Cognitive Dissonance 

Cognitive dissonance: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes. 

If you want to boil down much of post-post-modernism into one concise term it would be cognitive dissonance. In a world where truth is relative and reality is what I feel it to be in the moment, it is not impossible to imagine an individual having multiple dissonant beliefs bouncing around in his head. Everyone has cognitive dissonance every once in a while, the problem with post-post-modern CD is that it’s considered perfectly normal and indeed rational. 

If I want to say “A” is both “A” and not “A” at the same time and circumstances then who is the world to tell me any different? 

CD shows up in every political stripe. From neoconservatives who claim to be pro-life but take no issue with drone strikes on foreign people to leftists who claim to be pro body-autonomy but insist that they have a right to the labor or products of others, no one is immune to it. 

One of the reasons I became an ancap was to rid myself of much of the CD I had grown up with. I was very much a proponent of war, but completely in favor of banning abortion. I disliked the use of government force by leftist politicians but fully accepted the same sort of force by politicians more favorable to my positions. 

In a way,  cognitive dissonance is nothing more than pure justified hypocrisy. I can justify any action or opinion if I just just cling to my inconsistent thoughts. I can argue that truth and morals are relative with one side of my mouth while insisting that others must follow my own personal ethics because they are the only correct ones. I can say one moment that there is no such thing as objective morality and in the next express outrage that someone did something I disagree with. 

I used to think that I could reason with these sorts of people. I even tried to be polite and tell them “hey, your arguments have logical flaws here, here, here, and here.” There was no correcting them. They don’t see the illogic of their arguments because they genuinely believe “a” is “a” and also not “a”. 

I have learned to walk away lately. There is great wisdom in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

From what I have experienced of late there are a lot more swine than I expected running around out there in social media land. 

Avoiding the CRAS 

​“GRAS” is a government label which stands for “Generally Recognized As Safe”. Many things are labeled as GRAS but are only safe to a certain point, or are not safe at all. But the government is too lax to change the label, so the products or compounds continue in public use.

I propose we create a label for things that are commonly called sin that really are not sin. “CRAS” would be a good acronym for these things. Things “Commonly Regarded As Sin” include drinking, dancing, long hair on men, short hair on women, nudity, being drunk, use of birth control, saying certain words, anger, telling untruths to evil people, women wearing pants, men wearing anything but pants, and on and on.

Some of these things are sin after a certain threshold is met, or under certain circumstances, or when done by certain people. But the church and church culture at large is too lax to discriminate and to stop labeling these things as sin. So people continue to fight them even though they’ve never truly examined why they are so opposed and the people that engage in them are still labeled sinners.

I won’t argue that ALL people can do ALL CRAS things. Each of us have our own struggles with various sins. For some of us alcohol is a stumbling block, for others it’s nudity in art or temptations to lose our temper sinfully. Anything can be sin to depraved people, honestly. 

A few of those things I list probably surprise a few of you. Either you regard them as sin at any level and think I’m being antinomian in saying they are not, or you have never heard them called sin. All of the things listed above I have read and heard called sin. Some of them have been the topic of heated Facebook debate, with me usually on the minority side.

Each of us need to listen to our conscience and follow what it says we should and should not do. But we need to be careful not to bind the consciences of others over things that we cannot call sin scripturally. We should be gracious to those who can handle the things we can’t and stop calling them out for adiaphora.

When pointed out that there are people in scripture clearly doing the very thing they are calling sin without consequence or even at the command of God, CRAS defenders will commonly resort to saying there are exceptions. Samson’s long hair, Isaiah’s nudity, and David’s (almost naked) dancing are often explained away as exceptions to the Rule. God somehow suspended His holiness and granted permission (and command) to violate the law. 

Perhaps I am too black and white, but when there is an exception, a rule is no longer a rule, especially when it comes to sin.

People also like to change the meanings of words in scripture and say Jesus made and drank non-alcoholic wine, Isaiah was wearing underwear, or Samson’s hair wasn’t really THAT long. When pointed out that some things are relative, like hair length, they’ll say something like “well, you know what long is.” This applies to women’s dress as well with “It’s obvious when the skirt is too short” or “When too much skin is showing” or “Low cut is low cut.” 

