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Philosophical Ketchup

Transcript of an Ancient Faith Radio podcast

Source: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/stevethebuilder/philosophical_ketchup

The gospel of relativism is preached everywhere, at all times, and by all. It shows up in the most inconspicuous and subversive places.


I’m not a fan of the media. I don’t mean media as a communication device even though I wonder if the days of dial telephones and snail mail were truly the good old days… I mean media as the conglomeration of corporations and people creating all manners of entertainment and everything related to that industry.  Basically, I believe that the media in general is the education department of the demon of the spirit of the age.  We are constantly indoctrinated with post-modernism, relativism and humanism through movies, television, radio, music, art, pop religion and magazines.  Nothing is merely entertainment, nor is anything merely a program, a song, or even a commercial break.  Nothing is created out of a vacuum or accidentally… it comes from some “place” even if the creators are unaware of that place. 

In a sense I’m not really qualified to critique the media.  I grew up not watching TV and a lot of movies, and I still don’t.  I rarely read a magazine except when I’m waiting for an oil change or a root canal.  The last thing I remember on TV is basically Captain Kangaroo, The Flintstones, Lunch with Soupy Sales and the wonderful world of Disney.  So when I see glimpses of some crime drama or sit com or movie the change in what is considered normal and acceptable for network television or PG13 viewing is pretty glaring.  What was rated X at the movies when I was a teenager is now on prime time TV.  So in another sense I think I’m immanently qualified to critique the media because I haven’t been a frog in the water slowly being boiled to death but not noticing the change for the last 48 years.  But more than that, when the first thing you remember when you are watching TV or listening to the media is Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the sake of the fallen world and all its manifestations, the spirit of the age and the deceptions of the media are also pretty glaring. 

The media has slowly desensitized us to the grossness of sin and debauchery.  Torture, rape, adultery, murder…you name the lowest act a human being can sink to and it passes for entertainment now.  Nothing is left to the imagination, in fact the media prides itself on portraying things most of us could never even imagine. 

One of the things that has occurred to me lately is that the microcosm of the media is advertising.  It takes the culture, the pop philosophies and psychologies, human motivations and desires that drive the greater entertainment industry and distills them down to 30 second spots and single phrase slogans.  Advertisers spend millions of dollars doing market and psychological research to discover what will motivate people to buy a client’s stuff.  More often than not it is not only the merit of the product, but a feeling or status or aura they can create around the product that appeals to a human desire.  There is even a method and purpose to putting commercials and ads in certain TV programs and magazines because of the demographics of the viewers.  It is all a carefully targeted and orchestrated appeal, much like choosing specific bait to catch a certain fish in a lake.

Advertising is nothing new.  It is merely a tool to influence you to buy a product by an enticement of some kind.  Satan ran the first ad agency in Eden and ALL advertising has used the same three fundamental appeals since then:  the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Advertising taps into the fallen order’s core beliefs, the current philosophical mindsets and cultural agendas. Campaigns, slogans and “tag lines” are not created in a vacuum, they are well researched, finely tuned and tested. They are not innocuous and without meaning or influence.  They invariably speak to a human weakness but twist it to make it sound like a virtue:

Nike’s “Just do it”:    Oh yeah…Do we really want a world in which no one has any impulse control and no one considers the consequences of their actions?  What kid in trouble hasn’t said, “I dunno…I just did it….”?  Aren’t we supposed to grow out of that?

Advertising also appeals to the passions.  I was following a Sparklett’s Water truck on the freeway yesterday. The poster on the back side said “The taste you deserve without the calories!

Ummmm…. “The taste you deserve”? Who DESERVES taste??? And why?

The sense of of entitlement is one of the latest narcissistic characteristics of an unabashedly self absorbed culture that advertisers are tapping in to. TV, radio and print ads tell you that you deserve a break, pampering, peace of mind, pleasure in unlimited and boundless quantities, to have bill collectors leave you alone, and yes, even water that has flavor and won’t make you fat.

Why do you deserve all that? Simple. Just because you exist.

But not really. You don’t deserve it, you feel entitled to it. Advertisers are merely schmoozing your self absorption to separate you from your money (I know that’s news to many of you… sorry to burst your bubble). But if you’re oblivious and narcissistic enough to believe what they are telling you, you deserve to be taken and they deserve to get your money. The problem is, as much as we have we believe it is normative and whatever more is added quickly becomes what we are entitled to.

I dunno… whenever I see people upset because they didn’t get what they think they’re entitled to it just confirms my belief that Entitlement is its own hell.

Anyway, we’ve all heard Burger King’s “Have it your way and the ubiquitous “Indulge yourself” attached to so many products from ice cream to spa treatments,:  Do I even need to say anything about this?

