Friday, January 12, 2018


"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine"

One of the aspects of Christianity that some other religions find odd or unpleasant is evangelism.  The term comes from the Greek word for Gospel: Evangael.  It is a concept of reaching out to tell others about the "good news" of salvation as told to by Jesus and out of an outpouring of love and joy in the heart, wanting others to have this as well.
The term has gotten broader meaning over time, so that evangelism is pretty much any very excited person pushing their delight or worldview on others: veganism, environmentalism, D&D, fly fishing, whatever.
And there's a newer version out there being taught today to kids by every outlet imaginable.  Kids books, television shows, movies, comic books, teachers, news broadcasters, everyone.  Its like having Sunday School all around you all day long.
When people look at the culture around them, they see some problems.  They see overprotected children being kept from difficulty, failure, or potential harm by parents to an excessive, over zealous degree.  They worry that such children will grow up unable to deal with the challenges and difficulties of reality.
And that's a valid concern, one I've written about here several times.  The bulk of the crazy that's swirling around culture comes from young people growing up enough to be confronted with an unfair, unjust, painful world they were protected from too much and too long.  They tend to be unable to deal with this, having never learned the basic skills, and often throw a tantrum.
We all know what this is like and have seen it over and over in the news, from Occupy to people screaming at the sky over who won the presidency, to colleges banning words, changing language, and considering free speech a suspicious, if not destructive concept.
But there is another source of the problem here, and it comes from the other side of the issue.  Its the problem of children being raised with the idea that there's some utopian ideal that tehy can and will achieve because of their greatness.  The term usually thrown around is a variation of the title, above: "Be the change you want to see." 
The quote is usually attributed to Gandhi, who never said that (as far as anyone can find) but the closest we can find is this quote: "If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do."
Now, this sounds nice enough, and it is indeed part of Christian doctrine: live your life in such a way that you bring glory to God and possibly get people to ask why you're different and what could be bringing that about.  The concept here is that young people often see the problems with the world around them, and that if they have an idea of what the world should be like, well they can live that way and thus change the world as those old terrible people all die out.  They'll just replace humanity with Humanity 2.0, rebooting to a purer, more enlightened world!
And in the process, people will see what better people you are, and change to be more like you, because clearly, its superior to their old traditional old ways of oldness and olditude.  Old.  Did I mention that they are better because they are young?  And not old?
The concept is to build a better world by pretending its already here, in defiance of the old and existing.  Your Will, to put it another way, has the Power to transform the world around you, and bring about a superior existence, one that perhaps will last 1000 years.
This is, in large part, why there's been such a ridiculous outcry against Brexit and an even larger, insane, frothing, tantrum against President Trump's election.  We were making the world better and you ruined everything!!!! Its fury and frustration that their grand plans are being undone by old stupid white people who should all just die!
We spend a lot of time trying to change other people. There is, after all, so much wrong with them: they’re selfish, arrogant, bullying, weak, cold, needy and so on. So we try to point this out – and often meet with resistance, denial or sheer indifference. This can be very agitating and hence renders us cross and severe. Why won’t people take our lessons board?
And the problem with this perspective is that people who try to change reality by pretending its not there, tend to bash up against the impervious solid wall of reality over and over.  Eventually they either adapt to reality, pretend they've accomplished their goals, or go crazy with the frustration and anguish of failure.
The flaw here is not that one should not try to make the world a better place, nor that we ought not teach children to be better than the world around them.  Its not even that you cannot influence culture by bringing up a generation of young people who understand life and know better than what they are presented with -- every Christian parent dreams of just that.  There's hardly any parent alive who does not want their children to be better than they were and to have a better world than they did.
The flaw is that the world they envision and desire is at odds with the real world.  By this I mean that their dream utopia is not possible in this fallen and sinful world.  That we live in a world that is fundamentally flawed, damaged, broken, and unjust.  It is no so because people are such jerks, rather that people are such jerks because they are part of such a world.
No child is ever going to be raised enlightened and holier than their existence.  We are not going to raise a generation of saints who know no hate, injustice, cruelty, or sadness, because we have that within us and it comes from us.  The miseries of the world are not imposed from the outside upon a noble and just innocent people.  They come from us.  We create this world, not the other way around.