Alcohol is also a fun topic. Some say any level of alcohol consumption is evil. Some say it’s a sin to be drunk period. But what is “drunk”? At what point does being drunk become “addicted to much wine”? How many drinks equals “drunkenness and carousing”? “Drunk” is a relative term. Do we think the wedding guests were stone sober when Jesus made the best wine in large quantities so the party could continue?  I have pointed out to some anti-drinking folks that the wine in Jesus’s day was made extra potent so that it could be mixed with water to kill microbes so the “best” wine was really the strongest. I was told that Jesus only drank heavily dilute wine. Heavily diluted wine seems to defeat the antimicrobial point of the wine in the first place.

Sinful things clearly listed in scripture as sinful are always sinful without exception. Murder, lying, theft, adultery, idolatry, incest, homosexual acts, immoderate use of food or drink, these are all obvious things listed as sin in scripture. But with CRAS things folks often have to jump through hoops to prove a sin where there may or may not be sin. Where scripture speaks, speak, where scripture does not speak, do not put words into its mouth.
The other side of “sin is sin” is “not sin can sometimes be sin.” Things not listed in scripture as sin can be sinful in certain circumstances to certain individuals. This is where the CRAS stuff falls. If it becomes idolatrous or harmful to one’s self or others it becomes sinful. If by doing it one would be violating other law (i.e. causing a brother to stumble or making a false witness of themselves) or one’s conscience (one feels x is sin, but does it anyway) then they are sinning. 

We should not take our Christian liberty to be an “anything goes” type of freedom. Those who have no problem with CRAS things should refrain from them if they are with a weaker brother or sister who cannot handle those things or around non-believers who would be turned off to the Gospel if they witness participation in such things. 

If our conscience tells us not to do something, even if scripture may not back it up, we should not do it. But we should also make sure our conscience is not left in ignorance. We need to educate ourselves so that we do not fall into the CRAS traps described above.

The bottom line with all of these things is: stop calling people sinners who may not actually be sinners. Be careful when labeling things as sins when there is little or no scripture to back you up. Don’t think that just because your conscience feels pricked by a certain thing that it is sinful for everyone. Maybe it is sinful for you because of a weakness in your character or just a spiritual struggle you’re not able to overcome. Don’t heap guilt on others just because you can’t control yourself. And don’t think that just because you are able to do them that you should do them with reckless abandon and ignore the consciences of others.

On Gender

Should we allow men and women to be friends? Should we allow them to share bathrooms or changing facilities? Is gender a spectrum? What does it really mean to be a woman or a man?

Thanks to Freud we are an over-sexualized society who has no idea how to keep intimacy in a proper box. This has inhibited us from making meaningful relationships with members of either sex in recent decades. It wasn’t long ago that people would write deeply intimate letters to members of the same gender even. Now it is rare to see anyone showering in a locker room due to fears that the next guy in the stall may be a closet homosexual.

Recently there has been much debate about allowing people of the opposite sex to use single sex locker rooms. Debates as ridiculous as these come from our obsession with both identity politics and sex.

How about this: allow private businesses decide their own locker room policies. If they want to divide guests between male and female, young, old, black, white, family, not family, let them. If they want to mix everyone together, let them. Put it in the private contract members sign to join the club. If a potential member doesn’t approve of the policy they don’t have to sign the contract.

Public spaces are a little more complicated. If I had it my way everything would be private, and the above solution would solve everything. But we live in the here and now, so I’ll have to make concessions. First, let local jurisdictions decide. One size-fits-all top down solutions never work out well. Requiring a small local government to build extra locker rooms or adapt current ones to accommodate that one individual in the whole town who decides one day that they are not what they are is a tyrannical burden on taxpayers. If that one person and his (her?) supporters don’t like the policy let private industry sweep in and provide them with the space they want.

But really. Why not just have three options for all new public facilities? A men’s room, a women’s room, and an “I don’t know or care” room should all be built into new public facilities. Old facilities should adapt family locker rooms into the last category. They are already almost in that category.

Or better yet, stop being so squeamish. Europe has hundreds of co-ed dressing rooms, locker rooms, showers, and saunas. It doesn’t matter what gender one feels like one morning, they go and do what they need to do without everyone getting jumpy. Is Europe one big orgy? Not from what I have heard. Most of what you hear from Americans who visit these co-ed places is that there is really a whole bunch of unsexy going on. Sexual arousal is virtually nil when there is an abundance of flesh about. Not to mention the embarrassment of being aroused in a room full of people who are not there for sexual purposes at all.

The solutions I’ve seen thrown around such as curtains and single stalls really serve to perpetuate the intimacy problems we already have in this country. It is already rare to see people showering in same-sex showers due to sexual insecurity, curtains and single stalls are just validating that fear. We need to overcome the idea that everyone is defined by their sexual orientation. That dude showering next to you probably is not the least bit interested in you, whether he is gay or not.

