Are You Checking All the Ingredients?

shutterstock_111490832

My wife and I once enjoyed a fabulous vacation in France. It was our 25th wedding anniversary and we had saved carefully for three glorious weeks in that amazing land.

Food, of course, is one of the great pleasures of France. We quickly discovered, however, that our Ontario secondary school French was utterly unequal to the task of decoding the menus. We finally found a gastronomical French-English dictionary and made sure to bring it with us every time we dined.

Why?

Because you can like six out of the seven ingredients, but the seventh can turn out to be…snails. Or frog legs.

Well, actually, it turned out that I quite enjoyed both the snails and the frog legs I had in France. They are magicians with butter and garlic…

But the point remains: six out of seven isn’t good enough, as anyone with an allergy knows all too well.

Recently, fair spouse and I enjoyed a television program in which an older married couple, both of them highly successful professionals and loving parents, discuss their eldest daughter’s plan to get engaged rather quickly to her college sweetheart. They think well enough of the young man, but they are unnerved by how fast the relationship is moving.

They talk a bit about options, but quickly agree on the only sensible course of action: “Well, of course they should live together first.”

This counsel is simply obvious to them—despite the dismal statistics regarding the relative success of couples who live together before marriage versus those who don’t. And what’s remarkable in this case is that the screenwriters clearly expect the audience immediately to agree as well. The matter is literally beyond debate as the scene ends and the camera cuts away to something else.

There was so much to admire about this couple—but there was questionable advice being packaged along with their glamour and good sense.

Christians normally go to church, read their Bibles, study together, and pray for lots of reasons. Chief among those reasons is to purify their moral vision, reorient their moral compass, and recalibrate their scale of values. Deluged with messages every day from very various moral viewpoints, Christians—that is, serious Christians—undertake these time-honoured and sociologically sound practices in order to keep their heads.

And when they don’t—when they don’t actively undertake those measures—the statistics show that they strongly tend then to think and act like everyone else, regardless of what they might claim to be their religious identity. In short, Christians who don’t regularly attend church, read Scripture, pray, and study Christian thought together end up being not discernibly Christian.

The same dynamics, of course, are true for any minority—as we see among nonobservant Muslims and Sikhs and Hindus and Buddhists among our multicultural neighbours. Without regular reconnection with their traditions, the tidal flood of North American popular culture sweeps them all into the same broad channels of conformity that are carefully carved and maintained by Hollywood, Nashville, Silicon Valley, and Madison Avenue.

What do you do to make sure you’ll notice the poison pills in the ice cream? What do you regularly read and watch, and with whom do you make sure to spend time, in order to keep your ethics in place and your moral vision keen? If you’re not intentionally cultivating your principles, you can be sure that the advertisers and corporations and politicians and social engineers will be very glad to do that for you.

And if you’re not doing much to keep sharp, then let me wish you peace, joy, love, puppy dogs, kittens, rainbows, and sendmeallyourmoney.

8 I like it
0 I don't like it

John G. Stackhouse, Jr., PhD, serves as the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick. A graduate of Queen’s University, Wheaton Graduate School, and the University of Chicago, he was formerly Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba and held the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver. He has given interviews to ABC, NBC, CBC, CTV, and Global TV as well as to CBC Radio from coast to coast. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Atlantic, Time, and Maclean’s. Author of over 800 articles, book chapters, and reviews, his tenth book has been released this year: “Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World” (Oxford University Press).