Rulz for thee, but not for mee! Wheee!!!
Length: 2,200 words
Reading Time: 8 minutes
I want readers to be aware of the spiritual confusion that is prevalent in the world today, and even appears among those who frequent this blog, including myself at times. Spiritual Confusion might not seem to fit into this month’s theme of The Christian Conundrum, but I believe it is directly responsible for it.
I posit that this confusion is a result of the society-wide prevalence of many negative factors which have been reviewed over the past month, including widespread sexual promiscuity, the effects of parental divorce, the demise of the Christian Life Script, and the fading of Archetypal myths.
All these factors have created a psychological disintegration which renders interaction with humanity difficult and experiencing God as evasive. Worse, these effects are hardly accessible to our conscious awareness. Many of us people can hardly even understand what “peace with God” means, because we never experienced the presence of God through our family of origin (as Scott described in the example of his friend’s parents).
Scott described this Turning Away when he said,
“Then, it’s as if in one generation, the wheels fell off the bus.”
NovaSeeker expounded on the resulting confusion.
“Because they did fall off the bus.
Those of us around this age (50ish, either way) lived through the transition from the old regime to the new one. That is — many of us grew up with relationship models that were of the “old regime” variety, but the world we were ourselves growing up and having relationships in eschewed these older models, and a new, emergent model was being birthed.”
“That emergent process has still not settled on a new model, and it’s possible that it never will, but the main point for us is that we grew up with one set of expectations based on the model we saw growing up, but that model simply did not apply to the new relationships of our own era. That disconnect led to lots and lots of failed marriages. Lots of them.
At the time people were saying it’s because men weren’t “catching up” and were “stuck in the old ways of looking at things” as compared with their progressive, heroic, pioneer wives who were trying to valiantly blaze a new trail in the emergent model of NewMarriage. But in reality, expectations for both sexes didn’t match the new realities, and this just created tensions that many people in our era were not equipped to resolve, at least not at those ages (in the 20s when many of us still married back then).
The exceptions to this were the people who had the personality profile type to thrive in a period of dramatic change — people who are above average in: adaptiveness, confidence, independence, resilience, positivity (always looking ahead), adventurousness, open-ness to novelty, and open-ness to change. People who were not high in these areas struggled, and people who were low in them, or had the polar opposite traits to them, were basically kicked off the horse, tout court.
I’m not saying we had it harder than the current young set — not at all. They are living in a Mad Max scenario for relationships. But our generation faced a different, yet equally problematic scenario because the rules were changing in real time and drastically, and many of us could not adapt quickly enough to manage to save our marriages.”
Yes, the rules changed! Now, there are practically no rules at all, and we don’t know what to do!
We have a Rules-Based Mindset
In The Christian Conundrum (2021 March 1), NovaSeeker and I put forth the idea that “following the rules” cannot guarantee a successful marriage. Another post, More on the Framework of Options (2021 March 22), emphasized how a focus on rules is a red herring from a Christian standpoint.
Even so, having a rules based mindset seems to be the default setting. We want to establish rules for everyone to play by. We want a formula that “works”. We think the confusion is because the rules have changed, when in fact, it’s not about rules at all. It’s about maintaining inner peace with God and pursuing our life purpose — that which brings glory to God.
To see what I mean, take a look at these comments with this in mind.
- More from NovaSeeker.
- NovaSeeker on women’s approach to the rules.
- Deti’s Story.
- Deti’s take on the futility of rules, especially with women.
- Ed Hurst’s Story.
- Elspeth’s Story.
- Feeriker’s Story
- Jason’s viewpoint.
- Oscar’s take on the rules.
- RedPillBoomer’s Story.
- SFC Ton’s One Rule to rule them all.
Actually, Jason makes a lot of sense with respect to the approach of “following the rules”. And we’ve seen that success in marriage has little to do with following the rules.
Here, I don’t mean to come down on anyone. I just want to point out how rules totally envelop our world view. In fact, the centrality of Law and Order is a foundational concept of Anglo culture, and as such, we are all guilty of it, including myself. Thinking that “the legality of the thing is what makes it right” is the default foundation of our mental processing.
As long as we’re searching for a rule-based formula, we’ll miss the grace of God.
A person who doesn’t have a Rule-Based approach is not understood!
