Jerold’s knees buckled as he is hit squarely on the face. Pulling himself up off the ground, Jerold faces his attackers. Again, he is struck with brutal punches. He collapses to the ground as blood pours from his nose and mouth. Crawling toward his attackers, he is kicked until he drifts into unconsciousness.
Minutes later, Jerold is awakened with some smelling sauce. After being helped off the floor, he sticks out his hand and thanks his attackers. Jerold has just been initiated into a gang. The initiation for this particular gang is to allow others to beat you while you put up no defense. Afterwards, you must thank those who have just beaten you.
Why would a person go through something like this? There are many reasons why a person joins a gang, but it usually has something to do with a lack of love and acceptance at home. Jerold said he joined the gang because he wanted to be part of a "family."
As with most gangs, Jerold had to vow total unconditional loyalty to the gang. He can never leave the gang and he has to defend it with his life. The ironic thing about this commitment is if he had lived only two blocks away, he would have joined a gang that is the enemy of the gang he just joined. He would have made vows to destroy the gang he had just joined.
Loyalty is often a result of circumstances, not a commitment to principles. Think about the loyalty of a dog; he is loyal to whoever happens to be his master. If a policeman were his master, he would be loyal to the policeman and would probably spend his life helping the policeman hunt down criminals. If a criminal were his master, the same dog would be loyal to the criminal and would probably be used to help defend criminal activities.
The reason we have this contradiction is because this type of commitment is usually based on blind loyalty. Jerold did not join the gang because he has strong convictions about their by-laws or he felt the people who lived two blocks down were inherently evil. Rather, he joined the gang because they treated him like "family."
There is nothing wrong with being passionately devoted to something, but it is important to carefully evaluate the object of your devotion. A case in point is the devotion some people have for their Macintosh computer. There are very few products that have developed such a passionate following. These people are passionately devoted and committed to Apple Corporation. I believe if communism had such a devoted following, the world would now be communist.
Recently, a person wanted to buy a computer for her new Pfaff sewing machine so she posted a question on the Internet. She asked which computer would be better for her situation: a Mac or a PC. I was surprised by the intensity of the initial responses. The very first emails were Mac users who said that the Mac was the only choice for an "intelligent person." Instead of clearly detailing the advantages of the Mac, they bitterly condemned the "IBM World." The letters did not contain a comparison of Mac’s features versus IBM’s features, it was simply an us against them argument.
Within a day there had been several dozen posting. About 80% of the postings were from Mac users. There was such passion and anger in these postings. In fact, the angrier some of the people became, the more spelling and grammatical errors they made. These postings became so rude that the site’s administrator had to take them off the site.
I realize the rude and uncivilized behavior of these Mac users is not a fair representation of all Mac users. (The IBM world also has it share of rude and obnoxious people.) I do feel, however, the passion and devotion they have shown to the Mac is typical of most Mac users. I would hate to be walking down a dark alley with an IBM laptop and run across some Mac users. (Just kidding.)
I would like to point out there is nothing wrong with passion and devotion. There is nothing wrong with having a strong appreciation of quality equipment. The appreciation, however, should be for the quality and craftsmanship and not the actual brand name of the machine. I have to believe that if the quality of the Mac were to diminish greatly, the Mac users would probably still be as passionately devoted to the Mac as they were before.
I bring this issue up because many people are devoted to their religion (or denomination) with the same blind loyalty. Their loyalty to their religion is not based on a careful systematic study of their religion’s plan of salvation. Rather, it is usually based on something more superficial.
Some people are in their religion because their parents were in that religion. Others are in their religion because the people are friendly and make them feel at home. Others, yet, are in their religion because when they were going through their darkest hour, a person from this religion came to their aid. Many people have said, "I don’t think it really matters that much what religion you are in as long as you believe in a God and sincerely try to do your best."
It is easy for us to see the dangers of blind loyalty to a gang. It is more difficult, however, for us to see the danger of blind loyalty to our religion. Yet, what is more important? Shouldn’t our choice of religion be based on a careful study? I challenge you to take a close look at what you believe and ask yourself why do you believe it.
Other Chapters in this Section
Copyright © 1987 -2004 Michael Bronson | Site Design by Imagination 2 Reality