Bad consistency leads to non-sequiturs
- Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - January 18, 2016 - 9:00am

It's good to be consistent, but we need also to be aware of its limits and dangers. This significant ingredient of great virtues like fidelity, loyalty, perseverance has to be understood well, and regarded as something alive and dynamic, not dead and frozen.

The other day, my sister texted me an amusing anecdote of our one-year-old grandnephew who is staying with her. The active little boy likes to go around the house barefooted. And my sister thought it was time he learns to wear slippers. The kid was not quite happy with this development, judging from his face, but obviously he followed what was told him.

Then one day, my sister invited the boy to pray with her in front of the image of the Holy Family-her way of teaching the boy how to pray as early as possible. That was when the tyke, after looking closely at the image, told my sister in his childish mutter that the baby Jesus has no slippers, as if saying that there is some inconsistency here. My sister then was at a loss as to what to say.

She, in jest, asked me what to do in this situation. So I also jokingly told her that she better dig up her notes in Logic and answer the boy properly. It would be good, I told her with mock severity, that at his tender age of one, he starts to use his little coconut correctly, and be familiar with the different fallacies that we all can fall into.

But seriously now, I think that this kind of anecdote is also played out in today's adult world often, except that this time, the implications are disturbing and worrying. Many people nowadays understand consistency as being rigid and monolithic in ways and expressions, rather than being faithful to the spirit.

We usually brand this kind of people as "conservative" as opposed to the "liberals," "rightist" as opposed to the "leftists," "strict" as opposed to the "lax." These labels, of course, have a point to say, but should not be taken too seriously since they often miss the crux of whatever issue is discussed.

Just the same, this kind of people tends to fail to distinguish between what is essential and what is incidental, or between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. They are at a loss as to what should remain permanent, never changing, and what can and should change. And even in those elements that should not change, they fail to realize that these have to be in a dynamic state, not inert.

What seems to be most important to them is that they are convinced they possess what they consider to be the truth, but holding it in an exclusive manner, not inclusive. Everyone else has to agree with them, or else they would be regarded to be in error. Obviously, there will be people who are right or wrong in a given issue, but this difference is not reason for one to be uncharitable.

Anyway, what usually happens with people who give primordial place to consistency without bothering to ground their consistency properly, i.e., with God who is full of charity, understanding, and mercy, end up living in their own world, stuck in a certain age and culture, unable to flow with the times.

They lack the power of open-mindedness, adaptability, creativity and versatility. They fail to consider the different circumstances and conditions accompanying the same event. Their speech and behavior are often repetitive and predictable, with traces of obsession and bitterness.

If they want to be funny, if only for a change, the humor is often laced with sarcasm and irony. If they want to appear nice, they can just put on an appearance of civility and all kinds of formalism.

We have to learn to distinguish between good consistency and bad consistency. The former is more a matter of intention, motivation, zeal and drive, all springing from one's love for God and others, It can avail of a great variety of concrete expressions and manifestations, depending on the circumstances.

The latter is stuck more in a particular mode of action, quite restrictive and exclusive in its expressions and manifestations. Its intention and motivation would depend largely on one's own idea, and not God's, of what is good and evil, what is right and wrong. It highly subjective, rather than objective.

It's in this bad kind of consistency that many non-sequiturs can arise. The conclusions and consequences it makes are often derived from false premises, or from relative and inadequate premises that are considered absolute and universal in scope.

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