Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I'm an Insensitive Jerk
For example, I was walking through the Denver airport recently and I got stuck behind people walking slow, and a little further on I stuck behind people standing, not walking, standing on the airport's moving walkway. I got frustrated.
I got frustrated, and I thought about this study which linked slow walking to early mortality. With this thought, a certain shallow satisfaction entertained itself, splashing in the muddy gutters of my brain. These slow moving people will die sooner. They deserve it. Yeah, they deserve it.
Just then, the white-suited moral manager of my thoughts stood up, startled by the splatter of mud on his once-clean uniform, and yelled "Stop! What the hell is wrong with you? These are people, real people, each with their own lives and their own loves, and everything that entails. How can you possibly gain pleasure at the thought of their early demise? And for what? For causing you a little inconvenience?"
I sat down in a seat by my gate. With a view of an automated walkway, I continued to watch people get scooted along at 1-2 miles per hour by the moving plates beneath their stationary feet. I sat. I sat and I thought about the bitterness which had crept into my head.
A curse of my hobby, it didn't take long for me to draw a parallel with Christianity: This repulsive impulse I had was the same one that certain Christians have when they take a smug delight at the thought of God sending other people to Hell for all eternity. I was gleefully condemning, just as they do.
It was the same, but different; and the differences were enormous. My ugly condemnation was a combination of emotion merged with scientific correlation. There was no right or wrong in the study. There was no absolute truth. There was just a statistically significant tendency which called to my more-base, egocentric nature. More significantly, my better mind prevailed, acknowledging the dark thought for exactly what it was.
By contrast, the condemnation of a believer combines emotion with the Word of the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the Universe. With God, there is right, and there is wrong, and there is absolute truth. To God, any and all wrongdoers are worthy of eternal condemnation. If God is condemning someone, then it must be right, because God can do no wrong. So a believer should feel justified in his or her condemnation of others.
What if a believer has second thoughts about that condemnation, like I had? That is a tough position to keep. Are you really going to keep believing, but say that God's condemnation is wrong? Besides, Biblically speaking, you should not have any emotions about the condemned, just like God had forbid Aaron from mourning for his two sons after God had burned them to death.
Getting back to the point of this rambling message, I don't really feel I'm that different than people of faith. I'd love to say that I only resemble them in their good ways, but that would be a lie. Inside me, from time to time, splashing around in those muddy gutters of my mind, are many traits in common with the most heinous of Christian adherents.
But there's a difference; a difference which means everything. My higher authority is myself, and my justification comes from what I have learned and continue to learn. Most importantly, I can question myself without guilt, because I know that I don't know everything.
The same can't be said for those who believe God's Word, and because of that, I think it's only natural that these ugly facets of personality often manifest themselves in believers, and even get amplified, when they correspond with God's recorded condemnations.
How about you? When you were a believer, did you struggle with these impulses? Do you still hear the echos of past condemnation ringing in your head? Do you feel more free to do the right thing instead of the written thing now?