You Might Be Stuck, If…

You Might Be Stuck, If… February 15, 2013


by Randy Walker

If you think your way is the only way, you might be “stuck in the details.” If you belittle those who do not look like you, act like you, or think like you, you might be “stuck in the details.” If dogma rules your life, you might be “stuck in the details.”

First, what is meant by the idiom, “stuck in the details”? Has anyone encountered someone who is obsessive-compulsive over certain things in his or her life? This person becomes consumed with a minute detail, or details, that have little impact on the person’s quality of life, and in doing so, misses the “big picture,” or the things that do matter and affect the quality of life or the outcome of something in particular. I once worked for someone who displayed this quirk to the extreme. He and I worked in construction. This man would obsess over visible brush strokes left on a painted surface, imperfections in trim molding, or other minor blemishes to the point that he would miss obvious things, such as a missing storm door, blatant damage to an outside wall or other similar but what should be easily detected flaws. In other words, he was “stuck in the details,” and he missed the “big picture.”

I believe it is easy for many people to do, essentially, the same thing when it comes to religion or worldviews. To me, religious dogma is an example of details, and people tend to focus on dogmatic “details” and miss the more crucial “big picture.” Stated another way: the doctrine and the rules included in the dogma become more important to some people than how they view and treat people they encounter. They will argue, vehemently, about a minute point of doctrine and proclaim that if other people do not believe just as they do, such people are inferior, hell-bound, unfit, outcast, ex-communicated… the list goes on.

Secondly, what is the “big picture” when it comes to religion and worldviews? A brief discussion about the underlying principles of some of the major religions in the world will lead to this answer. The chosen religions are Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam. Christianity is the most popular based on the number of adherents, while Islam is number two, and Buddhism is number six.

Buddhism focuses on four primary qualities as its foundational practices: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Islam uses several words to denote different shades of the meaning of “love.” One of these terms appears about once every 15 verses within the Koran. These are only two examples, but the other major religions have similar underlying principles to these two religions.

Another question is what kind of love is being discussed here? In Christianity and in the English language, there are two Greek words that denote two types of love: eros and agape. Eros love denotes individual love that is considered conditional and often rooted in sexual desire, while agape love is considered unconditional love that is godly and holistic. Another way to state this is that eros love equates with casual concern and sexual infatuation, while agape love means loving someone or something despite the inherent flaws in the person or the object receiving the love. This discussion focuses on agape love.

Since it has been established that the major religions of the world, which clearly include Christianity, have essentially the same underlying principles based on agape love, let’s look at what the Bible says about love. I John 4:8 reads: “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” For the benefit of the fundamentalists who might be reading this, I quoted the King James Version of the Bible. Also, for the benefit of the fundamentalists and those who believe that the Bible should be taken literally, word-for-word, nothing added, nothing taken away, let’s break the language down in this verse. It does not say that God “loves,” nor does it say that God is “capable of love,” or anything similar in meaning to these phrases. It emphatically and clearly states: “God IS love.” “Is” is what is often referred to as a “linking verb” in the English language. In other words, it “links” a noun with an adjective, adverb, or another noun. In this case, it links “God” with “love.” “Is” means that the noun, “God,” is one and the same as the noun, “love.”

Seems simple to me: God IS NOT some mystical all-powerful being who happens to love, God IS love, period–the end–no more to the story.

Think about the implications of this: If we immerse ourselves in agape love for ourselves and others, then we “know God.” Who, by the way, IS love. The remaining “fluff” is mere “details” that, while people with good intentions adhere to them, are just details used to torment those who are “stuck in them,” and anyone around those “dear stuck ones” who is affected or offended by those same details.

Now, in order not to discriminate against any one religion, let’s take each one and give an example of someone who is “stuck in the details.” For instance, if a Buddhist insists that someone will not achieve enlightenment unless he or she meditates a particular way and a specific amount of time each day, this person is “stuck in the details.” There is nothing wrong with meditation, but it does not, directly and solely, determine the outcome of a person’s life.

We all witnessed a fanatical fringe of Islam on 9/11. How anyone can believe that murdering innocent people will bring them special rewards in an afterlife is beyond my comprehension, but those misguided terrorists were so “stuck in the details” that they highjacked and flew commercial airliners, with innocent people aboard, into buildings, which contained more innocent people! This is an extreme example, but think about all the hatred, bitterness, and most importantly, fear, these heinous acts triggered in the world. No matter how much this event is analyzed, it happened because a few fanatics became “stuck in the details.”

Finally, when Christians exclude other people and dismiss them as sinners, who are unworthy of love, just because they do not believe in the virgin birth and divinity of Jesus, or do not attend church, or do not read the Bible daily, do not pray often enough, do not love someone of the opposite sex–and so on, they are “stuck in the details” and missing the “big picture.”

The following quote is attributed to the late Jimi Hendrix: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Let’s substitute “God” for “love” and see what we have: “When the power of “God” (Who IS love) overcomes the “God” of power, the world will know peace.”

Another way to state this: When we focus on loving one another instead of controlling one another with what we see as essential “details,” the world will know peace. The sad thing is that clinging to details and claiming to know the answers is, too often, rooted in fear, and the one thing that overcomes fear is “love.” This, my friends, is the big picture. I sincerely believe that if more of us could become “unstuck from the details,” the big picture would start to sharpen and come into focus.

“God is Love.”

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