Thursday, December 11, 2008

Consistency: My Life Philosophy

(Let me apologize in advance if this post comes across as inflammatory - that is not my intention, nor is singling out any one person or group of people. More than anything else, I am just sort of vomiting onto the page here as I sort out my own belief systems and core motivations.)

Consistency is the goal of my life philosophy.

As I have grown in adulthood, I have come to recognize a great deal of inconsistency within people. Inconsistency in what they believe, inconsistency in how they behave, inconsistency in what they support and do not support. I see inconsistency not only in individuals, but in society at large, the things we profess and the things we do, our laws and our social and governmental hierarchies.

One of the first areas of my own life where I began to recognize this inherent inconsistency was in my religious beliefs. How could I claim to believe that the same God that I described with words like “all-loving” and “all-merciful” was also guilty of slaughtering countless Egyptian children in the Exodus story? How could I claim to respect the tenants of science and reason but also accept that the earth was once flooded entirely by a great storm – with only one man and his family surviving, and only after building a ship that any modern ship engineer could tell you would not float? How could I call the Bible the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God, knowing that it was created in the 3rd and 4th centuries by a group of old white men who brought their own human biases and agendas to the table and voted on which books belonged and which books did not belong? How could I put my faith in these bishops of the early church councils when they were the same people leading, commanding, and supporting wide-spread persecution against Jews, Pagans, and basically anyone else who was not a Christian? How could I use the Bible to support – for instance – a claim that homosexuality was a sin, when that same Bible condoned, and had been used by Christians like me to support, the institution of slavery? How could I conveniently ignore the teachings of Paul about women being required to remain silent in the church, yet accept the Pauline teaching that women should not be priests or pastors?

As I began to explore my own faith tradition, and my own beliefs and prime motivations, I began to see the depth of inconsistency within society at large and those people that I interact with and observe on a day-to-day basis.

To simplify things, let me just list some of the inconsistencies and contradictions and basic hypocrisies that I feel are plaguing our country in the present day:

1. People who would march on Washington to support what they believe is their constitutionally-mandated right to own an AK-47, but would turn around and claim to believe in an “eye for an eye” justice system, which is expressly prohibited by that same constitution.

2. People who are patently opposed to gay marriage and equal gay rights, but would express disgust and disturbance at stories of Americans who worked tirelessly to keep blacks from having equal rights with whites.

3. People who call themselves pro-life, but vigorously support the death penalty.

4. People who claim to believe in small government, but who support giving the government the most significant power on earth – the right to choose who lives or dies.

5. People whose love and concern and compassion for the rights of a clump of embryonic stem cells surpasses their love and concern and compassion for living, breathing human beings who could benefit from genetic research using those stem cells.

6. People who claim to believe in supporting, enriching, and reinforcing a concern for life, but who complain about Welfare and “socialized” medicine.

7. People who care deeply about the welfare of a baby before it is born, but who have absolutely no apparent concern whatsoever for the welfare of that baby after it has been brought into the world – certainly not concerned enough to have their precious tax dollars spent to give it food, shelter, clothes, and health insurance.

8. People who harbor prejudice – even just subconsciously – against Jews because the Jews rejected Jesus, despite the fact that Jesus, himself, was a Jew.

9. People who claim to be followers of Christ – a man who taught against the evils and perils of greed, money, and the pursuit of wealth more than just about any other single topic – and yet have no compunction about striving to make a lot of money, and then spending that money frivolously once they make it – even going to so far as to drive to church in their $50,000 SUVs, wearing expensive suits and dresses, and all the flashiest jewelry they can find.

10. People who reject Biblical teachings about women not being permitted to speak in church because those things were unique to the culture in which they were written and are no longer valid for modern life, but who turn around and use ancient 1st century Jewish prejudice to support discrimination against gays.

11. People who believe in the constitution inasmuch as it gives them the right to own a gun, but who spit all over the constitution when it demands a separation of church and state, or when it asserts that political candidates should not be subjected to any religious tests for government office.

12. People who cringe and despise militant Muslims because of their backward, violent, evil faith system, without ever recognizing or acknowledging that Christianity has enough evil, backward, violence in its own history to make 9/11 look like an attack with cream pies.

13. People who generalize all adherents to the Muslim faith by the standards of that small minority that represents militant Islam, but would be offended and indignant if someone suggested that all Christians are abortion-clinic bombers.

14. People who reject every religious tradition in the history of the world as misguided and silly mythology, but who can’t see that the same reasons for rejecting those other faith traditions are just as valid for rejecting Christianity too.

15. People who put the rights of an unborn baby over the rights of a living, breathing adult who is already alive and dealing with the struggles of life.

16. People who despise anything that stinks of socialism, and fight tooth and nail to keep liberal policies out of government, but who follow a religious tradition that began, in its infancy, as a communal society, where everyone shared their wealth and were required to give all they had to the community – and the penalty for not doing that was death, as depicted in the book of Acts.

17. People who engage in daily petitionary prayer, even though Jesus taught us to use prayer for worship and self-growth, not for enticing God to do our own will.

I could, of course, go on and on, but I have probably already gone on too long. Suffice it to say, my own personal commitment to consistency has caused me – or maybe even “allowed” me – to see so much inconsistency in other people. I look at the world around me and simply see nothing but inconsistency on top of contradiction on top of hypocrisy.

Unfortunately, I cannot change a broken world. But I can strive, personally, for consistency in the things I profess, believe, and do.

