We’re wandering sheep with wandering morals. To wolves teeth we soon might fall.

There’s an article on the blog The Scicurious Brainthat I find really interesting. The piece is entitled Wholesome Food And Wholesome Morals: Does Seeing Organic Make You Act Like A Jerk?

The piece is about a study that has found that people are actually morally meaner and less altruistic after viewing pictures of organic food, whether or not they think that food is desirable. (From here, the jokes just write themselves.) Now, you can extrapolate all kinds of things about self-righteousness and morality from that, as the original researchers did. You can take it a bit farther forward and to the left, like the author of the linked blog and maintain that it may have to do with atoning for the guilt of junk food. OR, you can do like I’m about to do and wonder if it’s just a case of relative grace like so many other things…

After the jump, my people…

So in my day to day life, I seem to wind up spending a lot of time around two distinct groups of people; openly extreme bible-waving head-in-sand Christian fundamentalists and ecomaniac hippier-than-thou social justice fundamentalists. I’m not either of those things(I hope) but I seem to know a lot of people who are because these beliefs are a part of my general makeup. In fact, I know a few people who sit right on top of the moral mountain at the intersection of those two things, being righteously miserable and ensuring us all that sin is death and meat is murder. (Once again, I hope I’m not one…)

The doubly whammy moral magistrates are relatively rare, though. Ordinarily, save the world and Jesus saves are not communal mentalities that intersect(although to be fair, that’s a shallow stereotype. A lot of the people doing real social justice work are devout Christians. A lot of deeply devoted Christians believe in social justice, veganism and Tom’s shoes.) Even so, I’m struck by the psychological similarities that exist between each community.

Let me clarify one more time; I’m not talking about the real movers and shakers in either the Christian world or the social justice world. First of all, they often tend to be the same people and second, their primary connection to the people that I’m talking about here seems to be Facebook quote memes. Folks who are really doing it big and living faith and social justice in reality are not my target here. I’m talking about the general rabble who believe that the best way to be a Christian or a world-peace-and-justice-mongerer is to dress like one. Never mind the beliefs, here comes the slacktivism.

Anyway, what strikes me about all these folks is the sense of self-righteousness and odd pockets of absolute joylessness that seem to go hand in hand.

Without stereotyping too much, let me just say that last week I visited a friend(and her friends) who are all hardcore non-meat-eating, global issues working(legitimate jobs, not just sign-waving), alternative-energy-using, reducing, reusing, recycling mofos. They’re cool people overall, but the minute someone came along who wasn’t as clued up as them about popular social justice the condescension became palpable. Eye rolling and sniffy pronouncements of “Well, if you just knew x about y from reading z, then you would know…” Other people would wander by with a hamburger or in mainstream fashionable clothing or with multiple small children, and noses would turn up. It wasn’t aggressive, but it was massively annoying because of how judgmentally they viewed the world while simultaneously claiming that they had the key to making the world better.

A little later I spent some time with some Christians I know. It was just a different shade of the same thing, really. The only difference was that it was aggressive–at one point one person informed a total stranger that if they really knew the Bible, then blah blah etc…

And now a regularly scheduled break for eye-rolling and a little self-righteousness of our own…

In any case, I think what struck me is that both of these groups of people have made a choice to live life in uncomfortable or awkward ways. They’ve made a choice to suffer, no matter how nobly. And whether or not they know it, there is something resentful in the way they approach or view folks who haven’t chosen that same sacrifice and suffering that renders their own goodness null and void.

I think what these folks don’t realize is that suffering alone is not an adequate or effective response to evil. I understand that people make sacrificial choices because of deep, heartfelt beliefs and ideals. I’ve done(and still do) the same thing myself. I get it.

However, and I can never say this enough, if your sacrifice makes you a sour, weird, clique-ish person, it makes your cause unappealing and ineffective. For example, one of the many reasons I’m not a strict vegetarian anymore is because I know far too many grouchy and depressed long-term vegetarians. If that’s what vegetarian life does for people, why would I want that? If championing global equality and lower consumption makes you a scruffy lunatic with bad teeth and no sense of humor, why would anybody want a more equal less greedy life? If believing in an active, loving God and personal salvation makes you less likely to believe that other people deserve it, why would anyone want to be saved? These things don’t seem to connect but they often do.

If you’re coming at it from a Christian perspective, Jesus came to give us abundant life, not deep internal pain and stress and the relentless unfulfilled desire to turn people to your way of thinking, A sacrifice made from a place of acceptance or even joy is far sweeter than a sacrifice made from a place of anger and insecurity. We’re called to be light and salt in the world, not bleach and bitters.

If you’re coming at it from a non-biblical perspective, well, nobody likes a wet blanket so please just quit being an asshole about everything and enjoy your choices so that other people might choose the same.

Speaking of assholes, I’m not going to get into the issue of relative grace without going way over my word limit and boring you all to death, so how’s about we all take a jump over HERE and take a look at this great blog post at Square Peg People by Karen Caterson. In the post, Karen talks a bit about grace and the book Sin Boldly, highlighting this quote;

“I mean, I come into work and I’ve got all this stuff going on and I snap at somebody and I’m just a real, live asshole. And grace in that moment, you can’t neatly package. It’s somebody throwing their arms around you and saying, ‘ I love you, but you are an asshole.'”

{Falsani adds} “Yes, but you’re my asshole, I envision God saying.”

Look. Life is not perfect. There are a lot of things wrong, and a lot of things right. Often we adopt lifestyle paths not only because of our own beliefs, but also to create a safe, strong social space in which to define ourselves against the backdrop of an increasingly diffuse world. That’s fine. But others are doing the same, and if your response to them is one of division and separation rather than grace and truth–your belief means nothing, really. Embrace those other assholes in hopes that they may one day embrace you.

To that end, after a week of the Christians and the peaceniks, I purified my soul by indulging in a large meaty lunch with a bunch of other black female grad students and talking about how rough, backwards, and ignorant the rest of the world is compared to us fabulous black chicks. If anyone needs me, I’ll be fitting titanium siding on my glass house….

Today’s lyric title comes from the song Wandering Morals by up-and-coming Denver jazz/soul artist Cosmic Slim. Take a listen to it here:

In the interest of full disclosure, Slim is my large little brother, y’all. Show him some love, beautiful people.



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