Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Way of Life

“There are two ways, one of life and one of death.”

Thus begins the Didache (c. 100 A.D.), an ancient Christian text meant to preserve the teachings of the twelve apostles. Our way of life is of great significance, leading, as it does, to either everlasting glory or everlasting perdition. Choose, then, your way of life with care, with faith, with love.

Before Christianity was called Christianity, it was called the Way (Acts 18:26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). Another ancient religion still carries this moniker: “Taoism” means “the right way” (there must be a wrong one, then).

Even as His Holiness battles the dictatorship of relativism, the phrase “way of life” is rigorously replaced with “lifestyle” by those who will tolerate no discrimination.

“Style” carries with it no judgment, neither condemnation nor approval. If I prefer action painting to color field painting, what’s that to you? If you prefer floral prints to paisley, what’s that to me? These are differences of style only; they carry no moral quality. There is nothing wrong with using the word “lifestyle” when referring to innocuous things.

On the other hand, the adulterers, predatory pedophiles, and sodomites of this world would have us believe their “way of life” is actually just an “alternative lifestyle,” as morally neutral as a preference for floral prints. Just type “alternative lifestyle” into Google (or don’t, rather). On page one I get links about swingers, bisexuals, bondage, sadomasochism, nudism, polyamory, fetishes, and personal ads for arranging anonymous affairs between married people. These are not styles of life; they are ways of death. On the same page appear links about vegetarianism and living in old houses. Our use of the term equates incidentals with perversions, good with evil, right with wrong. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

In the 1970s, “the lifestyle” referred to what is now commonly called “swinging.” Today, “Lifestyle” is a brand of condoms.

The term “lifestyle” is as modern as “way of life” is ancient. Coined in 1929 as a specific psychological term, in much of its current usage it is a faddish and vapid term. Even in many situations where it is appropriate, "way of life" expresses meaning better.

The phrase, “there are two styles, one of life and one of death,” is void of meaning. This, I believe, is our culture’s objective – to strip meaning and significance from all human actions – to make it so it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s “your own thing.”

But it does matter. It matters in the here and now and it matters in the hereafter.

2 comments:

SecretAgentMan said...

Bravo. This must be said over and over.

I wonder if loss of the Thomistic vision of the hierarchy of good has contributed to the dictatorship of relativism.

If all things are good only in proportion to God, it follows that any thing may be perfect and yet penultimate.

All things which have, if they have, goodness, they have it in that they direct us to God, who alone is good for all occasions, things, times, and places.

Did Western man get whipsawed, when the Reformation abandoned the incarnational idea of a hierarchy of goods, and then when the Enlightenment dethroned God as the best good?

Did this reduce all penultimate goods to the dilemma -- meaninglessness or pretention to divinity?

Odd how the culture of death's "lifestyles" seem to embody this choice. They demand the obeiscance which belongs to God, while trivializing themselves into meaningless "for you / for me" truth-styles.

I enjoy your blog. Keep blogging. Not blogging can be a habit, too.

Christian said...

It's interesting to me that the information age seems to produce attacks on virtue primarily through the manipulation of language. Physical violence and other social deterrents have always been and are still employed today. But massive reconstruction of language is, as far as I know, a newer and particularly effective measure "to strip meaning and significance from all human actions". While violence and coercion can control action, language controls thought. To me, that’s particularly insidious. We struggle to understand our significance and power, our place in the world, our reason for being and the meaning of life now. How much more difficult will it be when “the right way” means “any way”?

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