Agree? We were not born into a biological, social and moral vacuum. That’s good. A vacuum will not sustain life. Biological, the first element of non-vacuum to surround us with life support, was family, a father and mother, the profound essential of pro-creation; a male and female so endowed as to be able to establish the environment necessary to conceive, birth and nurture a child. Social, male and female, spanning the continuum of different, and yet contained within a relationship defined as having become one, together establish and maintain the growing environment of childhood. And as to the moral non-vacuum, no one has to explain why infidelity is called cheating.
Admittedly, these are restraints. As such they draw a circle around a sphere or environment established before ones arrival. That’s good. We can’t actually set the stage for our own arrival, nor would we have known how. But things, “they are a-changing”, chafing at the restraints, because they actually restrain.
I recently read the comments of a popular TV personality that quipped. “I don’t care who anybody sleeps with. If a couple has been together all that time — and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones — I think it’s fine if they want to get married. I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. …Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.”
But I do worry. Who is exempt from the sphere of people? Is there an isolated and irrelevant other? Can anyone embrace the irresponsible and selfish disregard advanced by any segment of society attempting to destroy the non-vacuum of social order. If so, can they still claim to be minding their own business?. If the existing restraints are to be denied and no other restrains proposed, well, it rather resembles the astronaut that in an attempt to be free indeed severs his tether. You can’t just go back, space is a big place, and it doesn’t support life.
The Crisis of Discernment
Discernment: keen perception or judgment, insight
Discernment has function. It is an early warning system, a warning system that admits of a significant danger or threat to an accepted base line. It doesn’t create the edges but senses them by a kind of faith received. That base line may consist of, as examples, a culture, or perhaps a body politic, a religion or world view. Standing within those base lines, discernment guards against those things that are of a contrary nature.
Discernment has form. It is knowledge, though of a source and nature beyond the academic. As knowledge alone, it is torpid. It only becomes real as it is believed and acted upon.
Discernment has purpose. It is moral, and judicially so, because discernment circumscribes something that is essentially social and relational. It defines correctness. Examples would include Cultural Correctness, Political Correctness and for the Evangelical branch of the religious sphere, Evangelical Correctness. Herein lies the problem. Discernment isn’t objective. It doesn’t create the edges but accepts them by a kind of faith received. The tenants of that faith make all the difference. If that faith is moral, discernment stands in the light and discerns all that tends to darkness. If that faith is immoral, discernment stands in the darkness and discerns all that tends to the light. If that faith is amoral, discernment stands in the shadows and discerns all that tends to the light.
It is my observation that our cultural, political and evangelical discernment rarely stand in the light and discern all that tends to darkness. At best it loiters in the shadows and discerns all that tends to the light. A predisposition to an increasing grayness prevails at the point of origin. Cultural correctness, political correctness, and yes, evangelical correctness are keen to discount all the sharp edges except, of course, that one remaining edge which is the right to discount all the sharp edges. We are left to awaken each morning to a world smudged into a nondescript value, a picket fence with no linear definitions. Sadly, this is not a static position. It is a continuum moving by stages from the amoral to the immoral. Discernment is as keen as ever it was, however its reference point has changed and is changing.
Knowledge, Belief and Behavior
Knowledge is no guarantee of right behavior. Knowledge by itself is a man sprinting on one leg. It has an insuperable weakness in that knowledge and the corresponding response to knowledge have an arbitrary nature about them. I may appear to behave according to what I know, but I frequently do not. Some say knowledge is power. Potential power perhaps, but as it effects behavior it is essentially impotent. Examples of behavior contrary to knowledge abound. I have a theory; all behavior, functional and dysfunctional, is compulsive. By that I mean that there is something in us that is so compelling that knowledge alone is an inadequate motivation. I really want to do one thing but contrary to what I want to do, I do its opposite. I really do not want to do something but in the end I do it anyway. Exterior pressures may exert considerable influence, but in the final analysis even these pressures are inadequate masters of behavior.
As a form of knowledge, coping skills abound to modify behavior sufficiently to avoid certain consequences. But like a too short blanket, coping skills can be tugged first one way then another, as needed, but in the final analysis they are still too short.
I would suggest that it is only as knowledge is coupled with belief that it is possible to run on two legs. Behavior is the sum total of what is believed, and will not allow of aberrant acts lest a verdict of incompetent by virtue of insanity be rendered. Believing is behavior. Behavior is the proof of believing. That is why judgment according to what one does is justice. Behavior is the infallible proof of what is believed. Note that behavior is proof of what is believed, not whether they believe or not. Do you wish to know what a man believes? Watch what he does.
Would you change behavior? Address what is believed.
A self-contained game plan for nothing.
Blessed are the compulsive for they shall be busy. Blessed are the procrastinators for they shall have nothing. More blessed are they who do the right thing at the right time for they have overcome the power of “later.” The story of ones life doesn’t appear as a book fully written. It proceeds one word at a time, one line at a time, one page at a time, and without prior permission. A Life Story is that journal wrote large. So, how does one seize the day? Perhaps it would be revealing to say “We are the sum total of our choices.” OK, so how has that worked out? If we continue to do what we have always done we may reasonably expect our future to resemble our past. Incidentally, our future will come to us in the same way as our past. It is not yet a book fully written and published. It will come to us one word at a time, one line at a time, one page at a time. Perhaps one could say, “We shall be defined by the sum total of our continuing choices.” Will we continue to do what we have always done?
The antidote for Later: NOW.
…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of… —St Paul (2Cor 6:2)