In Defense of Utopia
A couple months back I wrote a post concerning the vaccination debate. Considering the nature of the topic, the post received a little more attention and pushback than most of what I write. My friend Chad Trotter even wrote a full response to the post here at Torrey Gazette which you can read here. Another criticism that I received charged my post of leaning toward a “Utopian” vision of society. For some reason or another that charge of utopianism has had me thinking off and on over the past few weeks and I thought I would share a couple thoughts here.
Practically speaking I think most adults with basic critical thinking skills can agree that achieving a utopia this side of the second coming is an impossibility. I fall into this camp as well. That said I do not think we should abandon the principle of utopia just because we know we cannot fully achieve it. In fact, we cannot abandon the principle of utopia no matter how hard we may try.
Every person and every society has a highly complex and nuanced vision of “The Good Life.” In one way or another individuals and societies are always pointing toward a utopia. Cultures overrun by the idols of consumerism envision a utopia of having all the right things. Health nuts envision a personal utopia where they have 0% body fat. Communists envision a utopia where there is not private property.
The list could go on.
The reality is that we, as humans, are always constructing utopias on micro and macro levels. James K.A. Smith really hits on this point in his book Desiring the Kingdom. These utopias, these visions of the good life, are the telos (end/goal) toward which our lives are aimed. Smith explains that these visions of utopia are extremely formative to our very beings. Smith argues (compellingly) that whatever vision of the good life (utopia) captures our hearts will serve as the primary shaper of our hearts.
What I want to argue here is that the creation of utopias (on a principled and theoretical field) is unavoidable. We humans are desiring creatures, we are always pointing toward some end, some telos. This being the case, we should strive to make our telos, our “utopia,” that of God’s kingdom. We should not shy away from the idea of theorizing about a utopia (because it is inevitable even if done blindly) but instead be sure that the utopia that is grabbing at our hearts is that of God’s kingdom. If our vision of the good life is shaped after God’s vision for the world then we will be shaped into the kinds of people that can righteously inhabit that kingdom. If however out hearts are drawn toward a sinful utopia then we are doomed to be formed into people who will despise God’s kingdom in favor of our own.
Food for thought.