Kanye West has been kicked off Twitter again for expressing increasingly anti-Jewish, pro-Nazi sentiments in recent days and weeks. Before that, he stormed off the set of Tim Pool’s podcast, and also answered a question from Alex Jones on his show in an extremely crazy way, involving props and a falsetto impression of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But this has me thinking. What do we mean by comparing opinions, beliefs, arguments, behavior, and lifestyles to “normal”? Setting aside what is going on with Kanye West personally, what do we mean by this term?
At a bare minimum, we have to admit that the utility is limited. And this is because its definition in the particulars is constantly changing relative what most folks are doing and saying, or even just the perception of the same.
So how much is it really worth, to say that this or that is normal? When more and more people are unhealthy, or believing things that are not true, or doing things that are not good, I am just not sold on the utility. At least so far as figuring out whether someone is well-adjusted goes, or what a moral and upstanding position looks like, or even whether they are sane and in their right mind, we need a better rubric and measure.
On the other hand, normalcy may have a limited value, at least in a prudential sense. That is, there is a practical benefit to taking personal note of what is common, regular, or popular. And yet we must aim higher than just doing what everyone else is doing, or saying what everyone else is saying, particularly when what the majority can be relied on to do, say, feel, think, and believe is an unreliable guide.
As G.K. Chesterton once put it in ‘The Everlasting Man,’ “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” And what that means is this: that a man need not be alive spiritually to go along with whatever everyone else is about. Yet a man must be alive to chart a different course when that is what is needed. Indeed, this is a prerequisite for what we call “good leadership.”
Also, I will venture to make an additional value judgment on this point, that it is better to be alive than dead. And also that, sometimes, being unusual or abnormal, if it does not require saying untrue things, or doing wicked things, can also be preferable to being usual and normal, if only to practice, or to put everyone else on a little bit of notice that we are not a slave to their trends and expectations, particularly where such might lead us astray.
Does that mean folks like Kanye West are given a pass when their antics cross the line? Maybe, but not necessarily. Rather, it is to say that we should make sure our reasons are sound, for calling someone crazy, or saying they’ve gone off the deep end, so that we leave open the possibility of sometimes being very unusual for a good cause, or to avoid going along with a bad one. And besides that, we must earnestly desire to know, and make it possible to find out, what the actual hinge-point of the disorder or error is to be able to help bring re-ordering and rightness.
But that also means we must aim higher than the crowd, and look to God to define for us what at least should be considered normal, healthy, and sane. The crowd may sometimes forget, after all. Our Maker never will.
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