Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Someone Else's Rules

The really strange thing about Christianity is living by Someone Else's rules. As a Christian, I have to accept Someone Else's moral code, rather than making up my own. Most people make up their own, based extensively on what they've been taught and adjusted by their own observations and conclusions. Once in a while I hear someone talk about how arrogant religious people are, claiming their own moral code is the correct one. Religious people don't do that if we're doing it right, we replace our own with Someone Else's. That's actually less arrogant than making up your own. Making up your own is actually a really difficult thing, it's nearly impossible to see all the implications when you start out. Early in the sexual revolution, consent was the new rule; and there were people who gave drugs to children and called the result "consent". In the 20th century there were some examples of new moral systems applied and enforced at national levels, and they collectively resulted in hundreds of millions dead.

Very often I see Christians who fail at adopting Someone Else's rules. They basically make up their own rules and then claim divine sanction; the worst of both worlds. All the arrogance of making up your own, plus the enormously greater arrogance of identifying your own with divinity. If you think you're following the rules of a perfectly wise and perfectly good being and those rules happen to match all your own thoughts, you're definitely fooling yourself.

If you take Someone Else's rules seriously, it mostly helps you accept people who disagree. After all, it's not what you'd come up with either. In my own example, if I were making up my own rules, I'd be looking for hookups right now and an open marriage when I found the right person. Why on earth would I look down on people who just do what I'd be doing? That also restrains me from making up my own rules against things that I dislike or that skeeve me, like smoking or rape play. If I were making up my own rules, it would be my job to come up with rulings on things I don't like; as it is, it's not my job. One of the clearest examples of the way that plays out with people making up their own rules is the way feminists fight over porn or looking pretty.

Often, it is my job to come up with rulings for myself; if the Bible is unspecific, I need to make the best decision I can. It's not my job to decide for anyone else, though, and it's not the job of some megachurch pastor or TV evangelist to decide for people outside his church or following.


  1. You articulated this really well--that Christians are supposed to follow their divine Parent's rules, not make up their own--and that is exactly what helps me keep my demons under control. I follow the rules set up for all of us to the best of my ability. The "Judge not" command, combined with the reminder that we don't see our own sins (the parable about mote and the beam in the eyes) reminds me that others' sins are none of my business, so I manage to avoid being labeled an "arrogant Christian."

    I try to follow the example of the publican, rather than the Pharisee.

  2. Once in a while I get the "arrogant Christian" label, but I try not to earn it.