The power residing in a simple label easily deceives by side-stepping reality and playing primarily upon perception. Consider, when a seller offers a unique or superior product it can be labeled and sold according to what it is, but if someone wants to dominate in a saturated market a brand needs to be created. Successfully establishing such an image has the ability to transform the ordinary into extraordinary, trash into treasure, old into new, and even nothing into something!
Now if you're like me, you've played the sucker more times than you'd care to admit. In retrospect, I've often wondered how I ever allowed myself to be tricked by the never ending less-than-honest attempts to relieve me of my substance ... until the next dupe, that is! Though they should be obvious to spot, I wonder what false labels I'll buy into today ... including those sewn on religious clothes? No, no, I'm not referring to ceremonial vestures worn by religious devotees, but instead to that which adorns what our religious mentality perceives as the real person. Yes, grave clothes.
When viewing photos of Egyptian mummies I expect to see them wrapped in very old and partially rotted rags. It's a grotesque but fitting picture because death and decomposition make for good buddies. The fact is I am no more repulsed by the mummified clothing than I am by the mummified body. A caption beneath such an image designating the clothing as the burial garment makes sense. On the other hand, a mummified body dressed in a new three-piece suit grates against my senses, and it would take a carefully executed ad-campaign to cause me to perceive the two as belonging together.
Okay, let's flip this picture around and consider an odd possibility. If you lived in a society that regarded mummy wrappings as a highly respectable form of clothing do you suppose you would wear them ... if you could afford them, that is? Now, if you need a reality check in this department go ask the fashion-police to describe your current wardrobe or else go take another look at that dreadfully embarrassing photo in the family album.
Who can really say they would draw the line at a certain trend when it has been proven otherwise by their record? Like it or not, we are more affected by what the world around us perceives as appropriate than we might imagine. However, let's not make the mistake of assuming that discernment experts are needed to steer us clear of every perception deception, for the real discernment is to simply be aware how easily our perceptions have been--or are being--modified.
Good chances are that if a society valued the clothing of the dead as an indicator of high community standing, I daresay many would be scrambling for every opportunity to display their worth among the more superior citizens--even many of those who imagine that disdain for such a show makes one superior! Now, at the risk of sounding even more absurd I tell you that such a world exists and that we have been living in it for quite some time!
I only tell you what you have sensed your whole life because like me you have had to make countless adjustments over the course of your lifetime in order to co-exist with yourself and with the world around you. What I'm saying is that we have been forced to design our own personalized defenses to protect ourselves from universally recognized contradictions that would render us unable to carry out a normal life. Most modifications are simply taken for granted, while those that are challenged have the power to paralyze us.
Consider the morality of a world we have learned to accept, only through major modifications, where:
* love is a thinly-veiled mask
* patience is extended only to those who are part of the club
* hope is found in cheating another of his
* generosity is limited by who's looking
* faith gives reason to tear down those who don't agree
* confidence is built upon self-righteousness
* goodness is an attempt to gain favor
* God is a system by which one validates his value above another
Somehow, something within us knows that these virtues should have real substance. This demand within us remains despite the fact that morality has taught us to categorize them as delicately-balanced principles, containing just enough good to offset the inherent bad that is always present. The fuel behind morality debates may appear to be true good versus true evil, but in reality they are merely conflicts of degrees ... and one side is easily able to point out the hypocrisy of the other because each moral viewpoint has been forced to make adjustments for the inclusion of degrees of evil.
If we were to insist upon viewing reality as it truly is in Christ we might just discover what our hearts already know. For in the place where the world's widely-differing views of perception have no standing at all, their related confusion simply melts away into meaninglessness. That place is the reality of the resurrected life of Christ, the son of God, the one who is proclaimed to all as freedom from the personalized condemnation each has adopted under the name of morality.
Continued next time: New Labels & the Morality-Entrepreneur