Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Assumptions behind the way we see ourselves and our lives. . .

What underlies our modern existence and our worldview is by and large three basic assumptions:
  1. We believe we possess the power to fix wrongs and everything that is broken.
  2. We define ourselves and the whole of the world by our preferences.
  3. We are confident in our ability to progress and define our very existence for this purpose. 
Our confidence in our ability to right wrongs and fix what is broken lies even in history.  As a modern culture, we have undertaken to reach back in time to right old wrongs and fix what is broken.  So offensive to us are the wrongs of the past that we will risk all things to remove these offensives and sanitize the past.  I am thinking here of how we treat such things as the Confederate flag, for example.  But it is not only the past that we seek to repair.  We want to insulate ourselves against anything that we might find offensive all around us.  The pro-choice folks find it offensive that a Doritos commercial should feature an ultrasound image, as but one example of our intolerance to what we consider wrong, broken, or offensive.  Injustice is ultimately not about the law but about what we perceive or feel.  No one is allowed to disagree for the greater injustice is not simply the wrong we don't like but being forced to tolerate it from anyone.

Preferences define us and we define our preferences.  Our modern day world is replete with things that ask for our preferences.  From cell phones to tablets to our playlists, we are accustomed to tailoring our environments so that we do not encounter anything we do not want to see.  It is natural, then, that we would treat gender as a multiple choice question and our answer, for the moment, would be that which informs and defines us as people.  We look for a menu in life through which we can mark what we want and what we do not want, what we like and do not like.  Absent such a menu system for us to define our preferences, we invent ways to turn life into a series of choices governed by the almighty personal preference.  Marriage has become the domain of preference and been forced to suffer the weight of our constantly changing desires -- all of which must be equal (gay, straight, or anything else).

Progress is not only our expectation but our mantra.  We view life itself as an operating system that should be improved and must be improved.  Pain, suffering, disappointment, sorrow -- these are unacceptable to us and the improvement of life is the elimination of all of these things.  From medicine to leisure, we treat the providers as vendors who disburse what we need to make things better.  Reproductive technology offers us the ability to treat children in the same way -- tinkering with DNA to make better babies (i. e. ones that fit what we want, when we want them).  We become rather impatient when progress does not match our expectations and have proven to be unwilling to accept a pace of change which does not fit our timelines.

All of this, of course, is about control.  It is the same as Eden.  We want to be creators and not creatures, we want all the choice without any of the responsibility, and we want all options to be equal even when the consequences of our choices are not.

But that is not how life is...  Now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (Jam 4:13-16)  That the Lord might will something different from our desire is impossible for the modern mind to consider.  God cannot be allowed to think differently than we think, to value differently than we value, or to choose differently than we choose.  In this way, the job of faith is to present us with a God who can not only be defined but predicted, and if predicted, then controlled.  Absent this predictability or our ability to control, God is too wild for us and must be tamed.  Even Scripture must be sanitized, cleansed, and reconfigured so that the objectionable parts are removed.  Worst of all, we are not in the least big sheepish or self-conscious about such a manipulative point of view.

We don't want the leap of faith that trusts another, we want a tame faith that is docile and responds to our direction.  At least that is what has happened within the arena of faith in the last several decades but strangely enough, those churches that have the most rigidly applied boundaries upon God are not growing.  They are stagnant or declining.  Could it be that the youth are not willing to have a life coach as Savior or a God who glorifies our feelings as Lord?  I wonder...  It may be a generational thing but I think it is too thoroughly embedded in our worldview to be captive to one age group.

We have become those who glory in what the Bible calls the ultimate evil -- those who do what is right in their own eyes without restraint, second thought, or challenge.  Another generation or two raised within the three streams of this view of modernity may find the Church and even more isolated minority but the Lord has not abandoned His people or reneged upon His promise.  Indeed, the challenge before us is plain and simple -- Trust the Lord your God.

1 comment:

Lee Turpen said...

Brilliant as always. In your very first point you define "Altruism." If you know anyone in public safety, they take that first point and place it in practice... in overdrive gear. When there are no results from our altruistic efforts, some develop neurosis (building a castle in the clouds) and get very nervous and angry when the world does not match the castle. Gone further, it can result in psychosis (living in that castle) which means the individual will take action to force the world to match the self-built castle. At the basis of this, we simply ignore God's will and begin to follow our assumption of what His will is (your second point). As always, even in my lay person side of things, I find your writing spot on to the realities around us. Amen and Amen.