When I was ten years old, bell-bottoms flooded the fashion world like a tsunami. They were everywhere, but my mother wouldn’t let me wear them. Her lame excuse was something like, “You shouldn’t be a slave to fads.” (I think she just disliked them.)
Children always tell their parents that they are the only kid at school without an “X”: a cell phone, an iPad, or a personal condo in the Cayman Islands. Well, I checked. I was literally the only kid in my class without bell-bottoms, except for the one girl who wore a dress.
One day an older boy at school stopped me and asked why I wasn’t wearing bells. To a ten-year old boy, the only thing worse than being wretchedly uncool was to miserably admit, “My mom said I can’t.” So I just stood there, head down, conflicted and dejected.
As the older boy stared at me, wonder washed over his face, and he exclaimed, I know what you’re doing, you’re sticking it to the man, aren’t you? You’re sticking it to the man!
I had no idea what “sticking it to the man” meant, but I sensed a ray of sunshine pierce my storm. Not wanting to lie, I simply smiled. Sort of knowingly.
Three or four years later, bell-bottoms had the fashion-appeal of last week’s lukewarm latte.
Fashions rise and fall like the tides
We easily recognize fashion’s influence on the clothes we choose, but do we recognize how our beliefs about reality also rise and fall with the tides of trendy? For example:
- A hundred years ago, it was fashionable to believe that eugenics would save humanity from a rapidly deteriorating gene pool. It was embraced by world leaders such as Roosevelt, Oliver Wendell Holmes, H. G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw. After WW II, the world recognized eugenics as a pseudoscience that simply promoted racism.
- From the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, reason ruled spirituality, as if knowledge of God was limited to people with high IQ’s. Today, spiritual feelings rule our reality. We can’t know God’s love unless we feel it. But both bases of reality—reason or feelings—are just faddish foundations for beliefs, beliefs with the staying-power of morning mist.
It’s fine to say that black is the new “in” color (or that purple is the new black), but fads are absolutely ridiculous when it comes to beliefs. Imagine being scorned because you believe the world is round; the cool, in-crowd croons, “That idea is ‘Oh so yesterday.’”
Just like their bell-bottoms.
The true nature of reality
The true nature of spiritual reality is always a mystery. That’s why Paul says spiritual wisdom is nonsense to the gentiles and a scandal to the Jews: it doesn’t make sense to our natural selves! It just doesn’t fit in with our morning café-lattes or our half-sleeve tattoos.
In the modern mystery (movie or book), we assemble clues in order to piece together reality; but spiritual mysteries cannot be solved, only revealed: Paul claims that the “mystery of grace was made known to him by revelation” (Eph. 3:3). Spiritual reality is acquired when God exposes it; not by us collecting clues but only by God’s disclosure. Revelation!
Spiritual wisdom is born in humility—we only get it when God reveals it—but it grows when we choose to believe it; even when (probably especially when) it seems scandalous or nonsensical to our natural, suave selves.
There are beliefs that endure
Scripture claims that people of substance are the people who meditate on his words; they are like trees fed by streams, enduring the droughts, never withering, and always bearing fruit at the right time. They know spiritual reality unveiled to them through God’s revelation (Ps. 1:3).
But people who scorn Scriptural meditation, clinging to the beliefs of fashion, are like the husks of seeds, hollow and insubstantial, unfruitful, and driven about by every trendy wave (Ps. 1:4).
We don’t always feel spiritual truth, and it often doesn’t make sense to us every moment of our lives, but revealed spiritual reality is the only reality that lasts. Let’s reject the transient, fashionable beliefs of the world around us.
Instead, “Let’s stick it to the man,” or, “Stick it to the fleeting fads of passing beliefs.”