Bourgeois Spirit Undermines Christian Renewal
Virgil Michel, OSB


The supreme guiding motive of the bourgeois mind is precisely the personal gain or profit that the medieval idealist rejected as a final goal. The principle of gain for its own sake, of an endlessly increasing profit, is now set up as the one sensible goal of all human life and endeavor.

All the aspects of human life are with logical thoroughness rationalized unto this one end. Where the gospel had told Christians not to be too solicitous about the morrow, the new ideal held forth a constant solicitude for the future, not merely in regard to the necessaries of life, for it was not satisfied with such a moderate goal, but in regard to the ever greater accumulation of material goods.

It is the standard of production for profit accepted so uncompromisingly that production is even curtailed below the minimum standard of human needs if greater profit at less expense can be procured in that way.

It is the spirit according to which all factors concerned in production, except the receivers of the profit, are treated as merely so many material instruments for the accumulation of this profit, even human labor being nothing but a market commodity to be sold or rejected at will.

Wealth alone counts. The highest criterion of rank or position among one’s fellow men has in our day been decided almost entirely by the amount of money a person was able to accumulate.

The bourgeois knows nothing of denying oneself the comforts and the goods of this world for the sake of growth in spiritual things or for the sake of another world. All his ideals and his life are directed in terms of his existence here on earth.

Efficiency is almost a religion with him, but it is always efficiency in the attainment of his own earthly goal, it is efficiency exploiting all his environment, both the human and the non-human, for his own aggrandizement.

"The bourgeois, even when he is a ‘good Catholic,’" writes Berdyaev, "believes only in this world, in the expedient and the useful; he is incapable of living by faith in another world and refuses to base his life on the mystery of Golgotha."

The gospel counsels of perfection find no response or understanding with the typical modern man. He will have nothing of the sufferings and hardships; he flees them like poison, and is tireless in seeking after, and devising further means of, his own personal comfort and ease.

Nothing can profit man but a return to the true Christian spirit which alone is a proper return to God as the source of all life.

Such a return must be in a spirit of love as a reflection of the divine love itself that gave life to man. We must all love God for the simple reason that God loved us first, as St John tells us.

Man must again learn to render to God what is God’s and to give to the fellowship of mankind what is theirs. Only these two in right relation can again rehabilitate the isolated of this world.

Only when man loves unto the giving of himself with the open generosity of Christ, can he again be as another Christ and help to transform the world he lives into a new creature of God.