“The honest truth is that I ignored all of this and simply did what my convictions required, regardless of the outcome. Obedience to conviction is its own reward (AKA, Shalom, peace with God). I carefully evaluate whether anyone is inside or outside the same covenant of faith, and treat them accordingly. Had I not found a covenant woman, there would have been no interest in marriage. A good or bad marriage is not a reward; it is a condition in which we pursue the Lord. He gives the marriage, or not, as He sees fit. I’m tired of reading all the chatter that assumes there is a high degree of instrumentality, and never makes room for divine miracles. Carry on without me.”
His comment was puzzling because it is hard for our rule-based minds to identify the specific rules that Ed lives by. We want to conclude that he is saying something like, “Marriage is something that God sends your way if he wants to, as you pursue him, and that if God hadn’t sent his wife his way, he would not have otherwise had any interest in marriage, per se.” But we cannot identify with this approach, because of daughters, because of testosterone, because of desire, because of libido, because of frustration, no specified course of action, no cause-effect, no rules… nothing for our rational minds to latch onto, chew on, and dissect. There’s only a very abstract Archetypal mythos that we are unfamiliar with and which is confusing to the mind.
We want to dismiss his comment because we don’t see how it relates to the Christian Conundrum or the Christian Marriage Dilemma. We can’t see how his stance helps guys who want to get married in order to deal with sexual temptation, have kids, or whatever else. As a gesture of philosophical generosity, we could agree that there can always be miracles, but from what we would consider to be a practical standpoint, it seems foolhardy to rely on a miracle, and not take a proactive approach. At worst, it seems like a case of putting our Lord to the test (although I suppose if one is truly neutral about being with a woman or not, one wouldn’t be doing that). In short, there is no transferrable knowledge, and the nearly impossible standard remains. All that is from our own perspective, yet we still fail to understand what Ed is driving at.
I have learned a lot from Ed since I started reading his blogs three years ago, and I experienced spiritual growth as a result of it. I understand that Ed is disappointed because there is something important missing from all the discussion. The thing that is missing is how one’s faith can lead one into new opportunities and life experiences. We haven’t really touched on this, and none of the commenters have either. What he means by “instrumentality” is that we’ve been hammering away at descriptions, models, and game theory, and although these have been insightful, there’s not much talk about Christian faith. This is a valid criticism. I have the mind that if we keep hammering away, then eventually people will realize the futility and resentment that is bound up in the rules-based approach, and begin to realize faith. I hope I’m not expecting too much.
At this point, it seems like legalism in the form of a rule-centric cognition is the biggest obstacle. People are operating out of their heads, and not their hearts. People are rather quick to judge, and that puts a damper on the forthcoming introspection and honesty.
It’s time for us to put the brain back in the skull and start paying more attention to the mysteries of the heart which are unfathomable to the limited faculties of the cognition.
The Rules of the World (and of Churchianity)
9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.John 17:9-19 (NKJV)
The Greek “cosmos” translated as “world” in John 17 means society, culture, and especially the ideologies thereof. This also includes “an arrangement of rules in society”. In the world system (cosmos), the rules are created to enforce unity, conformance to the narrative, and the Herd mentality. This is the “Wide Road leading to destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14). There is an implied message that if one conforms to the world (cosmos), then one will find social acceptance and contentment. But this is the lie of Satan. Jesus calls us to come out of the world, i.e. not to follow the same rules of the world just to “fit in”.
I think this also includes many of the typical social norms in the microcosm of churchianity. Even within the church, there is an expectation that Christians should be following the rules. (As an exercise, try reading verses 14 and 16 in the passage above and substitute the word “rules” for the word “world”.) Of course in this context, the rules are moralized and spiritualized, but the deadening effect on the soul is the same.
Let’s look at the purpose of the rules as compared to faith.
Wallowing in the SMP is perceived as hedonism and will eventually bring a harvest of grief and despair. The overriding practical purpose of abstaining from sexual sin, divorce, etc., is so that one doesn’t become broken hearted and lose faith, and then become cynical, used up, and jaded, etc.
Strutting in the jackboots of the law is perceived as hypocrisy and will eventually produce a deadening of the soul. The overriding practical purpose of abstaining from legalistic rule-ology is so that one doesn’t become hard hearted and lose faith, and then become cynical, up tight, and resentful, etc.
Both of these two approaches bring loneliness and alienation from God and mankind. We have a clearly recognized rule for the former, but yet, whenever the rule for the latter is expressed, it is only offered as a defensive excuse for indulging in the former.
Somewhere in between, there is another path to be taken, often referred to as “The Narrow Way”. The trick is to stay on this course, and not get stuck in either of the two ditches on either side of the road.
UPDATE — Ed Hurst responded in Radix Fidem: The Balance Point (2021 March 24).