It is for this reason that I am anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, and anti-war. I believe in respecting, valuing, and supporting life, not destroying it.

I also believe, however, that the rights of living, breathing human beings trump the rights of unborn children – it is for that reason that while I am personally opposed to abortion for birth control, I support an adult’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. If we lived in a country that had universal health care, better distribution of wealth, and low poverty, I might take more of an issue with giving people the right to abortion-as-birth control. But since I recognize that the sexual urge is the most basic of the human biological urges, and since I recognize that no one deserves an 18-year sentence for giving into that biological urge despite knowing that they are not emotionally or financially prepared to have a child, and since many single mothers cannot afford to carry, birth, or raise a child because of poverty and the wealth gap, I support giving women the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, even if there is no medical necessity. Again, I believe this is consistent with my commitment to respecting, valuing, and supporting life.

Also consistent with that view is my belief in death with dignity. I believe terminally ill people should have the right to choose to end their life with a doctor’s assistance, so that they can die on their own terms with dignity, rather than suffer and waste away as a vegetable in a hospice. I can’t imagine the difficulty involved for both the sufferer and the family in such a situation, and I hope that I am never faced with such a situation, but I support giving people who are in that situation the right to die with dignity.

I am no socialist, but I do believe that a happy medium can be found somewhere between Marxist Socialism and unrestricted, no-oversight free-market capitalism. The country’s present economic predicament is a painful and blatantly obvious illustration about everything that is wrong with unrestricted free-market capitalism. I believe people should have the right to make a life for themselves and to earn money based on their own skills, abilities, talents, and work ethic, but there is something badly wrong with a society where 90% of the wealth is controlled by 20% of the population. No one is talented, able, and skillful enough to deserve millions upon millions of dollars in compensation, when there are so many people in this country and around the world who cannot pay their bills and struggle just to put food on the table. Athletes, business people, politicians, actors, writers, singers, doctors, lawyers – you name it. None of them actually deserve the enormous amounts of money that they are paid, particularly not when poverty and homelessness are as rampant as they are in this country. I believe in valuing and elevating life; putting all the wealth into the hands of a few, at the expense of the many, is not valuing and elevating life.

I am not an economics expert, and do not claim to have all the answers to this problem, but I know that simply continuing on with an economic system that is broken and has failed us time and again is not the answer. Failing at a task, and then attempting to complete the task again using the same methods, and then doing that over and over and over again, is a sign of insanity, not determination or industry.

I am a strong proponent of universal health care. Again, because I believe in supporting and elevating life, and because I believe in the tenants of the Declaration of Independence – which guarantees that the government will provide for the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for its citizens – I believe it is the duty of the government, funded by the people, to provide health insurance coverage for all Americans. This was not an issue that was faced by the founders of this country, but it is an issue that faces us today.

The United States is one of the only developed countries on earth with no universal health care system. If good, affordable health care does not fall under the government’s role to provide for “life” for its citizens, then what, exactly, does fall under that role? I have lived either without health insurance, or without good health insurance, for four years. I am fortunate that nothing serious has happened during that time. Others are not so lucky. When people get sick and pile up tens of thousands of dollars in health care costs, they frequently lose their credit, their homes, their cars, and their ability to live successfully in society. The government has a responsibility to ensure that this does not happen, and that responsibility should be carried out with a universal health care program, which would cover health care costs for people who are unable to obtain or pay for private health insurance plans.

I believe in equal rights for all people in all stages and stations of life – straight, gay, black, white, short, tall, skinny, obese, old, young, and disabled. I believe gays should have the same marriage rights as straight people. I believe black people should have the same job opportunities as white people. I believe women should make the same money for the same job as men. To me, this is supporting and valuing life. To deny, for instance, gay people the right to get married is to engage in blatant and unrepentant discrimination, and that is not elevating life, that is dragging life into the mud.

I have already said it a number of times, but it bears repeating: I believe in valuing, respecting, elevating, and enriching life. I also believe in consistency in the things I profess, the way I act, and the way I approach the world. For me, the inconsistency and hypocrisy I observe in so many others serves as a warning, and a motivation, for me to strive for consistency, and work toward doing my small part to make the world a better place in which to live.


Elissa said...

I still ask, what the HELL are you doing up in the middle of the night?

Anyway, as usual, you have encapsulated everything I feel and believe about the state of our world and done so with a clarity and succinctness that I could never hope to achieve. I'm good at writing nonsense, but you'll have to be my mouthpiece for all the important stuff. :)

Scott said...

I should have added that in addition to vomiting on the page, I was also at the tail-end of a nicotine, caffiene, sugar fix.

I started writing last night at about 10:30, and I first started working on the Life Philosophy piece. But then, in the middle of that, I got off on a tangent about the death penalty, and decided to make that a whole new essay, so I stopped the Philosophy essay and wrote the Death Penalty essay, and posted it. Then I went back to the Philosophy essay, finished it, and posted it as well.

During all that, I also managed to send out several emails from my gmail accout as well as facebook, post a long comment on someone else's blog, and make a bunch of posts on the Rush message board. I also had two Mountain Dews and about 7 cigarettes during that time.

So if it seemed blathering and incindiary, that's why :) Between the essays and all the other typing I did, I probably wrote a good 20,000 words between 10:30 pm and 3:30 a.m.

Laura said...

Nice post, Scott.

And I would say that by acting consistently to value, respect, elevate, and enrich life for others, we do it for ourselves as well.