You've probably heard the Toyota Prius referred to as the "Pious." The joke is that Prius owners feel driving a hybrid means they are holier than thou... If you ask Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, they'll say that environmentally conscious types are liars, cheats, thieves and just plain mean...
The Detroit Bureau reports that a Mazar and Zhong study published in Psychological Science focused on the social behaviors of green consumers, and the results were surprising... Their results show that people who buy green products may amass a stock pile of moral capital that ultimately encourages deviant behavior like lying and stealing... The psychologists conclude that "acting upon one's values establishes moral credentials that can subsequently license deviating behavior." We think that means green buyers feel holier than thou.
Click here to read the whole article.
So this sort of validates a lot of insults I hear hurled at liberals: arrogant, pseudo-intellectual snobs who don't care about people, only causes. Those are the sort of insults I used to hurl at liberals. And to be honest with you (I hate to say this) a lot of it rings true. This article bears credence. Idealism does not automatically equate to goodness in any meaningful, substantive way.
But doesn't that come right back at a lot of other groups too? I mean, you want to talk about "acting upon one's values" to "license deviating behavior"?! The same article could be written about Evangelicals (a group I still identify myself with): arrogant, self-righteous exclusivists who don't care about the world, only about self-justification. Or something like that.
There's a theological term I keep reading about called "kenosis." It means "emptying" or "empty" in Greek. It's the idea that we must constantly strive to empty ourselves of all those things people cling to for identity: ideology, material things, money, power, ego, success, whatever... by remaining empty, we may be filled with God. Or with goodness or love or transcendent awareness. The model really does hold up outside of a Christian context because all of us - regardless of religious status - fall into the trap of being "filled" by something else. I like the model of Jesus not only because I'm a Christian, but because Jesus' life typified kenosis. He emptied himself to the point of death. It wasn't self-mortification. He had good friends, he ate and he drank and he lived a human life. But ultimately, he died - and not only for the sake of his friends, but I would argue he allowed himself to be martyred out of love for his enemies. He emptied himself.
I don't know many liberals willing to empty themselves or sacrifice themselves for the sake of gas-guzzlers and fundamentalists.
I don't know many Evangelicals willing to empty themselves or sacrifice themselves for the sake of unbelievers, atheists or Muslims.
We all have agendas. We all have some "tipping point" where we say, "enough is enough. I shouldn't have to do more than..." or "I should be able to get away with..."
So snobbery is the condition of being filled with sh... all the stuff we care about. Kenosis is the process of being emptied of all that shit.
There was a prince named Siddhārtha Gautama who did something like this too. His life was characterized by compassion and asceticism, and he found something called "enlightenment." That's better than 55 miles per gallon...