Last week I heard someone say that “we live in the culture of whatever.” Rather than make a decision we often say “whatever.” Instead of engaging in conflict we simply announce “whatever!” and the walk away. That response is terribly annoying to anyone who is taking something seriously. It is generally not very helpful. Even now someone has read the previous statement and thought, “Whatever!”
I don’t agree with this assessment. It is something far more problematic to our culture. When faced with a choice or a challenge, we chose “whatever” instead of the discipline of intentionality and the boundaries of accountability. In a culture that believes freedom means to do what I want when I want to do it and not have someone judging my choices, intentionality and accountability are unwelcome virtues.
Christians are sometimes guilty of embracing the culture of whatever hiding their lack of planning or their lack of going deeper. They don’t say “whatever” but they claim that they are following the Spirit. It’s as if God has no plan, no design, no specifically desired outcomes. In this context, God gets blamed for a whole bunch of nonsense. It’s hard to find a whatever mentality in Jesus’ words, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Counting the cost says there is a cost worth paying. Something that has a cost implies intrinsic value. Having a value means that it can also be squandered.
“Whatever” devalues both the object of value, but it also devalues the person making the statement. Whatever says, “I don’t matter, so whatever happens must be permitted to happen.”
Helen Keller’s parents, upon her birth with her blindness and other handicaps did not say, “Whatever.” The Quakers and others who founded and operated the Underground Railroad before the Civil War did not simply look at the horrid plight of the Negro in the South and blithely declare, “Whatever.” We did not watch the unfolding tragedy following last January’s earthquake and turn aside our eyes and hearts with “whatever.”
John F. Kennedy once famously declared, “Some people look at thinks as they are and say “why?” I look at things as they could be and say, ‘Why not?’ Note – not, whatever. People often ask why to lament their state instead of initiating change. The why question can be a form of whatever if we do not use what we learn to change what is.
Christians understand that everything they do has eternal significance and the potential for life-changing impact. As authentic disciples we would never embrace the uncaring, self-centered apathy of whatever!
(C) 2010 by Stephen L Dunn