Friday, April 08, 2011

Old School Views and Values

It is too bad old school views and values are looked down upon by so many in society. The modern era, which has its roots in "the enlightenment" puts heavy emphasis on "progress" (I put both of these terms in quotes because they use different definitions of these terms than I do).

What was "the enlightenment"?
It depends on who you ask. From my understanding, it was an ideological event that was divided along lines of Christian religions. Catholics valued the "old" worldview/perspective while many (if not all) of the non-Catholic denominations wanted a change. The people who wanted change arrogantly called themselves "enlightened" while labeling the Catholics as "archaic." This notion still exists to this day.
These self-labeled enlightened people wanted individuals to have more of a say in defining theology, philosophy, church hierarchy, and how to define what is acceptable, rather than having all of this stuff defined by so-called Catholic experts who were supported by The Vatican. This mentality still exists to this day.
In the end, the biggest change that took place was shifting authority from "The Church" to individuals. This resulted in a change of focus on who is serving whom. The "old archaic" Catholic church insisted on individuals serving God by serving the church (doing what the church says) calling us to obey our local church leaders. The "new enlightened" way was to serve God by doing whatever the individual thought was right. The "enlightened" person had to obey no one on earth but himself. Sound familiar?

What is "progress"?
"The enlightenment" hijacked the term progress to measure how well/fast things are getting better. It assumes that the "old way" is bad and something that we want to get away from. It evokes the idea of forward motion - from point A to point B. It also assumes that humans get better as we obtain more knowledge. So one of the outcomes of "the enlightenment" was an obsession with progress. Progress had to be made at all costs (they had to get away from those "old archaic" Catholic ways as fast as possible). People of "the enlightenment" believed that progress could not and should not be stopped. Stopping progress was akin to going back to the old way, which meant that all their hard work would be lost.

Now that hundreds of years have passed since these two groups went their separate ways, we can begin to see the pros and cons and fallout of this division. We don't hear much about this stuff in church anymore, but it now comes out in politics. It rears its head as "conservative" versus "liberal" - conservatives tend to sway the "old way" and liberals tend to swing the "enlightened way." At least the liberals aren't arrogant enough to call themselves "enlightened", although they still call the conservatives "archaic." Just listen to liberal and conservative politicians go at it - the name calling is terrible.

Unless a person is ultra-conservative, they typically agree with a number of views from "the enlightenment." This isn't necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. But what is bad is the gradual degradation of values of those people that choose to not takes sides, and instead "go with the flow." In my opinion, people who choose this path have chosen the path that leads to amoral behavior and selfishness - a path to no where good.

It is better to take a stand. Think about what you believe and why. Challenge your belief system and talk with people who disagree with you. Ask them (don't attack them) to explain why they choose to believe what they believe. Both of you will grow. But do not go around trying to convert everyone to your way of thinking while not being open to change your mind. If you have decided what you believe and are not open to changing your mind (honestly), do not enter into these conversations. If someone asks you what you believe and why, answer them, but don't try and convert them to your view. Keep it brief and to the point. If they disagree, respect it and change the topic. There is nothing worse than two people who steadfastly disagree trying pointlessly to convert the other person. No one wins in these arguments - in fact everyone loses.

As you can guess, I would fall in the "ultra-conservative" group who thinks that many "old ways" are better. When I say "old ways" I'm talking about really old ways, thousands of years old, pre-middle ages old. I do not agree with "progress" being the measurement of what is good. In my opinion, "the enlightenment" was more of a reformation, which was desperately needed at the time because much of the Catholic clergy, especially higher-ups, were badly corrupt.

But here we are, living in a society defined by "the enlightenment" and "progress", and no matter where we go, these ideas and values are lurking below the surface, ready to condemn any nay-sayers like me.