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Whether we’re even conscious of it, we need and desire a means of discernment. We seek a measuring stick with which to compare our own individual perspectives with something close to objectivity. We desire something firm and deeply grounded when the world around us is always changing. Increasingly, Americans view science as the final and ultimate say. To qualify my remarks, I don’t caustically dismiss scientific progress out of hand in favor of religious belief. I do know that science is never static, and that it is a field which is constantly evolving as surely as are all living beings. To place complete, unwavering faith in science is to overlook the continual process of human discovery.
To illustrate what it is I mean one needs only contemplate medical warnings against moderate drinking. Certain studies believe we ought not to drink at all. Others encourage a couple glasses of red wine a day. Competing points of view appear to negate every conclusion which has been previously drawn. Our exasperation at these mixed messages and inexact results leads to a very understandable sense of consternation. We would not feel so betrayed if we did not place full trust in the latest miraculous advance in modern medicine. We crave surety, and surety so rarely arrives.
I have written quite a bit about living with bipolar disorder. No one knows better than those who struggle with this chronic illness that psychiatry is often primitive, imprecise, and extremely limited regarding holistic understanding. Treatment resembles alchemy at times. Proportions and combinations are its stock in trade. I recently talked with a dermatologist on this same subject, and she noted that in many ways her profession is just as beholden to the unknown. Nothing sends us, children of the Enlightenment, into a panic faster than mystery. We have a compulsion to understand, to discover, and then to create. It is for this reason that people will even destroy their health seeking ways to preserve it in others.
The question comes down to that of faith, depending on how one defines it for oneself. Faith to me is, as I have alluded to, mysterious, and it is in those terms which I view God. I’m always skeptical of any denomination, sect, or group which claims intimate, irrefutable knowledge of the Divine. Reducing God to suit human whims is a kind of Idolatry of the highest form and one adopted only for selfish, manipulative purposes. I was reminded of this when I read the recent Vanity Fair exposé regarding Sarah Palin. Oh, if I had a dollar for every self-styled Christian whose Higher Power always agreed with them in every imaginable circumstance. The God I know provides constant guidance, but he is not above calling me out in a spirit of love when I need it. The Enabler God is a golden calf.
I think we might consider directing our frustration towards different avenues. We are all religious people, placing our hopes and wishes on the shoulders of concepts and theories we are barely capable of understanding ourselves. The complexities of the human body, the material world, nature, and the role of God in our daily lives remain unresolved and confusing. One cannot easily make money off of the unknowable, and that’s where I think the problem begins. Nothing sells like a miracle. Nothing rakes in the big bucks like the quick fix and the easy sell. That requires no sacrifice, no tussle with adversity that produces gains upon which no one can ever put a price.
It is written in Proverbs,
Evil people get rich for the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.