Be Good For Goodness Sake

It’s that time of year again. Elf on a Shelf season. If there is any question whether we are living in a surveillance state, it is answered by creepy eyed dolls lurking in houses across the country.

These dolls would normally scare the piss out of any child young enough to believe their backstory about Santa’s little helpers who came from the North Pole, specifically to appear in the stalkiest places in your house and keep a behavior log. The kids are not scared because of what those elves mean. They mean Santa is near. They mean presents.

Kids don’t care that their every move is being catalogued, their intimate moments stored in an invisible file to determine how many presents they receive. We didn’t care as kids either. There were no elves in the 80’s. Santa Claus watched us year round. He saw me steal those M&M’s from the convenience store. He saw me walk into my parent’s bedroom without knocking and catch them wras’lin on the bed. He saw me stand in front of a television tuned to a channel we didn’t have to catch a glimpse of a nipple through a screen of wavy, colored lines. I still got presents. Santa must have been hard of seeing.

When Santa wasn’t watching, God was. God was the worst watcher of all. He saw everything. All those lies about being sick and fantasies about me beating up Keith and Ebe so I could be with Thelma. Keith put up a fight but Ebe caught these hands. God still took care of me.

Growing up comfortable being surveilled taught me an important lesson. Humans are terrible when no one is watching.

That’s the only explanation for why parents worldwide drill into the minds of their children the idea of an omnipresent voyeur. We simply cannot be trusted.

This persistent presence is something we have all grown to accept. We also subconsciously reject it. We look for opportunities to act covertly. It excites us! The very basic act of doing something unseen is exhilarating. Whether you’re enjoying the solitude of a car ride where you can sing that song you can’t sing in public, locking the door so you can have a dance break, or just showing yourself a good time, we all love to hide. Is it because we’re conditioned to believe we are never alone?

I often hear that someone who has done some bad thing and got caught is only sorry because they were caught. It seems to suggest that the person enjoyed doing that thing and would probably still be doing it had they not been interrupted. I believe we are all this way. We all are awful human beings when left alone. Who gets a moment to themselves and thinks “I’m about to donate all my money to save abused kittens and spend this rare moment alone writing outstanding Yelp reviews for every business I know”? The only people who do things like that believe they’re getting special God points for doing good. They are not. There is no such currency or store where it can be spent.

The elves are not alive, Santa is not real and God has bigger things to worry about than your browser history. This is the scariest fact of all. Who are we when we believe we aren’t being watched? That’s when you get to see how depraved you are. You will indulge in that privacy. It won’t be until these moments where you will discover your real self and be forced to make decisions about who you want to be. Your character is not the person you present when you’re being watched. If we are always being watched we will never know ourselves. You are not being watched, at least not in the ways you were trained to believe. You are a human with an endless parade of choices to make. Make the choices you believe in. Not to please gift givers or celestials constantly minding your business. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet the real you? That ‘you’ may sometimes leave you vomiting outside of a bar. At other times, you will be helping a stranger eat that day. Over time, the real you will choose which choice they like best between the two. If you choose good, you will know it isn’t because someone is watching you. It will be because you know you prefer goodness. The only way to be sure is to live like no one is watching.

Introduce yourself.

9 thoughts on “Be Good For Goodness Sake

  1. Hmm….I enjoyed the tone of this blog, until it went void of absolutes. So then, I’m reading this with a bit of disorientation. I’m thinking that “Faith Uncut” is primarily a Christian based blog, but with very unconventional views…. but still Christian absolutes. So with a few of the claims of this particular blog (paraphrase) “God doesn’t give ‘points’ for good but private behavior” OR (paraphrase) “God’s not interested in our browser history”, directly conflict with scripture. I mean, I get the overall inference of the article, but wth statements like these, the underpinning is more Humanistic than Christian based. Is that correct?

    1. We don’t consider Faith Uncut a Christian blog. It is a blog written by contributors of varying positions. We welcome that diversity of thought because it challenges our readers to consider other views they may not have considered.

      This piece is written by a Christian. Since not all Christians hold the same beliefs, it may read differently than expected. You may find that the “absolutes” you mentioned are not universally held and may be a requirement of a certain branch of Christianity instead of a requirement of Christianity at large.

      Which absolutes are you referring to?

  2. Compare the above statement, “The only people who do things like that believe they’re getting special God points for doing good. They are not. There is no such currency or store where it can be spent.”
    with this Matthew 6:4, “….so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (NIV)

    Also, compare the above statement, “You are not being watched.”
    with the Scripture 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”(NIV)

    1. The Matthew 6 verse is Jesus addressing the hypocrisy of the way people were giving money. Money was an example of the way people were displaying their righteousness overtly. The display of righteousness is the main issue being addressed. He goes on to address praying and fasting. The point being nothing we do is a show. That should apply for the practice of righteousness whether we are putting forward things we do or do not.

      This 2 Corinthians verse is more applicable though I believe you are carrying assumptions into it. Those assumptions align with Calvinism. But even seeing it with that view, I question the purpose of the observation. This gets into a larger discussion about grace and salvation. Both of which I do not carry the traditional Calvinist views regarding. The question being “how much do we believe grace covers?” The only answers being ‘all’, ‘some’, or ‘none’. Traditional views would answer ‘some’. What is included in the ‘some’ varies wildly to the point of being almost a useless categorization. I believe it covers ‘all’, in which case, whatever watching that occurs is not for the purpose you are using this verse to suggest.

