We live in an “interesting” time. I call it the time of opposites. It’s not new though. The DC comics already identified this with the creation of Bizarro World.
“Since his hilarious debut in the 1950s, Bizarro has been a character of equal parts humor and confusion. The imperfect duplicate of Superman, the chalk faced hero lives on the cube-shaped world of Bizarro where everything is the opposite of life on Earth. Beauty is hated, ugliness is revered, and it is a crime to make anything perfect.” (Source)
There’s a Superman Wiki which offers a great fuller explanation of this planet and how it operates. In essence, everything is the opposite of what happens on Earth. Even the official name of the planet is Htrae – the reverse of Earth. Fixing things is considered wrong. A compliment sounds like a degrading statement. Etc.
I’m reminded of Bizarro world because it seems to be the best way to make sense of so much of our world these days. There are politicians who make statements on any number of topics and use the same words that are commonly used, but have a completely opposite meaning.
Accusations about an assortment of things seem to actually be a projection of what the person is doing. What we witness and watch is dismissed and we are told that the opposite is true. Claims about beliefs are made, yet the policies that are supported are in opposition to these beliefs.
George Orwell understood this and used it for his novel “1984.” He called it Newspeak. Newspeak is defined as “propagandistic language marked by euphemism, circumlocution, and the inversion of customary meanings.” (Source)
It’s what tyrants do to language. It’s about controlling thought and getting compliance. In one scene, Winston, the main character is “convinced” to believe that 2 + 2 = 5. Why? Because that’s what those in charge wanted it to be. Because if you can actually believe that 2 + 2 = 5, then you’ll believe anything.
Pay attention to how language is used. Don’t assume that because someone is using the same words as you that they mean the same thing. Ask for definitions of how a term is being used. Often times, certain words are used as a form of demeaning someone or dismissing them out of hand so that their ideas don’t have to be considered.
In a time of opposites, such as this time, it is easy to be discouraged. It’s easy to become cynical. It’s easy to get angry at those who manipulate language for their own purpose and power. But giving in to anger is really nothing more than handing yourself over to the people who you are angry with – you’re letting them determine your emotional state.
Better to see and hear what is going on and to respond appropriately, rather than react without intentionality.
In such a time like this, I am comforted by the fact that Jesus didn’t spin like this. He used metaphor, for sure. But when he acted or spoke, it wasn’t to convince or manipulate someone into the opposite meaning of what he was saying or doing. It was congruent.
In a time of opposites, congruency might be one of the most vital characteristics we can live into. Congruency mean that your actions and your words match. They are not in opposition to each other. Congruency has to do with truth and abiding by truth. Manipulation, like saying one thing and meaning the opposite is about trying to mold truth to a person’s purpose – as if they are the center of the universe. It’s narcissistic to its core. And like all things narcissistic, it ends in ruin – of the person and others.
In a time of opposites, be congruent. Faith is congruent, not manipulative. Following Jesus is about being congruent, not saying one thing and actually meaning the opposite. When we are congruent, then it makes it easier to read Jesus’ words and say – that’s what Jesus means. Not spin it away, or excuse it.
When Jesus says welcome the stranger – he means to welcome the stranger. There’s no asterisk or spin or exceptions that become the rule. He tells his followers to do this because it’s the congruent thing that God has been doing since the very beginning.
When Jesus says to love your enemy – he means to love your enemy. There’s not looking the other way and saying “but Jesus didn’t really mean this” as we go and try to harm our enemy or kill them. He tells his followers to do this because it’s congruent with what God has been doing since the beginning.
When Jesus says to care for the poor – he means to care for the poor. There’s not spinning it away with all sorts of requirements or labeling of people. He tells his followers to do this because it’s what God has been doing all along.
God is congruent. Jesus is congruent. The Holy Spirit is congruent. And we are made in the image and likeness of God, which means we have the ability to be congruent like God.
In a time of opposites, embrace the image of God that you are created with and live congruently.