Thursday, October 17, 2013

Unicorns, Rainbows, Germans and Inconsistent Living

I have decided to commit to my blog. In the past, I have been hit and miss with posts, sometimes going months without ever writing. Recently, I have been considering writing more seriously and so I feel this is a good way to practice that.

Today’s topic comes from a couple of college buddies who answered my posted request for topic material….I’ll try and do their suggestions justice. Here we go:

Inconsistent living
It has been brought up that many people go throughout their lives with a habit of philosophical compartmentalization. For simplicity sake, I’m going to call this “inconsistent living”; this is where people foster inconsistency between their proclaimed beliefs and their actual behavior. This idea can also be extended to include people who live inconsistently between their beliefs and their actions around different people. I would think that this latter kind of inconsistent living is more extreme as the person is split in multiple ways, both internally and externally.

I think that the issue is most prevalent among younger people because they are still trying to figure out “who they are”. By this, people generally mean that they are undecided what kind of values they want to devote their lives to. Most of our values are inherited from our parents or whoever raised us; as adolescents, people go through a period of bio-chemical and psychological fluxes in which we unavoidably evaluate those values and decide which we want to claim as our own and which we would prefer to discard. This is an important process because it moves societies forward. As more technology is developed and the world becomes a different place, socially speaking, dropping certain values can be important ( a good example would be the first few decades after slavery had been abolished). While there are intrinsic values that should not be discarded by any generation, that discussion is a bit beyond the scope of the present one.

While it is acceptable and even necessary to figure out “who you are” during your adolescence, it is important to do so with some consistency and to strive to be critical enough so as to not allow this period to influence your personal and professional life too much (though some effect is unavoidable). Unfortunately, adolescence can now be defined as late as a person’s 30’s due to the society we live in. Whereas it was common to be considered an adult by society and oneself at the age of 18, our college systems and other social factors have allowed people to remain in flux. Without spending too much time here, I’d just like to point out how several students go off to college being given all the freedoms of adulthood with few if any adult responsibilities.

So the fall-out is often a compartmentalization of personal philosophies; specifically, people act differently in front of certain people or people claim to believe one thing and then act contrary. A little of this is ok, but too much is, well, too much.

Unicorn living
In order to demonstrate, I will use the up-coming holiday, Halloween. My wife and I have been going round and round about what we will dress up as (and we’ve not gotten far). One thing she thought about doing was dressing as a unicorn. Now, I don’t think this is weird for the season, but it made me think about how people do not act this way in their daily lives. She is not weird for considering being a unicorn, but I wonder if she would dress up like a unicorn on just any day of the year. Please keep in mind that this is a limited analogy. So when we live inconsistently with our beliefs, we can parallel it with wanting to be a unicorn all year long, but only living it out one day a year or in private. Or (to flip the analogy), it could be like wanting and claiming to be a person who dresses normally all year long when you really just want to be a unicorn. The inconsistency between your internal life and your outward actions essentially leave you as a fragmented person; even when you do get one day a year of relief (which would be analogous to your private behavior).

German political sufferers
Another example can be seen in the Anabaptist tradition. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is the Christian belief system of which traditions like Mennonite, Amish and Brethren in Christ are descendents of. During the Protestant reformation, this group was considered radical because they took the reform of the church farther than the Protestants. Specifically, they bravely took ALL church practice under scrutiny instead of just some secondary doctrine and procedural practices. Because of their “underdog” place in history and their basic doctrine of pacifism which they derived from Jesus’ explicit teaching, they were persecuted from all angles of the reformation. In Germany, where the movement took most solidified shape under Menno Simons, the tense political atmosphere allowed for Roman Catholics, Protestants and secular authorities to capture, torture and kill Anabaptists at will – needless to say, this was a dark period in the history of the church.

What I want to point out about the Anabaptists and the strained, inter-believer relations is that throughout it all – even when being tortured and killed – the Anabaptists generally lived consistently with their radical proclaimed beliefs such as their refusal to join the military or simply fall in line with commonly accepted church practice. This, to me, is a great example of maturity: to find faith in a belief – or rather a person – that you would give your life for the sake of letting that belief/person pervade every compartment of your life.

Rainbow consistency
So, to round this idea off, let’s look at how God goes about his interactions with us. I want to look to the rainbow. In the story of Noah’s Ark, God seals his promise to never destroy the world again with a rainbow. Now, without getting into exegetical arguments about whether or not we ought to take this story as literal or allegorical, I think we can learn one important truth from the story: God does it big. Now, I think that God also does signs and wonders in small ways, but one thing is certain that when he makes a promise or decides that things should be a certain way, there is no fudging. God doesn’t say “I’ll never destroy the world again…unless I’m having a bad day, in which case look out!” This was how the Greek gods behaved and they were more often projections of how humans act. The God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, however, doesn’t do this because he’s not human. He perfectly lives consistently with what he claims as truth – how could he do otherwise?

Concluding thoughts
From this assertion, we who are made in his image and striving to become more like him ought to lay aside the immature practice of philosophical compartmentalization and start living consistently. This is simply the honest way to go about life; no “hidden me”, no quiet fudging about what we believe, but the bold proclamation that we believe life is to be lived a certain way and a commitment to intentionally act accordingly. This isn’t easy, but it is necessary to a mature spiritual life.


The Dread.

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