Very quickly the status symbols are changing. The way we live life is shaped by very powerful commanding motifs.
During the tail end of the 20th century we watched rapid and incredible wealth in America affirm the commanding motif of prosperity. It was understood in the accumulation of things. This is where our mind goes first when we hear the expression “status symbols.” Examples of such are wealth and possessions.
2. Business (“Busy-ness” as in being “busy,” not “corporate” necessarily; however, that case can be easily made as well.)
Shortly following, and having a brief reign, we watched the status symbol of prosperity share its throne with the status of being busy. We as a culture affirmed people who are busy or “important” by some arbitrary standard. It was understood in the accumulation of things to do. The reign of being busy still exists, but it cannot stand alone. It must stand with prosperity or popularity/influence. Examples of such are having to travel a lot, attend meetings, receiving lots of mail, e-mail, phone calls, etc.
3. Influence (Popularity)
Mentioned in number two is the status symbol of being popular or influential. It is impossible to separate these two. One must recognize that if culture knows of an individual, by necessity, that individual has tremendous influence. Popularity, by virtue of the shallow heart of culture, is inextricably linked also with prosperity. For example, we would be hard-pressed to name a hip-hop video that isn’t dripping in expensive cars, girls, and gold (even if these things were rented for the video shoot).
It is understood very simply as being a leader (regardless of whether or not they are a leader). They are in front and people follow them. They speak and people agree. In reality, followers are affirming themselves when they affirm their influences, not someone else. They are making a statement about themselves, not someone else.
One example of the status of influence is the obsession with associating ourselves with someone that we find interesting and distancing ourselves from those we find boring.
4. Goodness: As in, “He was a good person.”
Of the two newest status symbols, the first is that of being good. Our society is intolerant of intolerance. Good is broadly defined as someone who nods a lot. The intolerant people are not good because they are often shaking their head. “Good” is defined by an arbitrary collective standard in much the same way culture chooses influencers. We affirm ourselves when we determine what defines “good.” Any attitude or stance that says what is popular and condemns what is unpopular will award that person with the title of being a “good person.” If it doesn’t harm anyone, then it cannot be bad.
The new commanding motif of our society is happiness. The rule is that everyone deserves to be happy. The law of happiness governs and dominates our behavior. It is understood in the individual placing themselves in the absolute center of any decision. Examples of such are abortion, divorce, and homosexuality. We have a right to make our own decisions and do what we want, as long as we are happy. We can say “yes” to anything as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. It can be understood by any statement that begins with the phrase, “I have a right to . . . ” These convictions come from an arbitrary standard that is constantly shifting. It is the result of constantly comparing and contrasting ourselves with others in our culture, while at the same time believing that I am not happy, but someone else is. One day, I will also be happy.
The new status symbols are tragic in that when they are played out–they lead to several errors. The convictions of society are often logically fallacious–often referred to as Ad Populum:
(Latin: “appeal to the people”) which concludes that a proposition is true because many or all people believe it; it alleges that “If many believe so, it is so.”
It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon effect, the spreading of various religious beliefs, and of the Chinese proverb “three men make a tiger” (ad populum: from Wiki).
I personally believe that the rock upon which convictions must be made is Christ. This Rock does not shift. He has all status. I affirm him as good, and I affirm the sinfulness of my flesh. In doing so, I affirm myself as accepted only when I affirm Him as alone righteous. I affirm that I am someone who has been given authority, but who must also submit under His authority. He has rights, I surrender mine to Him. He has sovereign free-will, I do not. He has true life, I lay mine down. I am hidden in Christ. I am dead. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20), and not for my own glory, but His. In doing so, I am made complete. I am made holy.