It seems like more and more people nowadays are just saying they only do ‘what the Bible says’ because the ‘Bible says so’ and they ‘believe in the Bible’ while the opinion, interpretation and application of what select Biblical texts might mean varies from Christian to Christian, denomination to denomination – most of whom appear to be followers of Christ, or at the very least, dedicated to good works. In light of the burst of moral and intellectual relativism infecting the Western world, I’m surprised to say that legalism with it’s younger brother literalism are running rampant in the modern church.
Firstly, I apologize for the abysmal title. I just couldn’t for the life of me conceive a more appropriate headliner. If you could find it in your hearts to forgive me, we can proceed. If not, I suppose your journey ends here.
“I’m right, you’re wrong!” has seemingly become a self-conscious adage for the millennial generation. Worst of all, the negligent, irresponsible and unaccountable behaviour the Internet stimulates from both anonymity and popularity has enchantingly swollen this sense of self-righteousness. Albeit, such a blatant claim is a massive generalization on my part, but it does not lack justification – Western society cultivates the belief that right and wrong birth in the eye of the beholder and the only person we ought to hold accountable is our self. While personal responsibility is undoubtedly noble, the greater context of such belief is found wanting. Weaved from the same fabric there is a polar socio-moral that emphasizes truth ought to be subjective and therefore should be determined by a majority ruling of embellished belief, which more often than not leads to “peer pressure” dissemination through social movements.
“Early twentieth century America may very well be the most identifiable period dominated by change: Woman won the right to vote, blacks were overturning the racial blur, banks offered the middle-class a so-called “credit”, a box in living rooms performed live music, classical art fizzled into dada rah-rah and moving pictures got a voice – just to mention a few. Amidst all the change, Union and Confederate veterans sat and waited as their grandchildren marched and died side-by-side in what seemed to be a ‘never-ending’ aimless war. The aftermath left those living with a lack of faith in the old ways; the traditional system of things was adrift.
Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), a Christian anarchist for reasons pragmatically understandable but theologically disagreeable, thematically touches this concept in his grand piece of literature War and Peace. Why does an assigned executioner who desires not to kill his fellow man still fire his gun? Tolstoy suggests it is out of fear for his own survival that the individual at large does not stand up for what he or she believes – whether that is social survival in times of peace or physical harm in moments of war. He highlights that the systematic separation of aristocratic commonwealth and peasantry, similar but not identical to our modern centralized government and lower class, is perpetuated by that self-imposed will to survive at all costs. Tolstoy vividly illustrates a cyclical pattern in society, one that spirals an unconscious looping social system that immobilizes the individual from acting upon their conscience. He underscores the ‘system’ is driven by an acquired appetite for landscapes over law, for goods over good. This system inevitably causes war, death, and suffering.