At the independent, fundamentalist Baptist church I grew up attending in the 1980s, legalism was a staple, and the ‘rules’ were seemingly endless. Skirts (or something called ‘culottes’) for women and girls, long pants only for men and boys, and dresses and ties on Sunday morning. Good Christians didn’t dance or go to Hollywood movies. They didn’t smoke, cuss, or drink or hang around with those who did. Music wasn’t allowed unless it was Christian, and regardless of the lyrics, it wasn’t ‘Christian’ if it had drums, an upbeat tempo, or was written after 1895 (or thereabouts).
And the “thou shalts” were just as onerous as the “thou shalt nots.” Regular church attendance (three times a week), soul-winning, tithing (at least 10% of ‘gross’ income because we need a new auditorium and hey, you can’t outgive God!), and daily Bible study and prayer were all expected, at a minimum.
Aside from the rules and requirements, the belief system one had to adhere to in order to be a ‘good Christian’ was, shall we say, specific. From a six-day creation 6,000 or so years ago to the pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church to the King James Bible laying it all out in the very words of God himself, my particular religious neck of the woods had it ALL figured out, and we weren’t shy about patting ourselves on the back about it.
Rule-making, of course, isn’t just for fundamentalist Baptists. To the Pharisees, the Puritans, and countless other sects, cults, and religions throughout history to the present day, the establishment of such rules, requirements, and belief systems are typically meant to help bring the follower closer to the Creator. Follow these, it is reasoned, and the faithful will at the very least stay ON the right road and avoid falling OFF the proverbial cliff to eternal damnation.
Granted, sometimes there existed a solid reason for some of the rules. One can make a strong case, for example, for keeping sex - and especially children - within the confines of a loving, committed marriage. Other times - like dress codes and the absurd prohibition against going to movie theaters when everyone knew good and well we were all renting them - not so much.
Ironically, Jesus himself didn’t seem to be much of a rules guy or even someone who cared all that much whether everyone’s theology was 100 percent correct. In fact, the object of Christian worship summed up the entire law and prophets in two simple commands: Love God and love your neighbor. Do those things, in any culture or religious background, and the ‘rules’ don’t matter so much, do they?
Ah, but a proper love of the Creator means you’ll WANT to obey all the rules, they say. True, but how many came from man, and how many came from God? For example, I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t mind me having the occasional glass of wine, especially considering he once MADE IT HIMSELF at a wedding. Clearly, there’s a difference between rank legalism and living one’s life in line with general principles of morality and doing good to others.
Which brings us to the other side of this hellish coin, Puritans of another stripe altogether. You see, the religious aren’t the only ones hellbent on establishing and following dumb rules and strict belief systems. Indeed, the woke left has its own set of requirements and regulations its adherents must follow, and the belief system it demands fielty to is just as rigid and unyielding, if not more so, as the cultiest Christian cult.
From speech codes to microaggressions to the broad spectrum of toxic, punishing censorship known as cancel culture, it’s become impossible to point out even blatantly obvious truths without drawing the wrath of the woke left. And unlike religion, you don’t have to be a ‘member’ to be ‘forced’ to assent to their insane beliefs and obey their ridiculous dictates on pain on social ostracization, job loss, and even physical harm. Like fundamentalist Christianity, fundamentalist wokism purports to justify their rules as a way to keep people on the proverbial ‘road,’ not to heaven, but to what they consider a better, more utopian society. Read a Dr. Seuss book, they reason, and the next thing you know you’re putting on a white hood and joining the Klan. But just like rules-obsessed Christians, they’re missing the point.
Like fundamentalist Christianity (I’m ‘picking’ on them only because I was one!), needless legalism and illogical Puritanism tend to provoke rebellion. When you hear about the woke left wanting to ban a book, what’s the first thing you want to do? Why locate and BUY THAT BOOK, obviously, right? We knee-jerk WANT to defy them just because they are lame, insufferable prudes and usually the things they are trying to force people to do or believe are counterproductive, dumb, and often objectively evil.
Of course, they’ll tell you that political correctness, cancel culture, and wokism are just ways to build a ‘tolerant’ society. Being kind and respectful to people is one thing, and yes, it’s the right thing to do. But when some pencil-necked dweeb in a “Yes I am a male feminist” t-shirt condescendingly lectures us about the 9,673 microaggressions we must not commit in order to be considered a “good person,” most Americans who live in the real world roll their eyes and gets back to work. I mean really, WHO NEEDS all that guilt?
The overarching pattern here is this: people are always trying to make life more complicated than it needs to be. To paraphrase someone the left hates very much (for some reason), it’s a good thing to treat others as we would want to be treated. Whatever your religious and political background and baggage, my advice is to follow that general principle, ignore the modern-day woke Puritans, and give the rest to God.