Sex and gender are not different things, and we are not defined as individuals by either. Gender is not a spectrum. One is either a male or a female, determined by biology, not character, personality, or anything outside of genetics.

Yes, it is easy to categorize people by their genitals, we can make generalities based upon genetics and hormones. There are stark physical and hormonal differences between the genders. But much of what we call “masculine” or “feminine” is really just cultural. This is what I believe leads to all the confusion. In our culture, we can no longer look at our genitals and say “I’m a man” or “I’m a woman”.

In our confusion we have to look at our personalities, our thought patterns, our interests, and our feelings to determine what we are. The problem is, those traits are not determined by chromosomes. Those traits are highly individualized and influenced by environmental factors as well as internal factors.

There are generalities made by “experts” about each gender. In our culture “manly” men are characterized as brutish, stupid, into sports, obsessed with sex, unemotional, and not at all interested in things like fashion or the arts. Women on the other hand are over-emotional, irrational, obsessed with materialism, maternal, talkative, and usually quite critical. Oh, and less prone to having body hair. According to our culture, women are all vain and care for very little beyond what they look like. Generalities like these are made in all cultures. Some are cross-cultural, some are very much local.

But what of the outliers? What about the men who hate sports and competitiveness, or the women who cling to rational thinking and can’t stand emotional nonsense? What about the well-dressed men or the hairy women?  What about the boy who plays with dolls or make-up and the girl who plays with trucks and in competitive sports? Why must we force them into the boxes which generalities have created? Why not allow them to be who they are as individuals and stop labeling them based on chromosomes and genitals?

Gender to the modern mind is either a social construct or a spectrum. Those who say gender is a spectrum will ironically cling to the very stereotypes feminists have tried for so long to dispel. The entire gender “spectrum” is based on stereotypes of what defines “male” and “female”. You only have to look at Bruce Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair to see what I am talking about. In order to be the “woman” that he feels he is, he must conform to the beauty standards of American culture and appear in full makeup, deep cleavage, and the airbrushed glory of every female model that has graced the magazine. He even had to hide his hands because they are “masculine”. Interesting also is that all of the things that make him a “woman” are based largely on externals, what culture says women should look like.

Those that feel they are the opposite of their genetic gender are often basing those feelings off of stereotypes of what our culture says being a man or woman is. If gender is really just a social construct, how can one sit there and say that person x is “more female” or person y is “more male”? They have to resort to the very stereotypes and social conventions they are trying to reject. If gender is nothing more than a social construct, how does one feel “more male” or “more female”? Do they not simply feel more male or more female by their own culturally influenced definition?

The manufacturers of gender confusion have to resort to the very stereotypes that they claim to reject. Would they not do better to say “I am male, and I act like this” or “I am female, and I act like this”? Their tastes, character traits, or personalities do not define them any more than the stereotypes created by culture. The very stereotypes they say they are trying to reject in saying that gender is a spectrum are the very stereotypes they are embracing when they say a passive man is “acting female” or a sports loving female is feeling “male”.

You are not a male simply because you are strong or aggressive, bold, big, muscular, single-minded, or driven. You are not a female simply because you are passive, quiet, submissive, delicate, sensitive, gentle, nurturing, kind, or able to multitask.

We need to stop placing so much value on the collective idea of “men” vs “women” and start viewing people as individuals.  We should not fall into the ditch that says that character traits are determined by gender or into the other ditch that says that character traits determine one’s gender. Your chromosomes may determine the hormones that flow through your body, testosterone may increase aggression, but they do not determine one’s character. A man does not have to act aggressive merely because his hormones tell him to.

We should also not fall into the error of assigning moral character to personality traits. A testosterone filled male who behaves in a more passive manner is not going against nature and trying to be a woman, he is merely being himself. He is how God made him. His personality is determined by many factors, not simply the chromosomes he was born with. Likewise, an aggressive woman is not less female. She is not trying to be a man or go against nature. She is merely acting according to what nature and nurture has instilled in her.

Is gender a spectrum? No. One is either a male or a female. Behavior does not make gender. Can men and women share space? Why not let the facility owners determine that? What does it mean to be a man? You have an X and a Y chromosome. What is a female? Two X chromosomes. Stop trying to confuse people, stop focusing on externals. Focus instead on the strengths of each individual, whatever their genetics may be.