Salem radio strikes to the heart of the egomania of the contentious and self appointed gate keepers:  “Where your opinion counts”:  Oh SURE it does… for arbitron ratings which translate into more advertising dollars.  BUT… as a local car dealer tells me every morning:  “It's all about you”,

I could go on and on and on but the common thread is “the spirit of the age” and the fallen human being’s self centeredness.  We are constantly bombarded with catch phrases that reinforce secular humanism, relativism, post modernism, narcissism, hedonism, entitlement, and selfishness.  If you look at ad copy and listen to the tag lines of commercials critically, you’ll begin to see what is shaping our minds.  We are immersed in media that ministers to our short attention spans with sound bites, catchy phrases and slogans.  For the most part we are uncritical consumers of the constant menu of godless philosophy laid before us by the media.

SO, …I’m eating supper and reach for the KETCHUP… and there….On my supper table…  On the KETCHUP bottle…on the lowly, common, unglamorous, ordinary, unpretentious, homely KETCHUP is a billboard for the gospel of relativism and humanism: “YOU BE THE JUDGE” is in capital letters on the label. 

OK, sure, its just a contest, its just an advertising gimmick… but what does it say to you and teach your children every time you pick it up?  YOU are the arbiter, you are the definer of reality, you alone are the discerner of all things …including ketchup….. yes, it tells you what you want to hear:  you are god ( with a small g…)

“You be the judge” is exactly what the Serpent tempted Adam and Eve with: “You will be like God, knowing good from evil”.  My ketchup bottle tempts me to the same lie:   *I* am the judge

Is my ketchup bottle that far removed from the serpent and the apple? (OK…I know it wasn’t an apple…it very well might have been a tomato.) Am I over reacting?  Of course I think not … otherwise I wouldn’t be wasting my time recording this.  The bottom line is, both are lies feeding our human ego, and insofar as we believe them and live according to them we are less than truly human.

Oh, come on, Steve…its JUST KETCHUP!! How much influence can ketchup have? 

The reality is, Words are important.  With a word Jesus casts out demons. The word of faith saves us.  God’s words do not return to Him empty.  By your words you are judged.  A word can heal or kill.  Words mean something. No word is empty (and for that matter neither is well placed silence)… And just because there are very few words and they are subtle and placed in an inconspicuous place makes them even more seditious and dangerous. 

The phrase on the ketchup bottle was not “Ketchup tasting Contest!” It was a relativistic humanist platitude that is shoved down the throats of millions of people every day in media. (Perhaps I should rephrase that…millions of people open their mouths and swallow it willingly because they don’t have the discernment to see what they are being fed is philosophical poison ) 

“You be the judge” on a ketchup bottle…Is it a small thing? Sure, in isolation. But it is not an isolated message, it is THE message of the age broadcast in small doses in hundreds of ways that there is no truth except what you think it is…. And if you load enough pennies in a sack eventually it will weigh enough to crush someone.

I have a lot more to say about this but I’m out of time today.  Next week:

  • Moral relativism:  should we return to boiling people in oil for their philosophy?

  • What is truth?

  • A man who thought he was a rabbit.

  • 1959 Cadillacs

  • And ten things you can’t say as a humanistic relativist.


************ Part 2 ************

In the previous rant… ummm, podcast…. I talked about the gospel of relativism and how it is spread through the media, mostly blatantly but often subtly and inconspicuously.  I remember a few years ago listening to a local talk radio station and it dawned on me across the day that ALL of the hosts would encourage callers by saying “How do you FEEEEL about that….”  .  Not once in a day would a program host say… “What do you think…” it was ALWAYS how do you feel.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist by a long shot, but it certainly seemed that this was a result of a directive, training or some kind of manual for talk show hosts on this particular station.  Is there a real philosophical difference between “How do you feel” and “What do you think”?  In reality there is, but according to the vague anthropology of our culture there isn’t a difference, the two are definitionally virtually synonymous.  And in practice for the most part, we are indeed led by our emotions and not our reason.  Debby Boone’s old lyrics and the thousands of variations on them “How can it be wrong when it feels so right…”  is an anthropological statement that defines the human person and how we process reality. 

One of the issues in our culture is that we don’t have open debate and intelligent dialogue about things as basic as a view of the human person, metaphysics and the universe.  We can discuss the bail out, taxes, the airlines checked baggage charges, interest rates… we can debate and scream all day at each other about anything in “particular” but we can’t discuss everything “in general”.  We’re willing to hear and debate people’s opinions on “some things” but not on “everything”, which is what is really important because how we define the universe will determine how we define what is and isn’t an issue and what should or can be done about them.

