Written and inspired by a shopping trip the other day, the following is an excerpt from the book I’m working on, set in the context of some reflections on the instinctive, deep-rooted changes that took place in my mind and heart and total life direction when I came to Christian faith in ’87 – transformative changes that could be defined as ‘repentance’, but which happened quite independently of any church’s teaching on repentance or call to conform – pressure which could potentially have had the opposite effect.
Also to put the excerpt in context, the chapter of my book in which this appears discusses something of the relationship between spirituality and psychology, in terms of how the Bible and contemplative Christian traditions espouse positive, healthy psychology (compassionate altruism springing from deep experience of God’s love, for instance), whereas the pressure from some churches to conform or to do this or that can be psychologically damaging, promoting incongruence (a mismatch between our values and our actions) and therefore, potentially, hypocrisy.
Without further ado, here’s that excerpt:
Today, while out shopping, my attention was grabbed by the slogan I spotted on a small girl’s T-shirt: “I totally agree with myself”!
I was immediately struck by the sheer profundity of that ostensibly self-oriented statement, and couldn’t help but wonder how many shoppers walking past the girl missed its significance.
To totally agree with oneself is a surprisingly noble aim – to reach that place where one’s values and actions perfectly line up. A place of absolute integrity. I know one Person, at least, who lived that dream.
Churches (and other groups) that encourage individuality and diversity of thought help their members to become more fully human, more fully themselves and, therefore, (this may come as a surprise to some) more God-like!
Jesus was fully himself and, as well as being fully God, was fully human, which is almost not that different, as full humanity mirrors the human’s Maker.
Unfortunately, I’ve experienced situations where conformity of thought is so prized that human-ness is squashed, thus wiping away God’s messy, living fingerprints, settling instead for bland, sterile fakery.
However, I’m chuffed also to have been in churches and groups where individuality is allowed to flourish, or even fostered, thereby revealing the manifold wonders of God in the diversity of his people.
At least that’s my view, on which I totally agree with myself.
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