Thursday, September 22, 2005


Currently I am reading Branded Nation by James Twitchell. In his introduction he mentions that people favor things that appear to have distinguishing depth. We anthropomorphize pets because we feel better thinking they can communicate more than they do. We favor brands because they are associated with stories that make them seem more than they are. In effect, the more similar things become, the more we favor the invention of distinction. Added to this, the created backgrounds we favor are usually ones that lead to environmental congruence. In other words they fit in with the other things we have - the Diderot effect. (Think of the renovator who puts up a new mirror, but needs to update one thing after another to keep things harmonic). The interesting thing is quest for distinguishing depth relates to religion.

First off I'll admit that I believe that much of the antagonism in religion comes from attempts to clearly distinguish one belief set from another, exaggerating rather benign differences. However this apparently human tendency may lead to some problems. It reminds me of the use of leaven in the scriptures. It seems like our desire for uniqueness, expressed in the need for branded, story filled things is an easy way for us to turn open areas of the gospel into products of our own congruence. Often we can't accept the overlapping that could occur by leaving things open. We need a type and depth of story that matches the type and depth of the other stories involved in our life. We turn our interpretation of religion into just such a story. We look for it to communicate with us just enough to put things into harmony, not discord. We expect it to answer just enough our our questions to be satisfying, but not to provide questions we don't want and conclusions we don't want to tender. In essence, we want a religion that just feels "right".

However such a view requires either a completely amorphous religion, or one that accommodates an infinite level of different stories and depth. To many, Christ's unconditional acceptance provides this ability. Yet the more our view of him morphs, the more abstract and supernatural he and religion become. The more we try and ground him, the more we insist on congruence, and its inevitable leavening. To me, the question is, can we accept reality? Watching politics, perhaps many people will always need spin.

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