aPATHy … May 31, 2012

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Puritans.

They were some of the first souls to settle on the shores of the new America. As the story goes, they climbed into a ship and crossed waters to escape religious persecution in their homeland. I’m sure there is truth to this. But here is what I know about persecution–there is real persecution, brought on by people who are mean-spirited and want to make sure everybody is just like them. And then there is a perceived persecution of those who have their own intolerance and are eventually ostracized by others for being cranky and belligerent.

We may never know the whole story—but somewhere between those two definitions for “persecution” lies the truth about the Puritans. Because they didn’t get their name because they spent their time keeping nasty things out of their churning butter. They got their name because they deemed spirituality to be best expressed by attributes of the flesh instead of attitudes of the heart. Otherwise they would never have put people in stocks for committing small indiscretions, or, for that matter, have burned women as witches because they were somewhat different from the other lasses in town.

Puritanism is in the cultural genetics of the United States of America. It has been in-bred into our thinking, cross-sects most racial barriers and certainly is absorbed into all the states of the Union. It makes us overly conscious of the actions of others, burning them in a cauldron of gossip, while proclaiming that we’re doing so for righteousness’ sake. We have become a nation of busy-bodies who are fascinated with sin, while simultaneously wanting to publicly crucify it.

I was raised with this. My mother and father were absolutely delightful inhabitants of a small town in Ohio, frightened of any kind of newness, freshness or difference that might  creep into our community and taint our mediocrity. Therefore being a Puritan is inside me. I can never become truly spiritual and gain a world view—which Jesus wanted me to possess—until I acknowledge that my spiritual DNA has been infused with the mutation of Puritan probing, and therefore my opinions are suspect, if not downright rancid.

I can cite to you the day I became a man. I was fifteen years old, sitting in a church service, when some gentleman from the board of elders began to recite what he perceived to be the evils of a person who was not present at the gathering. I became so thoroughly disgusted that I quietly stood to my feet and walked out of the room. I lost a little bit of the gusto of my Puritan ancestors that day—and ever since then I have been working hard to dispel the remnants of the garbage.

I will tell you that the first step on the path of being truly spiritual and having a world view is apathy. I know that apathy is normally considered to be a negative attribute but when used correctly it is one of the more positive steps a human can take.

The definition of apathy is “a lack of interest or concern.Exactly. If you want to discuss sin, unrighteousness, immorality or the actions of other people—I am apathetic. I have no interest. I have devoid of concern. Even if you believe the decisions on the part of transgressors are evil, Jesus told us to avoid resisting evil. It’s useless. Nothing dies because you kill it. Things die because they lose the energy and nutrition to sustain life. Bad habits, stupid actions and immoral inclinations are best fought with apathy. If you ignore evil, you steal the only true power it possesses—which is intrigue.

“I don’t care.”

Jesus told me not to judge–or I would be judged, and that a measure would be set for ME from that point on how I would be evaluated in the cosmos. Wow. There are three reasons right there to not be caught being a Puritan, eyeballing other people’s activities.

  1. Judging is in itself nasty, boring and eventually demands that you stop talking and start being even meaner.
  2. I don’t want to be judged. I don’t even like scrutiny. Sometimes I have to take a deep breath to receive critique. So if I can promote myself not being judged by avoiding doing so to others, I am all for it.
  3. And finally, the measuring stick. I just make too many mistakes and think too many stupid things to have some judgment perpetually laid on me by my decision to be critical of others.

I love this country, but the Puritans who settled it have ingrained into us an over-zealous inclination to have an opinion on everything and to feel like we’re doing God’s will by shunning others for their choices.

If we’re going to gain spirituality and a world view, like Jesus wanted us to, we need to practice apathy. “I don’t care.”

And the best way to show that I do care is by “letting my light shine before men that they can see my good works and glorify the Father in heaven.”

America is plagued by the ghosts of our Puritan forefathers, who believed they did God’s will by peering into the lives of other people and executing judgment. It’s not true around the rest of the world, and we certainly would not be pleased by being aligned with nations which maintain that kind of strict religious and moral configuration. There are many Muslim nations which hold to legalities of the Koran who would agree with the Puritans on issues of the flesh. Just as we must be careful to love our enemies, we also must be very aware of who we suddenly find ourselves in fellowship with.

There is  a path and the first step on that path is to acknowledge that you and I have come from Puritan roots set deeply within us, causing us to believe that our convictions are more holy than others, and therefore granting us the privilege of evaluating the world around us.

“Don’t judge or you will be judged.” Jesus’ words.

Beautiful, spiritual apathy.

A man walked up to me the other day and said, “Did you hear what those people are doing?”

I interrupted him. “I don’t care,” I replied. I walked away feeling better, not judged myself and with a measuring stick put up against me that has more grace than gravel.

Apathy. The first step on the path to true spirituality and having a world view.

I am not a Puritan, mainly because I could never keep up with my own philosophy. And when I try to measure it out to other people, it swings around and always punches me in the face.

 

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