This morning, reading Eric Fromm’s The pathology of Normalcy I was challenged by a couple things. One, Fromm thinks humans are inherently lazy. Okay, that wasn’t so hard to accept. Two, he says that it is impossible for human beings to be happy when society has reduced him to a consumer. Our purely materialistic social norms lead us away from the possibility of significance. He wrote this in 1953.
But here’s the big one, that normal is defined by society. Whatever man or woman is needed to bolster society’s will is the ideal that we subconsciously become. We call the person who deviates from that system mentally unstable or abnormal.
He takes it a step further. He points out that the data is conclusive that the wealthier and more developed a country is, the more mental problems like schizophrenia and anxiety disorders occur, the more sick people there are. This is not just because a developing country doesn’t keep good records. It is based on academic field research.
The first thing I thought about when I read this was Jesus. He spent his life on earth with social misfits. One of the many accusations that the religious establishment threw at him is that he associated with prostitutes, ate with gluttons, and spent his days with alcohaul drinking sinners. Further, Jesus is the least normal person in the history of the world. He said he was God. This is why CS Lewis boils Jesus down to a trilemma: “Jesus is either Lord, liar, or lunatic.”
To further explore these thoughts today, I re-read what I think is one of the most powerful revolutionary verses in the bible.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NLT