We all have stories that frame our everyday world, stories that illuminate the good, true, and beautiful life we long to experience. But what if these stories rely on underdeveloped or badly distorted notions of goodness, truth, and beauty? What would that mean for human flourishing, particularly for the most vulnerable members of our communities?
In their insightful book, Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn’t the American Dream, economist Brian Fikkert and theologian Kelly Kapic tackle these essential questions. The core reason our efforts to alleviate poverty fail, they argue, is not because we design flawed systems but because we proceed from flawed stories.
The authors confront the impoverished stories of Western naturalism and evangelical Gnosticism that muddy our perception of what makes for flourishing lives and communities. They examine the happiness paradox at the heart of contemporary Western society: Even as we enjoy greater wealth than ever before, we haven’t enjoyed corresponding gains in personal and communal well-being. By many important measures, in fact, our lives are increasingly fragile and broken. Fikkert and Kapic show that human flourishing requires something more than expressive individualism, personal comfort, and material affluence—something more, in other words, than the American Dream.
In critiquing Western naturalism, the authors point to sociologist Charles Taylor’s concept of the “immanent frame” and its soul-smothering emphasis on the here and now, which blinds us to God’s presence in the world and encourages a perilous Sunday-to-Monday gap. “It’s like we live in two dimensions rather than three,” Fikkert and Kapic write. ...1