There used to be heretics in the world, now there are merely personal feelings about things. Heretics can only exist where there is dogma, and in former times people were burned at the stake for a wrong philosophy.  Of course we’re much more enlightened than that now and no longer boil people in oil for heretical beliefs, but the issue is not so much whether we should use the cauldron of oil as a penalty, it is how we have done away with the notion of “heresy”. 

GK Chesterton in “Orthodoxy” said, There is only one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy. This is the habit of saying his philosophy does not matter.  Politeness, intellectual laziness, and lack of willingness to openly explore and address the consequences of one’s philosophy has done to the world what the Inquisition, Crusades, witch hunts, the stocks, the stake and the cauldron could not do: silence the heretics.

The fact of the matter is we are living in a neo-pagan world. The pagan is thought of as a person without religion, it is actually a person with several religions and most of them have at the center themselves as their god. The moral relativist is the modern pagan, usually a person who claims to have either no religion but is “spiritual”. The New Age spirituality is a modern expression of paganism that, to its discredit, has an even fuzzier definition of God and the universe than true ancient pagans did.  The ancient pagans at least had gods who were in control of various aspects of creation and the human being’s behavior even if it meant sacrificing virgins or having a fertility ritual in the fields at the spring equinox.  The modern pagans have no gods but themselves because they are too enlightened, spiritually highly evolved, and smart to believe in Pan, Bacchus or Zeus…but they go for wine, women and song without the whole “god thing” attached to it.

Modern paganism’s attraction is that it is vague and ambiguous enough that it allows its adherents to justify any behavior they want to in themselves or others with whom they happen to agree.  It also permits them to condemn anything that smacks of intolerance and judgmentalism….all in the name of being on a higher spiritual plane than everyone else caught up in ancient moralities that don’t apply to our modern advanced and enlightened age. 

Unfortunately for the modern pagan, truth is not ambiguous.  Truth is exclusive, it sets boundaries and defines things with precision.  Truth is, by its nature, intolerant of falsehood, vagueness and inclusivity of things contrary to it.  All of humanity and its endeavors including science, metaphysics, politics, and even social structures rely on a notion of exclusive, precise and concrete truth.  You don’t even want to buy gas without a concept of truth working at the gas pump…we don’t want Exxon to invoke tolerance and a notion of “your truth and my truth are just different” when it comes to paying the bill.

Someone can point out that what was thought to be true (like "the world is flat" or "Keanu Reeves can act"), has been demonstrated to be false, but that does not do away with the notion of truth, it just proves something was not true or was falsely believed to be true.  GK Chesterton says, if something is true it is true at all times and length of time has nothing to do with its veracity. Someone might say “Oh that was true for the ancients but not for us modern men”.  That is like saying something is true at 7 AM, but not true at 8:45.  And if something is false, it is false at noon and at suppertime. Time does not alter truth or falsehood.  .  I remember in the 60’s when Fletcher came out with his book on “the new morality”….someone said, that’s neither new, nor moral, it’s the same old nastiness that’s been around forever.  Who is right,  Fletcher or the preacher, depends on your definition of truth. 

So ultimately, “What is truth” is a valid question worthy of spending one’s life trying to answer.  “All truth is relative” or “Truth is what is true for you” are statements of intellectual laziness at best and philosophical lunacy at worst.

We hear people say all the time, “Well that’s true for you…” or some variation of it.  If we really held that thinking to the fire there’s a whole lot of discussion that couldn’t take place in any meaningful way.  Here’s 11 things that are pretty much off the table if someone REALLY believes in relativism.

1.  You cannot say “we HAVE to have tolerance for everyone’s points of view”, that would include the view of the intolerant person who wants to kill everyone who is tolerant.  Bernard Shaw once wrote: The golden rule is that there is no golden rule.  When the absolute is that there is no absolute then everything is permitted, including intolerance, whether we like it or not. 

2.  You cannot talk about “truth”. If we say “everything is an aspect of the truth” then we must admit we know what the truth IS, just as if a car collector says, “This is a bumper from a 1957 Cadillac”, he knows what a 57 Caddy is and one truly exists.  However, modern armchair philosophers will say “we can’t know truth”, only parts of it… then how can we know something is a PART of truth if we have no clue what TRUTH is? or if we claim there is no “absolute truth”.  It is like saying “this is a 57 Caddy bumper, but there is no such thing as a 57 Caddy.  (That would be too bad….)  It is fashionable to be “ignorant of absolute truth” and yet we claim to embrace “truth” where we find it.  It seems that if we are to find real truth somewhere or anywhere, we need to know MORE certainly what it looks like, not less, otherwise we have no clue what we are looking for or looking at…. We’d have no clue if we have a bumper from a Cadillac or a gas tank from a Pinto.

