Downside Up

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.” – Romans 12:2 MSG

Everyone sees upside down. In the 17th century Réné Descartes proved that the convex lenses of our eyes inverts that which we see. Our brain does this amazing work of reinterpreting the raw data and flips the world right side up for us. Taking this idea a step farther, psychologist George Stratton experimented with the mind’s ability to normalize sensory data in the 1890’s. In one experiment he wore a set of special pair of glasses that flipped his vision upside down. For the first four days of the experiment, he literally saw the world upside down. But, by day five, his mind seemingly caught on and turned the world right side up. Everything was back to normal. But was it really normal or had his mind merely conformed?

The Old Testament prophets routinely call out those who have so conformed to the prevailing culture that they have everything all turned around.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” – Isaiah 5:20

“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” – Jeremiah 6:13-14

The biblical prophets were attempting to disrupt the people of God long enough to help them seem which was way up.

Sometimes, disruption is exactly what we need to reorient our lives. Our culture’s definitions of power, success, and what is necessary to lead “the good life” can be so seductive that we lose sight of Christ’s leadership of love.

In his confessional reflection on the crucifixion of Christ, singer/songwriter Derek Webb explores this theme with prophetic honesty and vulnerability in his song, What is not love:

“what looks like failure is success and what looks like poverty is riches

what looks like weakness can do anything and what looks like foolishness is understanding

when what is powerful has not come to fight, it looks like you’re going to war but you lay down your life

but I give myself to what looks like love

and I sell myself for what feels like love

and I pay to get what is not love

and all just because I see things upside down.”