Friday, 13 July 2012

False Gods of Our Time: 1 Choice

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.
I have been mulling over, for the last few weeks or more, the various false Gods we have sought to set up in place of the One True God.

In particular, I am thinking of things such as choice, democracy, politics, equality and so forth.  Clearly these are not evil; indeed they are good in and of themselves.  But when we make a god of any one of them, we corrupt the good that it represents, and ourselves.

Let’s start with choice. (I may pick off the others in future posts - I seem to remember promising someone a post on the heresy of politics a while back).

Choice is clearly a good: it is a gift from God, which enables us to choose the good, and thus conform ourselves to Him and fulfil our nature and our destiny; or not, of course.  For so great is our God that He really allows that.

But problems arise when we elevate choice from a good to the good.  The most obvious example is the elevation of a woman’s right to autonomy to include the killing of a child.

That gives us a clue to one of the problems of individual choice: my choice may constrain someone else’s.  With abortion, that is extremely clear, but consider the choice of a couple with kids both to go to work.  That choice, when multiplied up and down the land effectively denies the choice of other parents for one of them to stay at home to raise their children.  The reasons are not just the economic ones (two-income households drive up the cost of housing etc) but also the social ones: it becomes less socially acceptable to be a full time mum (or dad), and much more socially isolated.  The old support network of mums via coffee mornings etc has largely disappeared.  So my choices affect others, and not always in obvious ways.

Sitting behind all this is a philosophy that all freely-chosen autonomous choice is ipso facto good, or more specifically, good for that person. That is the philosophy behind Carl Rogers’ work - the back drop for all non-directional counselling, which has now become such a dominant philosophy that even pro-life groups adopt it, when they know that, in truth, there is a good choice or a bad choice to be made...

That way madness lies, in fact, and Rogers (according to his friend and associate William Coulson) was bordering on the loss of his own personality by the end of his life.

The most extreme example of choice being deified which I have encountered is in the thinking of William Schutz, who believed that we choose everything in our lives: including our accidents, our illnesses, our death - and our parents...  

Nutty?  Perhaps.  But extremely influential, and his understanding of group dynamics (including the tools he developed FIRO, FIRO-B, FIRO-S etc) is widely used in corporate life.

Most insidious, therefore, is the way in which my choices may affect me.  For of course any choice made, by definition, limits my successive choices. The choice to indulge my appetites rules out the choice for ascetism; the choice to hurt another rules our the choice to be charitable, and so on.  And these choices, over time, form (or deform) my character. So the choice to treat Choice as an ultimate good is a choice to deny God - and ultimately to destroy myself.

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