We live in an age marked by infantile ingratitude…that means we live in an age when we do not really know how to live at all. Ingratitude has dehumanized us.
In the times of turmoil in which we live, various candidates suggest themselves as ways of capturing the essence of our epoch: the age of anxiety, the age of identity politics, the age of polarization. All touch on some obvious aspect of our current struggles. But perhaps a better title might be the age of ingratitude. This captures a deep but often unnoticed pathology of our troubled era.
Take, for example, the books, blogs, and tweets devoted to being unthankful for anything and everything. We might dub this the Ingratitude Industry, not only because of the sheer quantity of ungratefulness, but also because of the lucrative careers that are made by selling ingratitude as a commodity. Strange to tell, Christianity—a religion predicated on divine grace and corresponding human gratitude—offers numerous examples. Many a career has been made in recent years by attacking the churches and institutions of “white evangelicalism.” And many such careers belong to those of whom we would never have heard if they had not obtained their degrees or platforms from the very “white evangelicalism” that forms the raw material of the commodified ingratitude they now sell to the public as prophetic utterances.
But the Ingratitude Industry is not confined to erstwhile religious types. As an immigrant, I love my homeland, but I also love the land that has given me a home. It seems to me odd, therefore, that so many Americans are obviously and vocally ungrateful for their country. Odd, too, that so many of these anti-American Americans want to throw the borders open—not, as one might expect from their rhetoric, to allow those of us trapped in such an apparently irredeemable and systemically racist country to escape from it, but to let others enter the same. Others who, it seems, would be rather grateful for the opportunities for which many Americans have such contempt. Ingratitude in such circumstances is not merely ugly. It is incoherent. But so is it always with those who insist on biting the hand that feeds them.