Friday, October 3, 2008

Shrek Without the Yogurt

Did you know that Sleeping Beauty is about to be released again, or "brought out of the vault" as Disney is fond of saying? I hadn't heard, but my five-year-old, Nate, saw a preview the other day.

"Mom," he said, "there's a new movie coming out called Sleeping Beauty. It looks good. It looks like Shrek without the Yogurt."

I wrote it down that very minute, ensuring that statement will never be forgotten in the Jackson household. But of course, Nate is right. Sleeping Beauty is a lot like Shrek without the ogre. Well, except for the fact that Shrek is a spoof of Sleeping Beauty and all things Disney. Nate wouldn't know that it is, in fact, Shrek that is a lot like Sleeping Beauty, except they added the "Yogurt." Shrek is his standard, the standard of his generation. It is really quite a paradigm shift and it got me thinking about how things change.

Even in my lifetime, which I am reluctant to admit is closing in on forty years, things have changed dramatically. There's a steady evolution in the world of ideas, but there's also catalysts which cause a sudden push forward. When I was a little girl, there appeared to be a consensus, that while the truth may not always be easy to uncover, there was at least the possibility of its discovery. Slowly more and more people began to question the very existence of truth. By the time I was in college, the "everything is relative" mantra was pervasive. Those who held to absolutes were regarded with disdain. The enlightened abandoned even the language of absolutes. At least they claimed to. A close look reveals that most postmodernists cling to the absolute of tolerance, even though it is logically impossible for them to justify this internal inconsistency. If everything is relative, it doesn't make a lick of sense that anything is good or bad. So you can't pretend that tolerance is any different than any other moral judgment. If you want to be consistent you cannot say tolerance is good. It's all relative.

But postmodernists are hardly unique. It seems that most people are inconsistent. What we believe affects our behavior, yet often our beliefs fail to determine our behavior. Sometimes we act contrary to that which we profess to believe. The book UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons is a modern commentary on how the life of the typical Christian fails to reflect Christian values, fails to even be distinguishable from the life of the nonChristian. And G.K. Chesterton summarized much of Kinnaman and Lyons' book a century ago: "The best argument against Christianity is Christians." In a similar way, the postmodernist (the person with the "it depends on what is, is" point-of-view) fails to live a philosophically consistent life. For example, how many postmodernists do you know who are unwilling to label the Holocaust evil? Yet the logical conclusion of a relativistic worldview actually necessitates the ridiculous claim that the Holocaust was neither bad nor good.

But the Holocaust was evil. And tolerance is good. In our heart of hearts we know that. As Lewis said, "The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other." (Mere Christianity).

So it is not very hard to get people to admit that there's a standard. After all, what sane person would really want to live in a moral vacuum, where life in a concentration camp and a life of freedom are equal? Reasonable people will admit there's a standard. They just won't necessarily admit there's a Standard Giver, and that's like Nate thinking it's Shrek without the ogre. Both represent myopic views that miss the big picture. Because there is no standard without a Standard Giver.

But even with a standard and a Standard Giver the picture is incomplete. The necessary element which fleshes out the masterpiece is Love. The Bible tells us that the Standard Giver is Love. He made you just as you are, and He loves you just as you are. And nothing you can do will ever change that. Now, that's absolute cause for praise. Hallelujah!


Michael said...

Reading this on Yom Kippur, the day when the Standard Giver makes his judgments for the year. With allowances for our religious differences, I agree with this posting, but will add that the USA is, I think, easily the least post-modern of the wealthy Western societies (apart from Israel, of course). The glass is half-full, not half-empty.

John Michael De Marco said...

Loved how you used the innocent phrase of a child to point to a larger dynamic. Great piece of writing!