped shape Existentialism. Heidegger rooted existential identity in place, geography, culture, the people as a phenomenon. This quite easily morphed into German social democracy, Naziism, of which he became a supporter, at least in its prewar identity. He saw that cultures have destinies and that those destinies were critical to individual identity. We are not free floating pieces of existence. I am trying to get my hands on a documentary about Heidegger and a phrase he spoke in his later years during an interview – “only a God can save us.” He was an atheist. What he meant was a single saving hero who could express a national identity in a compelling way that would enable that culture to coalesce. There certainly is a frightening aspect to this. But there is also a recognition that human beings need place. Without place everything is always new and nothing the same. Communication and collaboration break down. I think we are feeling this in America. I know that some Christians will blow right past all this and assert that our only job is to save as many as can be saved for the next life. Well, yes. But that doesn’t say all there is to be said about human flourishing and creating stable societies, as the Apostle Paul seems so concerned about.

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