How do our perceptions color our world? Are our perceptions right all the time, and if not, what is the measure by which they should be considered right? Since so many people are in this world and influence us daily, is any perception right, or is a matter of relativism as it pertains to our western culture acceptable if people don’t bother us?
I think these are relevant questions, especially in pertinence to the world we live in right now. Take any debate from politics to abortion and back again, and everyone has a perception, usually based on a personal experience or an anecdotal story, sometimes told as a third-person omniscience. At any rate, people think what they think for a reason, right or wrong. Sometimes these reasons for no other explanation, other than it has always been done this way are used, and in other situations a person’s reason is an example of the novel of Dorian Gray and how in pursuit of a beautiful exterior, the grotesque truth was just a matter of looking within the proper context. For Dorian, the picture which held his age and exterior being in its truth was this proper context, and this picture was hidden from all eyes but his own (he knew his truth even when others did not, and he was willing to do anything to protect it). Perhaps this is what we as people do daily, and the effort is keeping people from looking at our own picture of Dorian, that truth which will place us in a completely different context (e.g. Bernard Madoff). The question is, what do we truly have to hide from anyone? Are we so worried people will judge us for being flawed (some probably do), or are we worried because we will be forced to look within ourselves and confront above anything else, the truth. I would argue, it is the latter. Our truth is not a truth at all, objective truth is a truth which carries a baseline of exactness, one which holds us accountable for our actions. Even if no one ever knows who we are, truth still exists, staring us in the face and cold about our decisions. Time is much like truth; time continues to move forward no matter how much we wish it would stop.
So where is our perception as a barometer of the truth? Are we focused on attaining the truth, or are we focused on attaining our truth? Is it more a matter of “you’re ok so I’m ok” attitude we should have, is this what the Golden Rule actually meant? In today’s mainstream talk and social political climate, we are confronted with such euphemisms as social justice. I use this example, because it is such a bastardization of a word as I have never seen. We’ve taken a word which in its own context stands for everything we as people intend to do, to put things right which were once wronged, and pursuit of the objective truth in action as we live day-to-day. Though in this highly charged political climate, we see people push to insert their political objectives, subjective truths, misaligned cultural values, and at the very base of everything, their selfish desires. So where does this leave us? How do we fix something which has become so aberrated by personal subjective truths, we don’t know our ankle from our ass anymore?
When I first started thinking about this social issue, I was perplexed, and would ask myself questions for hours with little or no headway at all. I would ask, “are they right, are the platforms they take valid?”, and in truth on a surface level they seemed so. However, I perceived a weakness in their argument and this lead to the conclusion there was a simple logical fallacy in their points of view and the context with how they pursued their goals. I couldn’t put my finger on just where this fallacy was occurring, but it was there, and still is when you listen to many people argue this misguided perception. In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Blink, he presents a theory of something called “thin slicing”, and in short, it’s an ability to look at something, anything, and know in an instance its “truth” even when we don’t know why. His example was based on a piece of art which was unearthed in the middle-east and presented as the “real deal” when sold to a museum. Thing about it was, it wasn’t real, or at least not what it claimed to be. It was still very old, and still uncovered in an excavation, but what was the most remarkable was there were people who looked at it, and were capable in an instance, to distance themselves from its claim. They knew it was a fake, but they didn’t know why they knew it to be fake. Turns out, they were right, and they could base this on an acute level of experience attained and utilized without even realizing what they were doing. These people were experts in their field of archelogy and artwork as it relates to the middle-east, seeing thousands of artifacts both fake and real and yet they still had trouble pinpointing why they didn’t like what they saw. However, Gladwell, points out we are all capable of this ability, regardless of the context if we have some experience with whatever the said topic is. This won’t preclude people from making decisions based on poor judgement, or stop anyone from creating their own paradigm which is contaminated by their own preconceived notions and desires. Which leads us back to social justice. What is the pursuit of social justice? What are they hoping to attain from their efforts? Generally, anyone can spend five minutes looking at self-proclaimed “social justice warriors” (SJWs) and see there is no real cohesive argument among any three persons who espouse for a world with more social justice. This is an opportunity to learn within themselves and ourselves as we look for an objective truth.
So, in a quick synopsis, I’ve found social justice, according to Wikipedia, is “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” So, now we come to the meat of the matter, perception. Within the context of trying to live in a utopian society, people are willing to force others to live a happy life. The very context of this statement belies everything justice stands for as a matter of objective truth. Also, within the context of the definition, we force everyone to be the same as it relates to certain socioeconomic standards. Dr. Jordan Peterson states “It was no longer specifically about economics………It was about power. And everything to the postmodernists is about power. And that’s actually why they’re so dangerous, because if you’re engaged in a discussion with someone who believes in nothing but power, all they are motivated to do is to accrue all the power to them, because what else is there?” In this context, where does our perception lead us? Do we have anything which will prevent people who eventually will gravitate to Dr. Peterson’s point of view of a corrupt ideology? We’ve seen this before, time and again, people who with purely beneficial motivations in the beginning, become changed somehow, when levels of power are exuded over the masses. Stalin killed millions of his own people because he had the power to do so, and they had no power because of their prescription to make everyone the same. Now, I’m not suggesting this is what is happening, but even with the fabric of where we are now, I’m not sure it takes a huge leap of faith to recognize the discontinuity with some of the social ideologies floating around now.
