Make up your mind already…

23 Jan

I was listening to a podcast today that was addressing the Internet’s vitriol with Scientology. Apparently, World Wide Web culture despises Tom Cruise’s worldview because his community believes crazy things and demands a bunch of money. One of the hosts of the podcast immediately noted that all religions are like that so he didn’t really get why Scientology was uniquely hated.

Then they made the statement that every religion has its skeletons. For example, the Catholic Church hasn’t always been best-friends with alternative perceptions of God as characterized by the Inquisition or the Crusades. While I agree with their understanding of these cruelties as cruelties, I can’t help but wonder if they know why they feel that way.

If I were to go into another culture today and accuse that culture of moral failure because of their customs or viewpoints, many would criticize me of something called ethnocentrism; basically that because of my culture and what I was raised in, I am biased against rival understandings of reality. Besides, who gave me the right to tell another person what clothes to wear, or how to worship their gods, or how to prevent their children from reproducing?

That being said, I CAN look back at virtually any culture from the past and freely accuse them of ignorance, savagery, paganism, foolishness, and downright evil without any fear of reprisal. Interesting, no? Because of the Internet age, I can write off the accomplishments of the past because anyone back in the 1700’s was clearly not as intelligent as me. I can look in derision at the moral failures of the Catholic Church, or the history of caste in India without much of any consequence. That seems a little double standard-ish to me.

First off, it assumes a standard in the first place. There has got to be a reason as to why they were savages and we are civilized. What line has been drawn? Did we draw it? Was it drawn for us?

Secondly, it assumes that we are objectively better than generations past, and that can be demonstrably proven by literacy, or morality, or the ease of cat-video dissemination to my neighbors across the Pacific. There’s that line again. Is it set in stone, and has our generation crossed over to the morally superior side? Or has it been tentatively drawn in pencil and each generation is frantically erasing where it was and re-placing it in their favor?

At the end of the day, honestly, I just get frustrated with my generation. It’s like our forefathers built a building called civilization. They got the straw for the bricks. They mined, they farmed, they produced. They worked their fingers to the bone to build up one storey. Then their children worked and built another, and so on. Then our generation comes. We were born on the 21st storey, kicked down the ladder, and assumed that we belonged here in the first place. THEN we accuse those who came before us of being moronic and close-minded. I can’t help feeling like we missed something somewhere.

This reminds me of the importance of the 4th commandment. “Honor your father and mother.” It’s (sinfully) natural to honor yourself above others, but God commands something different. Honor those who came before you. Remember what they taught you. Remember how hard they worked. Remember the grace they showed you when you broke their stuff. Remember the faith they had. Remember their love for God. Remember their moral fortitude. Remember their parents. Remember the generations before us. Remember. Honor. Continue their example.

But then, the question. The question that so quickly comes to mind. What about their example is so worthy of veneration? Why should I continue in their footsteps? Why should I honor them at all?

And this brings us back to that line. That line our generation so vehemently rails against, while simultaneously subverting their reasons for doing so. Is there good? Is there bad? Are there things that are actually worthy of praise and things that are worthy of rebuke? If not, whence all the fervor?

C.S. Lewis said it better than any I’ve heard in The Abolition of Man: “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

We’ve got to start somewhere in order to get anywhere. Objectively morality has got to be assumed in order to condemn or praise anyone or anything. Either way, without this, all discussions of right, wrong, good, bad, ugly, progression, regression, etc. are ultimately pointless. God, grant us faith and grace to be reasonable.

I wonder what the virtual podcasts of the 33rd century will say of the cavemen of the 21st…

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