We live in a culture full of varied, multiple, and confusing entities. Influenced by the pantheistic and pan-entheistic worldviews of the likes of Hindus, Buddhists and Taoists, we see all things as spiritual. We look upon the peripheral surface of all the religions and philosophies and conclude that there is likely something good in each one, and they all point to the same thing- that being the activation of conscience and pursuit of the good. The free dictionary describes pluralism as, “a condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present”. We, in America, and increasingly in metropolitan centers of the world, are a pluralist society. Our response to this multicultural phenomenon is to make peace with it at any cost. Webster’s Dictionary defines relativism as “a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them.” We in our culture are generally relativists, mostly because we want to create a unity within the diversity that surrounds us. It’s not because we are well educated on the subject of world religion and philosophy, on the contrary, we as a culture accept relativism to be a general guiding principle apart from any factual data.
We also live in a culture full of immediate gratification. The Internet is at our fingertips, TV at the press of a button, an international marketplace a click away, and a mass saturation of marketing, an information overload. The Switchfoot song “Lonely Nation” describes this in these words; “we are the target market, we set the corporate target, we are slaves of what we want.” Webster’s Dictionary defines hedonism as “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life”. The question of whether or not this pursuit of comfort, luxury and pleasure truly brings happiness is pressing. We are a culture of mass-marketed, varied hedonism.
Possibly because of the saturation of marketing, and variance of cultural background and belief, we find ourselves to be an autonomous society. Webster’s Dictionary defines existentialism as “a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad”. We in America and the existing Metropolitan First World are embodiments of existentialism, whether we are aware of it or not. We are focused completely on the plight of our individual existence. We ask the questions; “What will I accomplish in my life?” “Who will I marry?” “What is my purpose?” “What will I drive?” “Where will I work?” and “When will I die?” When we see ourselves having to assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad, the result can be a profound desperation that leads to an undercover loneliness. It is common in our culture to be absorbed within ourselves in a cocoon of our own creation, and within our free will to take on an individual identity of which we believe we have completely devised on our own. Yet this persona leads to arcane bewilderment.
So what is the answer to all of this confusion, over-saturation, and solitary plight? Many run to institutions as an answer. Institutionalism is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as an “emphasis on organization (as in religion) at the expense of other factors.” Many people ascribe to an organized belief because they find comfort in being with people of a like mind. This type of behavior isn’t solely affiliated with large scale Self-Help seminars, cults that prey upon fragile souls, and holistic hippie communes, but Christianity in the negative institutional sense is prone to encouraging this in attendees. Institutionalism pleas with the masses to “come, conform, and commit”. This happens often when one places the value of a human, a building, a doctrine or an idea above deity.
In contradiction to institutionalism and all these others is a concept well described by A.W. Tozer in his work “The Pursuit of God”, where he states, “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.”[i] This profound statement denotes the depth of intimacy and relationship that can be attained in the quest towards the Lord of the Universe. Biblical Christianity is an account of this: Man’s quest towards the true God of love and truth.
[i] Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God, 12
- The Pursuit of God by A.W.Tozer (searchandtrace.wordpress.com)
- Following Hard After God (worthyofthegospel.wordpress.com)
- The Era of Instant Gratification (sethswritingventures.wordpress.com)