The answer to the questions I posited to myself were simple, and yet complex at the same time. Simple in their nature, and complex in their derivative steps to place into action. The truth in its simplicity was, God is love, and from this love, justice flows through acts of kindness, charity, and acceptance of all. Within the context of the acts we see where people get mired in the quicksand of subjective reality. To show the complexity, I’ll try and focus on each point, in a brief example. Kindness, seems simple, and easy to do, be kind to all peoples no matter who they are. However, from the Christian perspective, kindness goes much further than this, and is interconnected with charity and acceptance. Kindness is a matter of setting a foundation of action, where charity is the action itself, and acceptance is the understanding we all must realize as we move through instances of turmoil and degrading points within our lives. I’m not suggesting we enjoy those times when they occur, but within the paradigm of sacrifice and the complete understanding we see an objective truth unfold for us. In the case of the people who are protesting and creating turmoil based on their subjective ideas, social justice, we understand although something seems wrong about it, what is it? They are failing to recognize, you can’t force morality without facing a dire backlash, many churches/religions are facing the wrath of earlier generations pursuit of this poorly planned ideology today. The other is creating an outcome based reality where everyone is the same, no matter how much work was used. There is no incentive to try at this point or at least try harder, and people are relegated to being just like you and just like me. By my estimation, this is counter to anything fairness or the pursuit of fairness has at all.
My answer to the overall question took me years to not only answer, but formulate into a practice of individuality as it relates to the masses. I cannot be responsible for any person’s actions, yet I can be unhappy with them or at their actions especially if I see a moral detriment. If I truly don’t believe what someone is preferring as a fact, I have the obvious choice to give discourse and argue my point. My wife isn’t a big fan of the argument, even in the best of circumstances, and this brings up another point of view which shouldn’t altogether be forgotten. Some people aren’t wired either by nature or nurture, to give argument when something goes against what they know to be a truth. It isn’t a belittlement to anyone who is like this, it just indicates their level of agreement with people has a higher tolerance than my own. This is probably a good thing, since my parents always stated, “you’d argue with a brick wall if there was a chance you thought you could win!”. So true. Though, over the years, my style has changed dramatically, I still have a fire for argument, and in one which carries a serious topic of conversation, I love to be in the thick of battle, so-to-speak.
My overall point in the social justice arena here is to illuminate something which seems to plague every aspect of our society, and a topic which seems to have no end or relative point in which to argue a right and wrong stance. Let me tell you, there is always a right and always a wrong. People who want to argue the gray, seem to argue because they know the right thing to do, and are hesitant to do so because of the inherent sacrifice which comes in to play.
God, gives us the word, and the Church interprets this and properly identifies truth. I will say only a couple of things on this, as I realize the can of worms which may be opened by doing so. Sola Scriptura, or the nature of reading scripture and the truth being revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, is nonsense. Not nonsense in the nature that the Holy Spirit will reveal things to us, but nonsense in a seemingly ignorant view of truth and of history, the Bible although not a historical text as we would write today with dates and descriptions, but historical nonetheless, demands we know the context of the written word to better understand why and how events occurred which pertain to us two millennia later. If we apply the understanding of sola scriptura as a basis of context to our perceptions, then everyone will have a different perception of everything (there will be a different church on every corner, whoops never mind). This is a dangerous place to be in, because with much of everything there should be a hardline of truth and without this hardline, the line can be moved whenever it suits the people with the power to move it (this is also an argument against anything where people are to be made the same by a governmental authority, power allows a subjective reasoning to move the line where it sees the most benefit). Ironically enough, sola scriptura is an argument for atheism as well; without an objective moral authority, we risk determining what our morals should or should not be, or whether we should have any at all. This would be awful, when in comparison with a standard we have now regarding cultural morality. I’m not saying an atheist can’t be moral, sure they can, but if they are it’s with the guidance of objective moral authorities which have literally permeated society for ages due to religious influences.
I’ve stated all this above to arrive at my most salient point, our responsibilities as men. As fathers, we must teach our children the proper perspective, objective truth as it relates to God, and everything which flows from this understanding. As husbands, we must help give as much of our overall effort to guide our wives into a direction of truth as well, and they will likewise be the support we need to be the driving force. I’m not advocating we tell everyone what to do, but instead, much like Solomon and how with God’s grace he led a nation our morals, charities, and love are the blessing given to us by God that we may pursue a proper perspective. We are bound by our duties and covenant with God through our marriages to do so. We all trip up from time-to-time, and some of us more often than others. Though, our fellowship, prayer, and acceptance of truth will help us to overcome obstacles which are placed in front of us, by the deceiver and the deceived. You are loved, and you are wanted in this society, no matter how anyone wants to subjectively misguide you. I don’t know you, and I love you, because we are all brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Know this always! I pray for you and your family, and you will receive the blessings of Christ as you continue along throughout your days. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!!!