Today I am tired and a little grumpy (lack of sleep, despite meds, and feeling a bit under the weather generally), so in the spirit of honesty please read the following in the light of this – my usual measured tone may slip a little and I will probably end up regretting the inflection of certain sentences – but I am still going to try and write something vaguely meaningful.
I listened to a talk by a Christian theologian this week (I can hear the thud of the door as many people run a mile here)(stick with me – it’s not one of ‘those’ posts I promise). Something he said struck a chord with me and I have been rolling it around over the last little while trying to work out what I think… It doesn’t just apply to people of faith either – it seems to reflect something of the culture of the world at the present time. It was a statement to the effect of: “Often we judge how deeply we hold our values (faith based or just moral) based on how indignant and offended we are at others who do not hold the same systems” – just let that penetrate a moment…. there’s a lot in a single sentence!
I immediately felt a twinge of guilt, smiled a wry knowing smile, and had a eureka light bulb moment all at the same time. This was not easy as I was up a ladder at the time with a pot of paint in my hand. So I descended and wound back and listened again! Suddenly I realised what under some circumstances makes me squirm about church, seem uber-liberal to some and things I have been guilty of myself. The thought has stayed with me so I decided to see what everyone else thinks!
Do I get a sense of scale and depth when it comes to knowing what I care about/believe/hold to be true by simply how much I am outraged or offended by others who don’t share my beliefs? Is that pride? is that insane? Where does it stem from? and more to the point what can I do to counteract that mechanism? – too many questions and it makes my brain hurt. Looking around in the light of this statement – I can see it everywhere… anti-capitalism is shown to be felt deeply by people acting violently against large corporations (or by simply being outraged at the unfair inequality). The Christian/Muslim divide is fueled by the incensed outrage of people who are blaspheming. The homophobia is deemed necessary by way of the disgust felt at ‘unnatural’ acts. The feminist/chauvinist agenda is driven by the outrage at things not being ‘biblical’ and the wrong people having authority. I can tell what I believe in by how I ‘FEEL’…… wrong!
One thing I have learned over the last 3 years is that how I ‘feel’ about something is a particularly unreliable method of discerning what is actually ‘IMPORTANT’. My feelings change on a day to day basis – sometimes I honestly can’t be arsed to feel anything about a subject that I hold dear, and other days I’d quite happily rip someone to shreds for disagreeing with me… the point is that it changes. We learn, we accept new ideas and we grow. How can I grow if I get the security of my beliefs from how outraged I feel about things? What happened to ‘deep calls to deep’ (sorry a biblical phrase – you know the stuff in your bones type deep) beliefs that just are… They don’t need to be affirmed by outrage, they are just what I hold to be true. That way we don’t hold them sacred – we learn and we journey, things can then become nuanced and that’s OK.
Last word – please don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that some injustice and evil shouldn’t make me angry (I am not suggesting that I don’t personally get annoyed at inequality, fundamentalism, belligerence and hatred of others). Those things do wind me up!! But the problem comes when I measure what I believe by how much those things outrage me… actually that’s not important. The thing that’s important is knowing why I don’t like those things and using that to spur me on to instigate change. Otherwise we all get caught up in the game of who can his the offense button the hardest and ring the bell at the top of the indignation-o-meter.