The opinions expressed on this blog are the personal views of Andreas Kjernald and do not reflect the positions of either the UMC congregations in Skien or Hvittingfoss or the UMC Norway.

onsdag 24 maj 2017

Spiritual lessons from Nepal #2

Being surrounded by pantheistic pagans is surprisingly like being surrounded by secular swedes. Both groups are subjectivists, relativists and pragmatists. In normal speak, they believe in whatever feels right to them as long as it works and doesn't hurt people. A Nepali would talk about Karma and gods and Moksha and Samsara and a legion of legends from time immemorial. A Swede would talk about Science and Human rights and the Goodness of Humankind and Equality.
But in the end the result is the same. There is no objective truth or right/wrong. There is "whatever works" instead of "whatever is true/good/right". I find it very strange indeed that this isn't seen as a mild case of insanity considering that "whatever works" means different things for different people.

For a hindu, there can be no objective anything since god/Brahma is everything and thus, everything is true or good or right...or not. It's all subjectively up to you. For a swede, there is nothing outside humankind to offer an objective understanding of truth/goodness/rightness.Thus, it is what is currently agreed upon or fashionable or legal. It's all subjective/up to you.

Thus, my spiritual lesson #2 is the absolute necessity of holding on to an objective reality that is outside of humankind and also distinct from everything else, i.e. a supernatural God. In Christianity God is not everything although God is everywhere. He (gender neutral usage here for my Swedish friends :)) is the only logical and possible source for an objective "value system" or more simply put, God is the only possible source for something being actually and truly and universially and eternally true, good or right.

This would all be fancy philosophical fun, but nothing more, if our world didn't display some sort of familiarity with an objective reality. If people in Nepal, or Sweden, had no concept of an objective reality of right/wrong, good/bad or true/false then Christianity has no message to proclaim.
However, Swedes and Nepalese do in fact have a very acute and innate sense of a reality of objective values that they keep bumping up against every day. They rely on it every day even as their philosophical foundations have no support for it.

An example:
People in Sweden and Nepal argue and debate and fight about these things all the time. They call things and people and events "evil" or "wrong" or false" without realizing that, according to their own beliefs, they are only expressing their own opinions. When faced with this "discrepancy" they either just shake their heads as if caught in a dilemma they don't care to figure out OR they try to explain it away. Usually it has to do with the severity of the issue or how great the majority is that supports their belief.

But this is a fatal flaw.

Forgive me for this rather "heady" talk about how I have learned, or re-learned, the importance of objective truth. It isn't even something that most people, in my experience, care long as whatever people are doing "works", whatever that means.

But, the fatal flaw of a subjective system always comes crashing down when people are the most vulnerable and that makes it all the more devious. When something bad happens people always remember that evil is real; that wrong isn't that hard to recognize; that truth is easily found.
But by then it is usually too late. This is why people swamp churches with flowers after tragedies but never darken said churches' doorsteps. It is too difficult to make the connection between objective truth=God in the midst of tragedy and the moment is lost and people go back to trying to make sense of life without God, the sad de facto reailty for most people today (at least in Scandinavia). Those moments when their entire being aligned with God's reality of objectivity are gone and a sense of confusion or lostness follows.

So, I have been reminded that even though people don't care about objective truth it is something valuable and precious that we/I need to hold on to. The alternative is not good nor healthy. Without it our world becomes either a thick applesauce of pantheistic mush-values or an arid and arrogant theater-act by powerhungry narcissists. With it our world can find something to hold on to.

The hidden premise here is that I assume that people can actually find out what this objective reality is. The temptation can be that we elevate whatever we believe to objective truth...which is dumb. This is why the message of Christianity in proclaiming Jesus is so crucial. We/I believe and preach a God that is both objectively true and good and right AND that we can know this objectively reality in and through Jesus who came to show us and tell us about it.

At the end of the day, reality for you and me is not without borders (Nepal) or confined to humankind (Sweden). It is Jesus Christ as revealed by His Spirit in the Bible and through His church eternal...and it is good and true and right and worth remembering and holding on to...especially when surrounded by pagans or atheists.

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