      The point is, the things you are expecting from a Christian blog may be a little different…and that is why we’re here. Welcome!

  3. I really hope you don’t mind the back and forth.

    For Matthew 6, I was tightly focused on God’s characteristic of ‘He sees and rewards’; not so much as for the context in what He sees, specifically (e.g. giving, praying, fasting). My point in this verse was to highlight a standalone personality trait of God.

    I carry no assumptions or suggestions into 2 Corinthians (*in my #45 voice*…lol). I likewise look at this as God’s prerogative. If anything, with the fact that He judges the good as well as the bad things that occurred, this seems to be more of a Creator doing an internal inventory. With Him having absolute authority over His creation, and with bestowing mankind with life, He’s doing an end-of-term quality control thing …..akin to an employee evaluation or exit interview. I also believe that grace covers all (except the “unpardonable sin” mentioned by Jesus). I’m not familiar with Calvinism.

    I can see how this is not, necessarily, a “Christian” blog, and that’s cool. It really is. It’s just that the logo/symbolism–albeit a broken halo—threw me off. Why not just include the pantheon of faith symbols? *shrugs*

    1. I read Matthew 6 as supporting the argument of being good for goodness sake. The writer is suggesting that overt acts of righteousness (whether praying, fasting, or giving) should not be done with consideration of who is watching.

      We absolutely carry many assumptions into the text. For one, we assume a letter written to a 1st century church applies to everyone who reads it. That is like suggesting a letter written to a spouse is meant for everyone. We assume the issues being addressed are our issues, that the writer is intimately familiar with a heavenly rewards process, and that writer has provided us a literal depiction of that process. The fact that we bring assumptions isn’t meant as an accusation. It is simply a fact. I am suggesting that all Christians are not operating from the same facts. Believing that we are is a terribly limiting view of the faith and God.

      If grace covers all, what would be the purpose of God observing? If the subject does something God sees as right, just and good grace covers it. If the actions are the opposite, grace covers that too. What would be the point of a tally system? How do you see that impacting the judgement you referenced if all is covered?

      We welcome the back and forth. It is one of the reasons we are here. Diversity of Christian thought is lacking in our communities. We rather people engage, learn, discuss, and discover.

      The imagery is intentional. This space was started by a Christian (still a Christian) who does not fit the common expectations about what that looks like. In that sense, the halo is broken. The hope is to improve from that brokenness.

  4. Although we pretty much agree with the Matt. 6 verse, I still see just a jot differently. Overall, yes, I believe in being good,…because it’s its own reward. Being good “for” points to an entity, a person, or a personification of something. Okay, for “Goodness sake..?” What is this term “goodness?” Is goodness universally defined? Western civilization portends to be an autonomous society (as opposed to Theonomous, universally intrinsic, or heteronomous, spiritual leaders). So throwing up the word goodness is easily defined in various ways. (Not too varied, but the point remains). Traditional Christians are good, for Chrissake (lol)…or for God’s. (Same diff) Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” There are rewards involved. I’ve studied the psychology of self-control, and basically without a reward system, you are right in your original post: people are horrible when left alone. God’s a genius!

    “I am suggesting that all Christians are not operating from the same facts.”
    I can agree that not all Christians operate from the same view on the inconsequential, but we certainly ought to be on the same page on the core and foundational elements of the faith. But if I’m perceiving correctly, you may be painting a picture of another color. Thusly, Christianity is seen more of as a culture, and not a people who are unified by a set of core and accepted beliefs.

    “What would be the point of a tally system?” *shrugs*…God’s prerogative. Actually, I can safely deduce from text that He is a Rewarder. His m.o. is to set us up to succeed. Primarily because He’s an opulent, benevolent Being, Who looks for masterful ways to bless His creation. And instead of just giving people stuff, which didn’t work out so well in Lucifer’s case, there is a plan in place to “rightly” bless His people. What makes it especially challenging is, what I call, the sin-virus. When we take drastic measures to overcome this “virus”, God rewards our efforts and successes. So the tally system works in His favor, because He is exhaustively comprehensive. He wants to make sure every detail is correct. He doesn’t miss a beat. And keep in mind that the judgment is not slated to be all bad, or even punitive. I believe we carry that assumption into it. The text clearly says, “good and bad.” He addresses both.

    1. The idea that we “ought to be on the same page on the core and foundational elements of the faith” is an ideal that has not made its way into reality yet. Christians do not agree on what should be considered core or foundational elements. Evangelical Christians differ from Eastern Orthodox Christians who also differ from Messianic Jews. Even within the pale of Western Christianity, James Cone will assert the foundation is Black liberation while Rosemary Redford Ruether will believe a focus on redeeming the narrative of women is foundational.

      All of this work, by all of these brilliant people, is being done throughout Christendom. And it should. If it were not, there would be no Reformation. There would also be no…what comes after the Reformation. The thing going on now where Christians are challenging those foundations (many of which have led us to our current predicament) to build a stronger, intersectional, redemptive Christology that the existing “foundational” elements never considered. It is exciting work!

      And now, we have strayed too far from the original topic and into a much larger topic about the evolution of faith. Maybe I should write about that.

Leave a Reply