3.  Cannot talk of “progress”.  It is considered “dogmatic” to teach that a human being is intended to progress toward a divine image in which he is created, but “non-dogmatic” to teach that society needs to make progress for all human beings to attain personal fulfillment (whatever THAT means)!  Personal fulfillment is a dogma, and so is the notion of “progress”, which assumes that where we’ve been is less than or worse than where we should be going.  If there are no absolutes, then progress or regress or congress are all the same thing: pointless.

4.  Speaking of congress:  We cannot even talk about government and policy in a meaningful way.  Differences of opinion on the Wall Street/auto industry bail out and judgments on the ethical character of CEO’s who take billion dollar bonuses are pointless.  Who are we to push our middle class, Puritan, work ethic values on those who get wealthy in a way we can’t?  Why does the bailout even matter, and what difference does it make if all things are relative, there is no absolute good or evil to poverty or riches and how we got there?  We distrust a person with a different economic policy, but not one with a different view of good and evil, or of God, or of the nature of the material universe.

5. You cannot punish someone for doing wrong because good and evil are ultimately self defined.  However if truth is what YOU feel, if you just don’t like someone you can put him in boiling oil because wellll….it's not immoral, just painful to the other person, but who cares?  If we see someone torturing a puppy, we cannot say the person is evil, we cannot say stopping him is good.  If we apply relativism strictly, we can however say the puppy AND puppy’s pain matters to ME, but then we have to tolerate the fact that it doesn’t matter to the person who is enjoying torturing the animal. 

6. You cannot say “Thank you” and mean it, because there is no difference between “gimme that, wench” and “Please pass the ketchup, dear.”  But try it and see if it matters, you’ll have the whole night to lay awake and philosophize about “why am I sleeping on the couch with the dog”?

7.  You cannot say “excuse me” because no excuse is needed for anything we do, and nothing we do can be taken as offensive. And if it is, so what? Who cares except the person offended…and why should I care… unless I like sleeping with the dog….

8. We cannot talk about “rights” for oppressed people.  Blacks, gays, women, third world occupants or other religious groups may be labeled inferior by other groups who fancy themselves to be superior, but the label inferior has no meaning because there is not a standard of “superior”, they just are what they are.  “Rights”  and how they are treated doesn’t matter anyway because “equality” is a pointless status that has no objective meaning except what each person imagines it to be for themselves.

9.  You cannot say morality is based on what is useful to society, necessary for peace and order, or a combined agreement among members of a society because society, peace, order and agreement become the absolute criteria for good, and if a society decides to exterminate Jews, Muslims, Blacks or all men over 5 feet 8 with size 9 ½ triple E shoes because in some weird way they’ve decided it will make their society better, who can say no?

10.  You cannot say some societies need to evolve to higher standards of living, laws, or culture and social programs.  Female circumcision, child prostitution, slavery, rules of terror and genocide are all equally valid expressions of human nature and culture, after all rule by force and terror is universal. Changing the environment and structure of social systems has no point because all societies are equally right and equally expressing what is right for them and we have no right to judge or push our societal norms on them. 

11.  You cannot say, “Whoa, dude…that was cool”, or “Honeybuns, yer wonderful”, nor can you say, “that stinks”,  nor can you be proud when someone says “You’re the bomb”… well, of course you CAN say or do any of those things.  But in the end they are meaningless because they are merely someone’s pointless opinion at that moment, And they are meaningless because they have no reference to any objective reality or measure of “goodness, worth or beauty”, consequently praise has no real point for you except a fleeting moment of an illusion of pleasure.  But when you get down to it, the real pragmatics of relativism is that it is mostly used to fend off blame and responsibility…, you’ll never hear a relativist avoid praise. 

The relativist may claim a broader basis for his ideology and moral judgments like culture, societal norms and evolutionary desires embedded in our genes, all boiling down to some form of mechanistic materialism which dead ends in determinism,… but no matter how he gets there in his philosophical fog,  in the end it is about himself as the sole arbiter and judge of even those things.  Ultimately, there is no absolute standard beyond his own thoughts, experience and feelings. 

Indeed, “You are the judge” because in the end it is merely all a matter of opinion, and the only opinion that matters is your own as we are constantly reminded by radio, television, new age spirituality, the arts and even yes, even ketchup bottles.

I am reminded of a quote from “Platitudes Undone” where Holbrook Jackson writes: “No opinion matters finally: except your own.”

to which GK Chesterton replies: “...said the man who thought he was a rabbit.”

We now return you to your supper table and your regularly scheduled condiments.


Article published in English on: 27-10-2010.

Last update: 27-10-2010.