The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in an Age of Self Obsession, by Mark Sayers. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
Mark Sayers does an excellent job evoking the spirit of today’s popular culture in which projecting and maintaining an image, reinventing oneself, and being cool – in other words, looking to the material world and “horizontal” relationships to define who you are – have replaced a “vertical” understanding of ourselves as being created in God’s image and growing into wholeness through the pursuit of holiness.
The book is at its strongest in describing our fragmented condition, how it came about, and what its effects are. Sayers blends pop culture stories and illustrations with explanations from history and philosophy. I thought he straddled the divide between sociology and self-help fairly well. The book certainly gave me words and images for some of the things I have experienced.
I found it less successful in its attempt to call readers to wholeness through holiness; Sayers seemed to run out of steam toward the end. But he still had some thoughtful suggestions and he finishes with a well-designed plan for working through the book with a group of friends.
After reading The Vertical Self I described it to a friend who asked to borrow it. Lynda went through the book with her teenaged daughter, who easily recognized the trends Sayers described. The book gave them some valuable points of discussion for describing what it's like to be a Christian teen in today's world.
Find some quotations and personal reflections on this book in my previous posts, You Can Be Anything, But Is That What You Really Want? and Products of a Celebrity Culture.
Note: I got a free copy of this book through Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program.