If Christianity is about anything, it is about working through our superficial, sinful, fearful, false selves and finding our realest and most concrete self. A Christian who chooses to follow Jesus to Heaven does so as a person – as a concrete self sans all the false selves accumulated during mortal life. Heaven is not a place of non-entities, but of selves who have chosen to abandon all abstractions and align themselves with God in the most concrete way possible – love.
Christian love is concrete love. It is love directed at Beings rather than ideas. It does not drift about in the diaphanous ether loving everything and anything that is or isn’t there. It emerges from a concrete self and engages with another concrete self at the most concrete level of existence, the spiritual.
Modern consciousness has inverted the concrete/abstract dichotomy by elevating the abstract above the concrete – and when I say above, I mean far above. It sees nothing special or noble in loving that which is near, real, tangible, and concrete. In fact, it often regards such love as selfish or non-inclusive. Value-inverted modern consciousness sees concrete love as limited, limiting, and exclusionary. If I choose to love my actual neighbor, I limit my capacity to love faraway strangers. Loving my local place of inhabitence is not love but rather an expression of fear and hatred of other places that I am unfamiliar with.
The modern world demands that love be unlimited and unfocused. Thus, loving all human beings is infinitely superior to loving just a handful of human beings. Loving “the world” is much nobler than loving your town, city, or country. Loving all cultures is far more virtuous than loving your own cultures. Of course, the highest virtue of all is loving mankind while simultaneously denigrating the concrete people in your life. Same applies to nations and cultures.
I bring this up because Christians should be motivated by salvation and theosis, both firmly rooted in the concrete. Following Jesus is a concrete decision based on a relationship between two selves. The choice to become more God-like is the decision of a concrete self striving to become more concrete. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are following Jesus, not the idea of Jesus. Striving to be God-like entails being less rather than more abstract in our thinking and action.
The philosophy and psychology people in the West have absorbed over the centuries tends to value the abstract over the concrete. Unfortunately, Christians are not immune, with altruism representing the most egregious Christian error in this regard. Christians must use discernment when engaging with philosophical and psychological theories. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – which I touched upon briefly yesterday – is an example of why such discernment is indispensable.
I don’t believe Maslow was an intentionally malicious soul. As an idealist, he regarded humanity positively and was generally pointing in the right direction, but without the spiritual – more specifically, without a concrete belief in Christ – his well-meaning motivational theory has not only failed to pan out but has effectively done far more harm than good, as exemplified by his definition of transcendence as “becoming more God-like”:
“Transcendence also means to become divine or godlike, to go beyond the merely human. But one must be careful here not to make anything extrahuman or supernatural out of this kind of statement. I am thinking of using the word ‘metahuman’ or ‘B-human’ in order to stress that this becoming very high or divine or godlike is part of human nature even though it is not often seen in fact. It is still a potentiality of human nature.
To rise above dichotomized nationalism, patriotism, or enthnocentrism, in the sense of ‘them’ against ‘us,’ or of we-they, or Ardrey’s enmity-amity complex. For example, Piaget’s little Genevan boy who couldn’t imagine being both Genevan and Swiss. He could think of being only either Genevan or Swiss. It takes more development in order to able to be more inclusive and superordinate, more integrative.
My identification with nationalism, patriotism, or with my culture does not necessarily mitigate against my identification and more inclusive higher patriotism with the human species or with the United Nations. As a matter of fact, such a superordinate patriotism is, of course, not only more inclusive, but therefore more healthy, more fully-human, than the strict localism which is regarded as antagonistic or as excluding others. That is, I can be a good American, and of course must be an American (that’s the culture I grew up in, which I can never shake off and I don’t want to shake off in favor of being a world citizen).
Stress that the world citizen who has no roots, who doesn’t belong any place, who is utterly and merely cosmopolitan, is not as good a world citizen as one who grew up in the family, in a place, in a home with a particular language, in a particular culture, and therefore has a sense of belongingness on which to build toward higher need and meta-need levels.
To be a full member of the human species does not mean repudiating the lower levels; it means rather including them in the hierarchical integration, e.g., cultural pluralism, enjoying the differences, enjoying different kinds of restaurants with different kinds of food, enjoying travel to other countries, enjoying the ethnological study of other cultures, etc.”