"We Americans are pragmatists to the max. We want results. And we want them yesterday. We want them without too much pondering and too much pain . . . . We have developed all kinds of Christ-coated remedies that are shallow and short-lived. We are not, by and large, the deeply grounded saints that some of our forefathers were."
Being "pragmatic" isn't always a bad thing . . . . after all, we need to pay our bills so we can keep a roof over our heads, keep heat and light in our homes, and be wise with our resources so we can feed our families and keep gas in our cars. However, philosophically and theologically, pure "pragmatism" will always eventually create a self-centered world in which we attempt to then live out our Christian values and commitment by "doing" rather than "being". That's where the problem comes in. Christianity is not necessarily "pragmatic," and eveything is not focused on results. Although, unfortunately, that's what many of us believe about our Christian life. Ultimately, we need to try to discover and remember that being a Christian is NOT about what I DO but it is about WHO I am in relationship with my Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. It is a relationship not a religion, and yet the paradox is that what I DO matters, but it does not define WHO I am. I think that is kind of like other relationships, including our marriage relationship as well as our relationships with our parents and children.
My children will always be my children, no matter what they DO . . . . however, their choices and their actions will affect our relationship, just like my choices will also affect the quality of that relationship. But it will NEVER change the fact that I am their mother and they are my children. So, on the surface,"pragmatism" doesn't seem so bad . . . . . but we must always have the courage and integrity to follow our belief systems (whatever they may be) to their ultimate conclusions. And "pragmatism" is definitely one of those sneaky ideas that seem to be pretty sensible at first glance, but it has devastating consequences if taken as the foundational presupposition of our beliefs.
The philosophical implications of pragmatism appear pretty straightforward: if all of our choices and behavior and beliefs are based on whatever brings the "best" outcome, what is wrong with that? But if that is all we have to work with, in the end we are left with only the precarious, relative question of just what exactly is the "best" outcome. And who decides what is "best"? And "best" for who? On the face of it, "pragamatism" seems to make sense . . . . after all we should be practical, right? We want to know that our actions will make a difference, that there will be predictable, measureable results, and we really don't have a lot of time to invest in every little choice and decision we make in life. So what is the problem with "pragmatism"?
I'm not sure that the question really is "what is wrong with pragmatism," but what we really need to determine is what is the REAL goal of the Christian life and how do we best achieve that goal. Because if all of our emphasis is to "git 'er done," then we miss out on all the really significant aspects our life. And "pragmatism" encourages us to focus on the destination instead of the journey. My moment by moment choices, decisions, and actions matter more to God than whether or not I achieve the "perfect" outcome.
I've really had to remind myself that every day, for most of my adult life. As a wife, mother, woman, friend, Christian in contemporary American Christianity, my perception has been that my value is only in what I do for others. And, although that is a noble calling and goal in life, it is NOT the totality of who I am. Unfortunately, for many women, they get lost in the swamp of despair when they finally realize that they CAN'T do everything that everyone expects. We are just human. We are strong, protective, loving, and courageous in the face of all kinds of adversity. We will protect our children and our homes if confronted with danger. As moms, we can do anything we need to do to care for our families. But we will also stumble and fall. Just because that is the human condition.
So, "pragmatism" is a sneaky philosophy that steals our joy and sometimes sucks the life right out of us. When we finally understand that "getting it done" is a good thing . . . . . but taking the time to slow down, seek God's guidance and wisdsom, rejoice in His grace, and be thankful for all of our blessings (even in the midst of our struggles), will keep us focused on reality. And reality is NOT based on our ability to do it all, yesterday, with our hair combed perfectly, all of our children lined up with bright shining faces and freshly laundered (hand-made) clothing, with all of our home school lessons completed for the day, a piping hot dinner on the table with freshly baked bread and vegetables picked from our garden. Oh yes, and a perfectly cleaned home, and all of the laundry smelling spring-fresh from the line, folded and put into the dresser drawers. And if you are anything like me (I hope not!) you have perhaps believed that WAS reality. Once upon a time, in a land far away, where Prince Charming lived in the neighborhood castle. But that's NOT my reality, and that's OK.
I no longer focus on the "pragmatic" aspects of life at the expense of living in the moment. Yep, I still clean my house, do the laundry, and every once in a while bake a loaf of bread. I pay the bills, and make sure there is gas in the car so I can get to the grocery store. But all of those practical things do NOT define who I am. It is really nice to be free from that deception!
Please visit Esthermay at "The Heart of a Pastor's Wife" for links to all the other IOW participants so you can share in our weekly time of inspiration and encouragement.