life at the bottom

Now that January is over, it’s time to officially ditch your New Year’s resolutions and make good use of that time you would have wasted at the gym reading Theodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass.

This is the kind of book that you really ought to read at least once a year. Or maybe monthly. Weekly even, especially if you are annoyed with the culture, the government, your neighbors, the way the earth rotates, and life in general.

Which you are.

I assume.

Namely because, well, I am.

Dalrymple, besides having what might possibly be the most delightful name in the history of ever, is a British psychiatrist who evaluates the poor and impoverished in state-run hospitals and prisons in England. His writing is winsome, but his observations are heart-breaking.

His ultimate conclusion? That the poor in society experience so much dysfunction (from domestic violence to alcoholism to lack of education to coarse language) not because of a lack of money or opportunity but because of a inherently flawed worldview, a fundamental unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions, to constantly play the victim. “The collapse of character,” as he calls it, is a steady stream of “excuses, complaints, and special pleading,” none of which have anything to do with flaws in one’s own character.

The book isn’t theological. He never once mentions original sin. I don’t even know if he’s a Christian. But Dalrymple’s insight into why people are the way that they are has something to say for us as Christians, as Lutherans, and it is worth reading, even if you’re still on the treadmill.

At the gym.

In February.

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One thought on “life at the bottom

  1. Dalrymple is not a Christian. But you’re right: he is on to original sin. Unfortunately, as insightful as he is, and as friendly toward historic Christianity as he is, his keen awareness of fallen man’s stubborn evil seems to have rendered him unable to accept the idea of a good and gracious God become one of us and then giving His life for us. Perhaps, also, for Dalrymple, the goodness of God is too close to what the government always claims to be doing and he has seen how that goes.

    Despite that: I love his writings. This was the first of his books that I read.

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