"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, November 12, 2004

Cut Flower Civilization: An Explanation

One of my astute co-bloggers asked me to define "cut flower civilization." Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood, who published a number of great books with the famed Harper publishing house mid-century, wrote and spoke of the idea frequently. In a nutshell, the metaphor places civilization in the place of a flower. Modernity/the Enlightenment/secularization represents the cutting of the flower at the stem and then placing it in a vase, or perhaps more appropriately, a beaker. For a while, the flower will continue to live and will maintain its beauty. After all, at least some of the citizens of the new order are the same as those of the old order. But over time, its untimely divorce with the soil (tradition, religous belief, etc.) will result in withering and ultimately, death. Advocates of the cut flower civilization hypothesis would point to the dissolution of the nuclear family, sexual promiscuity/sexual disease epidemics, and greater need for prisons/security measures as indicators that the hypothesis is true and the flower is indeed quite wilted.


S. T. Karnick said...

Thanks for the explanation, Hunter. It seems a very useful metaphor. Did Trueblood see modernity as having any good side at all? I think it very important to see both the good and bad in it. After all, our meeting place here is named after the home base of one of the wellsprings of the modern world, the Whigs. STK

Anonymous said...

Oh, sure. Trueblood would strongly approve of lots of aspects of the modern world, like democracy and desegregation. His beef was really with the notion that the Christian faith is not useful in application to the way we organize our society. He thought the Christian faith is part and parcel of many of the wonderful aspects of the modern world and that we risk falling into totalitarianism if we let go of it.