Sunday, June 20, 2010

Minutiae - Part 1

I'm a details person. I love the little things in life. Sitting on the porch, sipping a glass of tea, waving at the scarce automobile that passes every half hour. A good book. A precisely played piece of music. A great, competitive ballgame, which, hopefully, my team of choice (Go Tar Heels) wins. I don't place priority on where I find joy, whether in big things or small, considering all goods things as a blessing from the Father.

Other areas of life, however, demand priority. When priorities in these areas get out of whack, that's when a person, a family, a life, a belief, a movement, delves into a dangerous fringe. Up becomes down, left becomes right, wrong becomes right, evil becomes good. When people of influence promote an out of whack list of priorities, those influenced by them reap most of the harvest.

In the fundamentalist/patriocentric communities, I've seen priorities get so far out of whack they'll need a road atlas and passport to get back in. From the beginning, this obsession with the illusion of virtue rather than the character of Christ has baffled me. A focus and foundation on utterly inconsequential aspects of life. Let me emphasize that point - these things aren't periphery issues for patriocentrics as they are for most who follow Christ...they're the foundation of everyday life for these people. Desired perfection in things that are meaningless, things that will mean a whole lot of nothing in the grand scheme when they stand before Christ, yet their own families, and any who oppose, are judged ruthlessly and mercilessly by the superficial standards imposed.

Matthew 23:23-24 What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law - justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not ignore the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you don't swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!

And in verses 25 and 26, the illusion of virtue replaces the character of Christ...

What sorrow awaits you religious teachers of the law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy - full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First, wash the inside of the cup and the dish, then the outside will become clean, too.

Caught up in meaningless, superficial minutiae. Building an entire lifestyle around matters as deep as a day-old mud puddle. 

Imagine if the most important thing to a football coach, amongst ALL of his responsibilities as coach, wasn't his players knowing the plays, or improving their skills, becoming better at running, throwing, catching, blocking, tackling, and kicking, but whether their socks were two inches below the knee or three inches below the knee. If I were a gambling man, I would bet every penny I had against his team - every game. 

"Coach...What formation do you want us to line up in?"
"Now son, you listen to me...Have you checked your socks? Two inches below the knee. You hear me? TWO inches. Not three."
"Ok coach, but what play do we run?"
"Son, are you listening to me?! I'm the coach of this team! You're the player! I'll cut you right now! You hear me?! Now check those socks! TWO inches." the play clock expires and his team is penalized, having never even formed a huddle for lack of a play being given to them (but their socks looked GREAT), the coach mumbles to his players...
"You guys just need to be more coachable and start listening to me."

"Coachable" has lost it's meaning in that context, as have formations, plays, socks, and the very game of football (this is how Word Games begin). Not to mention, the relationship between the players and coach is now devoid of trust both ways, as the coach can't understand why sock height isn't more important to his players, convinced by an authoritative,  articulate ex-coach (who was speaking at a big coaching seminar) that a uniformity of sock height was the key to success, and equally as convinced that if his players will just wear their socks right, they'll start to win some games...while the players have heard about socks long enough now that they accept the sock talk, and at first bought in, until they actually got out on the field and realized that obsessing over socks was getting them killed, but knowing the spoken AND unspoken disapproval they'll meet, and the upcoming practice sessions that will resemble Saigon circa 1968 if they don't do what their coach says, they trudge along with their eyes on their socks rather than the football and their brains completely overtaxed. Everything about their world, the bubble of society they live and operate in, has instilled in them how terribly wrong it is to go against coach in any way, and how much they'll deserve to be punished in practice if they do. All the while, the coach keeps beating them over the head with socks, socks, and more socks, demanding they do better.

All over minutiae.

It's a whole lot of something about nothing, and it's taken things which were pure and polluted every aspect of them. It's shaped what should be play into work, what should be passion into ritualistic duty, what should be liberty into obligation, what should be happy into something heavy.


  1. I appreciate this blog and your post here, Lewis. It seems as if this is the case with the patriocentrics. When blogs are written about weddings (or adorable children) in the patrio world, the balance is so heavily weighted to emphasize buzzwords like purity, modesty, virtue, godly, etc., rather than exalting Jesus Christ. He is the one whose perfect righteousness causes God to see us as pure, but with the patriocentrics it seems that it is the works righteousness and external virtues of the person that are exalted. They may say it isn't so, but their words speak otherwise.

  2. Kathy...Thank you for the encouragement.

    You're right. It's a strange, and skewed, dynamic.

  3. Wow! What a great way to explain it!

  4. Hahahahahaha! This sounds like the home school football team my son played with one year. They really seemed to believe that doctrinally pure devotionals won football games. They were shut out every season.

    As with pretty much every Christian home school effort I have been involved, there is absolutely no real love, no relationship building, no accepting one another. What there is an immediate sizing up of all newcomers to see if associating with them will improve your social status in the Christian home school community. In other words, the outside of the cup is what matters! If the outside isn't religious enough, forget the inside.

    But what's really the kicker is the self-congratulatory they talk about themselves as being such loving people! They really buy their own press. It's astounding.

    The team my son played for is no more. Uh, duh. As a football team it stank to high heaven. As a Bible study it stank to high heaven. Why would anyone even bother to show up?

    So what's the answer? My guess is this is what's behind the latest new commandment, thou shalt not engage in organized sports. The failure of this league must be God's will. God doesn't like football!

    Their logic is reminiscent of that scene from the movie The Jerk where the sniper is shooting at the gas station. The hapless attendant sees the cans sprouting bullet holes and leaking oil and yells out,

    "These cans are defective!"

  5. "These cans are defective!"

    Hah!...I haven't seen that in years. Great comparison.