A few years ago a rash of accidents revealed a flaw in the design of fifteen-passenger vans. A study showed how their baboon-like rear end contributed to roll-overs when drivers made the same human error: over-correcting. Let that image warn all the Christian authors who are over-correcting in matters of cultural influence.
Reaction 1: I had a bad experience
Many of them are swerving from their own controlling, moralistic environments. Someone said, scratch the paint off a Marxist and you’ll often find an alienated fundamentalist underneath. Shaming and sanctimony may feel justified when defending a set of people rather than a set of doctrines, but it’s an over-correction.
Reaction 2: I’m not one of those
In turn, when moralists are put on the defense, they too over-react. They become defined by what they are against, not for, and look like bullies in the world of identity politics. As a result, people in general have become rather tepid about their convictions for fear of being lumped in with the bigots.
Reaction 3: Let’s just fly a little higher
The fear of being associated with haters has many people jerking the wheel toward the kind of ambiguity I battled for many years. In the interest of so-called fairness, people become humble about their beliefs (pain free) rather than cultivating humility of character (painful).
Over 100 years ago, G.K. Chesterton admitted his own similar lapse:
I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth century. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it.
We know far more than we live
Someone may say: “What about mystery? Why don’t you admit how little our three-pound brains can grasp about the eternal God?” Well, no argument there. But the fact that we cannot know it all shouldn’t lead us to relegate what we do know to something too general to be applied, life on life.
One school of thought (Hegel) celebrates ambiguity as the only mark of intellectual honesty. He turned the pursuit of knowledge into a mere abstraction. Reminds me of something Paul said in one of his letters: “…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Let’s take care that we don’t over-correct, generalizing beliefs so much that they can’t actually be spelled out and lived.
If you are swerving hard away from the dry valley of moralism, then benefit from what I’ve already seen in the wilderness of unmoored dialogue, looking at the same thing with unsettled priorities: “It’s duck…no, it’s a rabbit….”