THE SHOE FETISH: THE EVIL OF ALTRUISM

there was a woman who had a shoe fetish. no matter what, she had to have shoes. couldn’t do without them. according to karl marx, the fetish is creating meaning or giving meaning to a meaningless object. trying to fill in a gap rather than allowing it to be. we live in a society built upon an addiction toward meaning, toward filling the gaps. in a simple sense, when your boss calls you up to come in early because your colleague called off sick, that is a filling in of the gap.

Christ becomes the gap [the lack] not simply to be a gap, but rather to be the spacial embodiment to allow space for dialogue.

The temptation is to fill a gap with someone, to fill silence with noise, to respond uncritically. This is the inherent evil in surface-level altruism; organizations like World Vision [whether they consciously endorse this or not] perpetuate the idea of fast-food fixes. The kind where band-aids are giving out for cancer. When we respond to issues we can’t simply [and only] afford some emotive response [as seen on our television screens] do to some depressing advertisement.

This does not respond to the fundamental issues, but rather accelerates them. Think about this notion even in something as simple as interior design, moreso think about the spiritualized architecture of a room, aka: Feng Shui. The basics of such a claim is that furniture should be placed in a room to not only receive blessings, but to experience the good in one’s life and maintain their inner chi [i.e., essence/power/identity]. It is superstition par excellence.

But is this not also the daily life of most Westerners? Meaning, that we live our lives in such a way that we hope to create luck and yet call it providence. Is not the idea of a God who has everything mapped out and we have to somehow ‘find’ it [i.e., the more i pray, the more money/time i give, the more scripture i read, the more i love and so on] employing a series of methods. Which is not a belief in a God who is in control but rather the belief that we can control/persuade the deity to serve us [which is not very far from how the hunter-gatherers viewed their relationships to their gods].

Ethics in this sense also lies under the umbrella of committed superstition; i.e., the more i do, the better i treat people, the more peace i bring, the more justice i fight – the better i am. but think about that on a very simple level – if i have to work at something that hard what am i already saying about myself? That: i am not ethical, i am not a believer, i am incapable of destroying the very foundations of poverty and injustice. In a simple sense, this is beyond pessimism, this is fatalism.

Most theology attempts to persuade us how lousy we really are. And that the only way out, is to do more, to fill in the gap. And is this not an attempt to experience God with methods rather than experiencing God? Is it also not trying to fill in a gap, attempting to create a stairway to heaven, when heaven is down here, in the now. This idea of the gap is all throughout society. We are ourselves gaps. We lack. Out of this lack desire emerges. We want. We crave. We consume. Why? We are attempting to fill something deep inside. No, its not sin. It’s not something pervasive. The lack is simply who we are. So why do fill the need to try and fill the lack? Because we meet with a reflection; with something that is neither your or i that imposes itself upon us and the lack is then perverted. In this instance, it seems a lot of Christianity is an attempt to speak of the future and yet remain defensive of our genealogical past [i.e., we must somehow hold to the creeds, we must somehow 'show respect' to those before us] but isnt this defensive posture actually an attack on that which we mean to defend?

Would it not make sense to further ourselves by allowing and making a space for more gaps, to learn how to better be a gap so as not to fill it? But rather allow what comes natually to fill it? The problem is not that now more than ever the Church at large has lost its historical voice, its that it has been shouting someone else’s message and now needs its own. It must be willing to move forward and if need be move away from that which once defined it – is not definition a form of filling the gap? We need more gaps, not less. We need less identity [i.e., christ emptied himself].

What we need to embrace is the fearfulness of the void; rather than feel it with something, become the very void for others to share their new=found perspectives so change and growth can happen. because if we dont we will simply be regurgitations of the voices before us, possessed by discarnate voices. Without a voice of our own.

This is a draft excerpt on a book I am working…out sometime this/early-next year (hopefully!)…

About George Elerick

George Elerick is a widely sought-after speaker, activist and cultural theorist. He lives in England with his wife and two children. He and his wife run Cross Culture Consultancy (http://www.crosscultureconsultancy.com): A webinar & in-person speaking-based platform to discuss, apply & innovate new methods to respond to some of the world's biggest issues.

George majors on cultural engagement, pop-culture, postmodernism, theology & others. Deborah majors on human rights, gender equality,domestic violence, social justice issues and more. They are available for booking! He has a book out entitled 'Jesus Bootlegged' and has another on the way: Jesus and the Death of Church.

  • Warren Aldrich

    So on point and lucid. And if you seek to call attention to this you find yourself in a royal battle to maintain the status quo.

  • http://thebridge-cu.com Ron S

    No question we need to be called on our tendency to attempt to fill every gap in our lives without facing them squarely and facing their cause and purpose. I do have 2 questions. (1) Isn’t our goal to let God fill our holes and gaps with more of the fulness of the Holy Spirit? I don’t see much of that emphasis in your challenge. (2) Isn’t it true that the Biblical view of our relationship with God is neither God is in control period nor we are in control, but rather that God wants us to c0-labor in God’s goals, purpose, values, and work? I didn’t see too much of that emphasis in your challenge either. But, I do take your challenge seriously, and plead guilty to sometimes attempting to fill my holes with the wrong things or too quickly. And, I love it when Christians quote Karl Marx. He actually had a lot of insight about human problems – far less insight about solutions. Be blessed.

  • Angie Babb

    I can’t stop thinking about this . . . There is a lot of truth in what you’ve written. But I have to wonder if perhaps “evil” is too strong a word to describe altruism. It is a defense mechanism in many cases, but a rather benign one. The violence inherent in much of it is caused by a need on the part of the giver to alleviate the anxiety caused by the “gaps” you’ve mentioned. Culturally, we are not given many tools for coping with this type of anxiety, or instruction in just sitting with discomfort. We “fix.” We impose our solutions on the “problems” of others, destroying our own opportunities to learn from them AS Others (capital “O” intended). Our “band-aid” solutions help us avoid the horrible feelings of powerlessness we’re inevitably left with when facing a “gap.” But the tendency to do so is not necessarily “evil.” (You actually point this out in the essay, but “evil” is still used in the title.) Altruism is a very “human” behavior . . . but it misses an opportunity to examine the structural problems that cause “gaps” to begin with, problems that find their root in our separation from one another and our inability to recognize the divine in others and in ourselves. Theology SHOULD go a long way toward addressing these issues, but most of the theologians who have recognized this have been written off as irrelevant mystics at best (or heretics at worst). All-in-all, though, this is a brilliant piece, George. Can’t wait to read the book!!!

  • http://involutedgenealogies.wordpress.com Hiram R. Diaz III

    George, you wrote:

    “Most theology attempts to persuade us how lousy we really are. And that the only way out, is to do more, to fill in the gap. And is this not an attempt to experience God with methods rather than experiencing God? Is it also not trying to fill in a gap, attempting to create a stairway to heaven, when heaven is down here, in the now. ”

    I can see how you would gather such an idea from Roman Catholicism and much of the supposedly evangelical preaching that is “out there,” but such theologies aren’t theologies of the cross, they are theologies of glory.

    Luther knew that there was no staircase to heaven. That was his biggest beef with Catholicism – the Romanists were teaching, and still do teach, that one can ascend the ladder of spiritually being, so to speak, by doing-doing-doing-doing-doing…ad nauseum. But such doings are never done.

    Hence, the Reformed emphasis is on grace and not works.

    Is sin to be dealt with? Yes.

    But the solution is not by doing, it is by dying.


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