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Thursday, April 20, 2017

On Leaving One’s Glasses At Home

Gratefulness is good. It is definitely better to be thankful than not to be thankful. The apostle Paul tells the Christians in Rome that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against men and women who knew God but “did not give thanks to him”.

So sure, absolutely, by all means be grateful. Appreciate what you’ve been given.

But is thankfulness enough?

The Sacred in the Ordinary

Shaun Proulx seems to thinks so. Proulx is a gay writer and talk show host who identifies as “spiritual” — not Christian, but spiritual — and believes we should make every day holy. Here’s how he suggests we go about that:
“This is done by consciously, deliberately, celebrating daily the sacred in the ordinary: The gift of each meal; that you woke up; that you are loved; that you are blessed to have pets in your experience, if you are; kindness from strangers; being appreciated for your talents, and appreciating back those gifts possessed by the people around you. Also, the roof over your head; the clothes you wear; the small luxuries you are able to enjoy; eager anticipation for all the goodness that is ahead in your life and the knowing that the universe adores you; honor it all.”
It’s so hard to argue with nice, isn’t it? I could carp on about how Shaun’s daily celebration of the sacred in the ordinary seems to have swiped a few tics from Christendom — or at least from generic religious language: a meal is a “gift”, pet owners are “blessed”. I could fuss about his gooey new age platitudes. Does the universe really “adore you”, after all? But it all sounds so perfectly pleasant and wholesome and agreeable that a significant number of readers are bound to think anyone attempting to call a halt to Shaun’s parade of goodfeelz must be as surly and ill-mannered as the proverbial troll under the bridge.

Turning Up the Nice to Eleven

And, in fact, Shaun’s sort of “spirituality” is increasingly common these days. It’s the futile attempt of a globalist to find some sort of common ground in all religious and non-religious expressions:
“How can the shoving of Christianity ... down the throats of children be considered reasonable or anything but shameful? Especially in times of all the religious wars within the global melting pot we all share? It is shameful.”
Ah yes, the global melting pot. Shaun’s answer to religious wars is to turn the nice up to eleven and pile on the content-free adjectives: more “sacred”, more “spiritual”, more “thankful”. The problem is that once they are tossed into Shaun’s melting pot, not one of these adjectives is left with a clearly-defined noun to which it applies. Sacred to whom? Spiritual in what sense? Who or what is being thanked?

So let me play the troll anyway. Shaun suggests we honor it ALL: the loving universe, the roof over your head, the goodness ahead in your life, and so on. But the apostle Paul speaks of honor as well, oddly enough in the very same passage in Romans:
“Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God ...”
See, it isn’t just the failure to give thanks that provokes the wrath of God. It’s the failure of men and women in the world he made to “honor him as God”. Later, he reiterates, “they did not see fit to acknowledge God”.

Myopia in the Throne Room

What does that mean exactly? Well, let’s imagine that I live in a monarchy. We will assume for the sake of the illustration that it is not one of those toothless, modern, largely-ceremonial monarchies, but one in which sitting on a throne implies genuine power and agency.

Say that I am being ushered into the throne room of the royal palace to pay homage to the king. The first and most critical step in honoring and acknowledging the king is being able to correctly identify the monarch. (Yes, I realize this is a step in the process that is so screamingly obvious that it shouldn’t really need to be mentioned at all, but indulge me for a moment anyway.)

Now, let us further suppose that despite the fact that I am horribly nearsighted, I have made my journey to the capitol without bothering to bring along my glasses.

Ponder that for a moment.

In the event that I kneel in error before someone else instead — whether it be duke, prime minister, a visiting dignitary from another country, the Queen or, heaven help me, the court jester — I have not only failed to honor the king, I have delivered an insult so jarring and offensive that I will be lucky to escape with my head.

A Stunning Faux Pas

Having made such a stunning faux pas, will it help my cause if I then proceed to fall on my knees before every august and un-august presence in the throne room one after another in the hope that I might eventually locate His Majesty? I think not.

If I fail to identify the king, and if I fail to distinguish him from those in his service, I have failed to honor the king at all.

This is, in a nutshell, what Shaun Proulx is doing. Unlike some people, he has correctly intuited that honor and thanks are due for the good things he has received in his life. Bravo for him. I wish we all did.

But in our post-Edenic state, human beings are all afflicted with acute spiritual myopia, and it does us no good at all to talk about either giving honor or giving thanks when we have no idea who is supposed to receive them. Our culture has left its glasses at home and, worse, it has chosen to do so deliberately.

The Importance of Identification

John the apostle talks about the importance of correctly identifying the One to whom all honor, praise and thanks are rightfully due:
“For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”
Moral of the story: if you are planning on giving thanks, first you’d better figure out to whom you really owe it.

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