Friday, August 08, 2008
David Brooks has another insightful and right-on piece in the NYT about the ways pseudo-intellectuals have tried to make everyone feel inferior for the last 500 years. We've all known people who name-drop philosophers to show they know more than us. We've known snobs who parade their knowledge of art or literature to show how refined they are. Now, Brooks says, the new way to establish one's superiority is to be an early adopter of electronic media and media-delivery systems. That is, join the latest social networking site, get the new iPhone, etc.
Case in point: I am a member of about 5 social networking sites. A lot of these were actually job networking sites or contact management applications that I joined in the late 1990s/early 2000s when I was looking for a job. They have now all morphed into ever more exclusive social networking sites. They all tout how exclusive they are, and how special you are to be a member.
What Brooks is hitting on is, in theological terms, the power of the Law. The Law is a theological (and Biblical) way of talking about the conditional terms of any relationship. Follow these rules, and you will be accepted. The 10 Commandments are a perfect example. Of course, the Law exists in many forms. And we are all trying to follow various laws to some degree. There are tons of laws about physical appearance and social class. There are laws specifically for the evangelical Chrsitian subculture. And there are laws for the hipster-elite-Manhattan-tehcno-savvy subculture that Brooks references. And wherever we fall, we're all trying to follow the rules. Our identity and sense of well-being depends on it. That's why we join facebook, not MySpace. We wear plain front, not pleated, khakis. We use an iPod, not a Zune. We listen to "Christian" music, not "secular" music. We say "darn" and "shoot" instead of the words they are obviously designed to replace. We carry a baby in a sling, not a baby carrier. We go green. Or we join the country club. Or the NRA. We buy an SUV. We are all following the Law as it is defined in our little world.
Jesus Christ said he fulfilled the Law (Matt 5.17). St. Paul said Christ was the end of the Law (Rom 10.4). The implications are enormous.