The world is the way it is around us because we are in it.  No matter what just and proper and noble ideas we have, we are not the agents of bringing a new era of utopian enlightenment and beauty.  Its like asking a slug to make a clean and crisp newly folded stack of laundry.  We get our slime everywhere.
Christians face this dilemma every day: we are called to be "salt and light" in the world; to bring God's truth to a sinful and fallen world desperate for healing and truth, but also know that this sinful and fallen world cannot ever truly be redeemed until Jesus Christ returns and sets all to right.  All our efforts can bring about is temporary, flawed change -- it can make a better place in some ways, but always at the cost of other problems, and never forever.
Christians did manage to bring a tremendous amount of good in the past, but always at a cost.  All the good done and known in the past was also paired with ills.  The 1950s were a more openly moral society that shunned most modern ills, but was blighted with bigotry, sexism, and other cruelties and sins.
However, Christians know that their efforts are not about success and triumph, but about doing good, serving God, and glorifying His name.  It is a religious effort, it is faith-based.
And so is the "be the change" movement.  It is a religious, faith-based movement dreaming of saving the world through works and bringing about a paradise on earth. It defies reality and substitutes its own ideals, trusting that if people try, work, and believe hard enough, everything will all be better.
This is not a system of logic, reason, studied theory, and scientific knowledge given form.  Because it is a faith, it doesn't need to make sense or have any basis in reality.  It can defy reality, and it is something that people who are adherents of will gladly, zealously evangelize about.  And when it doesn't work, that doesn't mean the faith is wrong, it just means someone interfered with their perfect efforts.  Those old people, those republicans, those white people, they got in the way, it would have worked if not for them! 
Again, its not that we ought not teach people to be better than their natures lead them to be.  Christianity strongly agrees with this, as do most other religions of the world.  All of us know, deep down, things aren't the way they are supposed to be -- or at least how we could envision them being.  I believe Mormonism is based on nonsense and lies, but that doesn't mean that they and are not generally a very positive influence in our culture and communities.  Buddhism is nonsense and wishcasting, but that doesn't mean Buddhists cannot be pleasant people who are good neighbors.
My concern is that these well meaning people are teaching nonsense to kids, with a presumption of malice and evil in their opponents, that they are teaching self-righteousness and arrogance, combined with an assumption of invulnerability.  The Bible teaches that we're ALL sinners, who struggle against it, and never are perfect, so we cannot condemn or look down on others, only condemn their acts in comparison to God, not us.  These people are being taught that they are inherently superior to others, and that disagreement is a sign of evil and corruption, not a difference of opinion.  That there cannot be common ground, that there cannot be discussion or debate.  That even talking about a difference of opinion is so bad it should be shunned and banned.
And this combines with the helicopter parent, the snowflake effect, to create a sort of super-person, an opinion that one is wonderfully just and right and others horrible and evil.  Which is, to put it simply, the source of some of the world's most horrific evils imaginable.  In the process of trying to end bigotry and intolerance, they're being trained to be the most bigoted, intolerant people imaginable: "they’re selfish, arrogant, bullying, weak, cold, needy and so on." And we're not, by implication.  We can easily list off the top of our heads the evil movements in history that had this exact viewpoint in a division of humanity.
So dealing with these evil people becomes not just a matter of importance, but necessity, an imperative.  This must be done or our utopia will never take place.  And that's how we get church shooters, baseball game shooters, people tackling senators, cop killers, and so on.  When the mentally unstable take this to heart.
And even more broadly, individuals are driven to the limit by how the world keeps not being what they insist and demand, how they keep failing to be what they want to be, and how others keep having points and information that greatly challenge what they've always believed.
Combine this with the snowflake effect and you end up screaming at the sky and wearing costumes shaped like women's genitalia.  You end up marching and shouting slogans, breaking things, burning things and attacking people.
In short, it drives you absolutely crazy.  Or lying to yourself.  Or you abandon it, take the "red pill" as in Matrix, and wake up to a slightly more depressing, but real world.
See, we should try to be better.  We should try to raise our kids to be better than us.  But that should be based on truth and reality and humility.  Not the idea we can fix everything if only we try hard enough and those awful people die... somehow.  We need a dogma of working to produce a better world, not innate perfection and defiance of reality that brings about perfection.
And that dogma cannot teach that we'll pull it off if the bad people stop blocking us because its a short trip from that to "therefore we must get rid of them."  And I'm looking at the right and the left here, I see too much of that uttered on both sides.


JoelAT said...

Thank you Christopher.

TrapperJ said...

Great post. Enjoyed it very much.
The first thing I thought of was the biblical concept of "original sin."

Hope you are feeling better and your energy level is back up.

Write more !