I don't want to spoil the show Breaking Bad for those who have not seen it, so I won't go into details. However, I don't think I need to worry about spoiling the show of our own lives to say that in more subtle and hopefully less heinous ways we all do what Walter White does in Breaking Bad.
We all do it—do what? Produce the purest form of crystal meth like Walter White does? No, I mean that, like Walter, we all engage at times in rationalization for the sake of self-preservation through the use of manipulation. We so readily rationalize the self-preservation of our careers or whatever else brings us a sense of meaning in terms of “Maslow's hierarchy of needs” through the manipulation of circumstances, people, facts or any other thing that proves useful.
It may not be crystal meth or the production of its purest form that motivates us and keeps us feeling alive and makes us high, but it is something. What is it? You and I may say we work late or study late or watch TV late for the sake of others, but do we? Or do we do it for ourselves? And we might even ask why we shouldn't do it for ourselves—what's wrong with it? Not as much from my vantage point if we don't rationalize it by saying we're doing what we do for world peace or God or family.
No matter how bad it is, no matter how many depths of bad you and I break through to, it is still much better to say we're producing crystal meth to get people high and ruin their lives to meet some individual need than to rationalize it by saying we're doing it for this or that deity, our country, our family, or posterity.
All too often we replace saving our “posterior” (rump) with saving “posterity.” It's not ultimately because the words sound similar, but because the latter sounds better. Still, the result from moving to replace the word smells worse. Let's just call that dishonest manipulative rationalizing move for the sake of self-preservation what it really is—excrement.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold. More information at Dr. Metzger’s work is available at paullouismetzger.com.