Dualism (or 50 shades of gray)

If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you have seen hints of the idea of overcoming dualism for a while. But I have not yet tackled the issue of dualism head on. 

So what is dualism? It is simply the idea that there are two sides to everything. Right and wrong. Black and white. This idea is very helpful in our early development because we need to simply know what we should and shouldn’t do. That keeps us safe and alive. Critical thinking isn’t yet necessary. And for our basic lizard brain, instinctual fight or flight type decisions dualistic thinking often works well.

Growing up fundamentalist, we approached God with the same dualism. There was good and evil. Gay and straight. Sober and drunk. It was very easy to tell who was in and who was out because there were clear cut rules.

But if you read Jesus’ stories, He constantly defied those rules. He healed on the sabbath. He ate with the gentiles. He defended the adulteress. He honored the Samaritan over the priest and the Pharisees . 

When we get past dualism and see the broad array between black and white, we see that in most cases we fall somewhere in between. Then we look at the repentant alcoholic who falls and we see gray. They still fall on grace. We look at the homosexual and we see gray. We look at the pastor who has questions and we see gray. We see the husband or wife caught up in pornography or adultery, and we see gray. And we look in the mirror and we see gray. We can even look at our Hindu or Muslim brother and sister and see gray.

The truth is most things, and especially most people, are not fully good or fully bad. Most religions are not fully good or bad. 

So when we address morality, a dualistic approach simply falls short. We can’t simply categorize everything. Hip hop has foul language but often tells a real story of struggle. There are Islamic terrorists, but most Muslims are as horrified by terrorism as anyone else. 

So while dualism might help our children know what they can and can’t do, black and white rules leave us lacking as adults. They leave us making short sighted blanket judgements that miss the nuances of the reality of our human experience. So we need to broaden our understanding so we can see all of the spectrum and appreciate all of the nuance of life.


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