Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Hippy Engineer's Introspection (the paradox of American Christianity)

My minister has a great quote he shares with us occasionally, "Paradox has been defined as 'Truth standing on her head to get attention.'"

To a engineer and mathematician, numbers represent truth, or rather, numbers are Truth.  We study them with a diligence and passion that rivals the most solemn of monks.  Numbers are pure: they don't lie, they don't manipulate, they aren't selfish, nor do they change in degree.  Those traits are reserved for the folks who use numbers in life to further an agenda at the expense of Truth.

A Good Mathematician should keep a healthy dose of emotional separation between themselves and their data.  A mathematician may study a data set for 30+ years, learning all the deep intricacies of how the different variables influence one another and the system as a whole.  He may write countless papers explaining His Understanding of His Data... but then one day a paradox presents itself.  A piece of Pure Truth, directly negating that mathematician's understanding of His Data.  Truth that had been lying there the whole time, but hadn't been noticed... until it stood on it's head.  If that mathematician is to be able to change his mental paradigm to align with Truth, it's essential that he not be emotionally attached to the data, but rather emotionally attached to seeking Truth, however much It may seem impossible to him.

The God-Fearing Rural South gave birth to me.  In the fertile lands of the Arkansas River Valley, I learned how to live a life steeped in Religion.  It permeates every aspect of daily life for the Country Man, indeed He knows no other way.  This Engineer assigns no fault to that man, we must walk our own paths, but in studying engineering I did discover another way to exist, another way to walk.  What I discovered was the importance of researching Truth for myself, balancing my own biases and prejudices against what was revealed to me, then boldly following the Truth regardless of what others thought.  That's why I don't follow Glen Beck, or the Family Research Council, or even the goings-on of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Those outlets funnel a single world-view, and relegate to outright falsehoods any idea that doesn't fit precisely with Their Message.  This is not the way to Truth; this is the way to subservience to an agenda.

As an engineer introspectively examining my relation to my own religion, the paradox I found was this: That the people who most strongly needed to be defined as "Christian" in order to make sense of the world, were the ones most likely to be assholes.  How can this be?  How can those who have dedicated their lives to becoming more like Christ show such abject contempt for their neighbors?  For me the "truth standing on her head" was that these people hadn't dedicated their lives to being more like Christ, they had dedicated their lives to being "Good American Christians" which is an entirely different matter all together.

I have liberal friends that rail against those crazy conservatives who support Kim Davis.  I have conservative friends who can't fathom how those godless liberals don't see that abortion is murder.  Meanwhile, my rural roots are showing as I'm washing the dirt from my hands after working in the Community Garden, asking "don't you fellas have anything better to do?"  In the Navy, we had a saying, "if you have time to lean, you have time to clean."  If a person feels convicted to engage in activism to right social wrongs, Peace Be With You.  I just can't help but wonder if that time would be better spent volunteering at an English Language Center helping an impoverished immigrant better navigate american society, better spent inviting the widow next door over for a home cooked meal, better spent handwriting a note of encouragement to a person that Life is Beating Down.

I don't profess to Know Truth; I only profess to be chasing it, damn what the Establishment tells me.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees' outward religion in Matthew 15.  I really don't want him to repeat that lecture to me at the Gates of Glory.