I once read about a woman who said her religion was an “ism” of herself. I’ve named her Sheila.
An “-ism” is a distinctive practice, system, philosophy, or political ideology; for example secularism or conservatism. By declaring her religion as “Sheila-ism”, she can live by her own rules, constructing her own boundaries and altering her moral code to fit the occasion, the place, or the people at any given time. For example, she’s a teetotaler in front of her church friends, but routinely drinks heavily when out with her “other” friends. So by constantly changing her moral code, she’s essentially given up any consistent idea of what she stands for… so she stands for nothing.
Sheila-ism is an easy way for Sheila to justify her behavior, regardless of whether she is offending, hurting, or making someone angry. In essence, she patterns herself after herself, if that makes any sense, turning her religion into merchandise—modified to meet her expectations—like a piece of clothing. She might even choose to market it, by promoting her “style” of religion.
But do we really want a self-proclaimed philosophy to result in other -isms, such as “Susan-ism,” “Mary-ism,” or “John-ism?”
Many of us pattern ourselves after subjective ideologies and/or cultural patterns of behavior often without noticing. Here’s an example: When my husband and I lived in South Korea, there were numerous occasions that included formal receiving lines. We Americans would greet the first Korean standing in an upright position, while the Korean bowed at the waist. By the time we reached the end of the line, we had begun greeting each Korean dignitary with a bow at the waist, unconsciously adopting the cultural norm of our hosts.
Back to Sheila…her ideas come from modernity, the belief system that promotes freedom, individuality, and subjectivity. These are not necessarily bad, unless we use them to push our own “-ism” onto others, which ultimately takes away their freedom, individuality, and the ability to think for themselves.
Even today’s churches aren’t immune. Diverse groups of people who call themselves Christians are determined to connect with the postmodern world by reinventing God’s will. And because post-modernists renounce Christian beliefs—some churches’ desire to conform to postmodernism is so great, that while calling themselves a Christian church, they have abandoned some of God’s most sacred articles of faith—such as acknowledging sin and that Christ had to shed his blood for redemption. Further, when they mix secularist ideologies with Christian truth, and teach from the dangerous zone of minimizing the importance of God’s Word, they reach a point of not knowing what they believe.
In other words, people like Sheila have no idea of what they stand for. They don’t have clarity wrapped around who they are as a person—lacking both emotional intelligence and self awareness, two things I’ve written about before.
What’s your perspective? Do you know people like Sheila who have adopted their own “-ism” of themselves?