A Christian idea of progress, then, involves nothing terribly complicated…just something terribly difficult, from a personal perspective. And that, certainly, does not sound like something anyone wants to go through, but you must! If you don’t why bother, really? You must constantly find ways to get out of your mental ruts and succeed via God’s standards, not your own. That sounds difficult when exterior forces like culture and society demand that you accept their standards in lieu of your own. Breaking mental paradigms takes time, but recognition of those unknown forces which actually control the way you think and live looks like a good first step to me.
Just for example, the idea that you should pursue your passion – i.e., the thing which you happen to like the most, for whatever arbitrary reason, out of all the things you do – isn’t a framework that has been seen much in human life. Yet, if you take a cursory look at our modern ideologies, it fits into all of them. This is not because human beings have “less stuff to do”, although I suppose that’s a neat answer, but because the system needs you to think this way. Capitalism, at least in its modern form, shapes your passions. Example: video games exist because there is a demand for them. Certain video games are more popular than others, not due to personal taste, but because market forces create a demand for those products from the general populace. Where in other time periods artists would find time to pursue artistry, they now gather over fandoms, hobbies, and other such things that you buy (seriously, almost all of them involve buying something). We are trained to be narcissists, and aspirational ones at that, so that we can buy things, and trained to buy things to stave off the drudgery of boredom and the inevitability of our own demise in the distant future. This somehow even progresses to human ideologies as seeming opposed as radical feminism and conservative Christianity, who both go to conferences, buy books, and advocate for their political causes using – you guessed it – money. It keeps people placated. Humans are really bad at measuring time and breaking psychological barriers to actual progress.
Wow, what a way to start, huh?
But herein lies the truth of Christianity: it lies outside this system, and yet can affect the way in which we live. It does not involve being part of special groups or whatever, because there’s no distinction of worldly origin between peoples – neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free. All are the same, and the world tells us that we are all diverse…different. Christ is the great equalizer, and yet we keep dividing both ourselves and everyone else as much as we can. We are naturally tribal, and this is a problem for both ourselves and others.
Paul often talks about Christianity as a renewing of the mind, not just the heart or the spirit. Whereas the Hebrew Bible writers mean the heart as a whole, Paul makes a clear seperation between mind and body, so much so that the extended “Body of Christ” metaphor eventually comes to fruition in 1 Corinthians 12:
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason [k]any the lessa part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason [l]any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, [m]it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we [n]deem less honorable,[o]on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no[p]division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is [q]honored, all the members rejoice with it.
But, think of this from an individual perspective as well as a communal one. All the parts of the body must perform their essential function, and also not try to do what the other parts are supposed to do. Does this not also apply to the mind and the body? We must search and reflect on the hidden things within ourselves and extract them. God gives us the wisdom to do that, if only we would look deep enough into our souls and see the darkness within. You must dig deep to get the light shine in there!
I suppose this derives from my current video game habits. Shmups are one of the most unforgiving genres you can play, and yet the flaws in your play are easy to point out. Did you fail? How do you tell? Well, you died. Clearly that’s a failure as distinct as utterly possible. How did you make that mistake? Analyze it, examine it, and don’t make that mistake again. Easier said than done? Everything is like that. Get used to it. Christianity is not about pity parties and being sad about things; it’s about victorious living like Christ, and getting people into that paradigm of a whole new way of life isn’t easy. You get dragged kicking and screaming into it, and the flesh wants out at every second…but it can’t, because Jesus already has you.
Really, progress requires us to adhere to a new standard, and get rid of the old one. But finding the roots of the dead tree takes time. Hence, progress.