Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content

Sermon Illustrations

Home > Sermon Illustrations

Google Word Search Shows Rise of Individualism

A few years ago, Google released a database of over 5 million books published between 1500 and 2008. You can now type a search word into the database and discover how often words have been used over the centuries.

Based on this data, The New York Times columnist David Brooks offers what he calls the "story of the last half-century." The first part of this story is the rise of individualism. In the past 50 years, "individualistic words and phrases increasingly overshadowed communal words and phrases." For instance, the following individualistic words have been used more frequently: "self," "personalized," "I come first," "I can do it myself." In contrast, the following communal words have been used less frequently: "community," "share," "band together," "common good."

The second part to the story Brooks sees is the decline in moral virtue. Certain words were especially hard hit, including words associated with courage or gratitude. But all of the following words have dropped in usage: "modesty," "humbleness," "discipline," "honesty," "patience," "faith," "wisdom," and even "evil."

Brooks offers his interpretation for these trends:

So the story I'd like to tell is this: Over the past half-century, society has become more individualistic. As it has become more individualistic, it has also become less morally aware, because social and moral fabrics are inextricably linked. [The first two trends] have led to certain forms of social breakdown, which government has tried to address, sometimes successfully and often impotently.

Related Sermon Illustrations

Christians Must Not Resemble the NFL All-Stars

We ought not be like players on the NFL all-star team. Every year the NFL has the all-star selection. They choose the best players from the league, and they are appointed to their ...

[Read More]

Author Wendell Berry on the Perils of Individualism

Novelist, essayist, and farmer Wendell Berry has a unique image for the perils of individualism. As he was walking with his friend Wes Jackson, they observed a plot of Maximilian Sunflowers, ...

[Read More]