The Purple Shirt Theory

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Maybe Bruce Banner will get a pass since he's a fictional character. Maybe actor Mark Ruffalo is going to burn for this. I don't know. But isn't it worth trying to figure it out?
Maybe Bruce Banner will get a pass since he’s a fictional character. Maybe actor Mark Ruffalo is going to burn for this grave offense. I don’t know. But isn’t it worth trying to figure out?

Is there a God?

That’s not something I ever asked myself growing up because I was raised in a pretty religious household and pretty much only knew other religious people in my small Ohio town.

I never asked it until I was older, divorced and felt like dying.

It’s a question that makes us feel something on the inside. Maybe comfort. Maybe discomfort. Most of us don’t talk about it because it has become impolite to talk about such things. Some people will kill you if you don’t believe what they believe. Others will hate you.

But you’re safe here.

I won’t kill you.

I won’t hate you.

I just want to tell you about the Purple Shirt Theory, because I think it’s interesting.

Relativism n. – the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

I’m guilty of engaging in relativism from time to time. It’s one of the ways I justify some bad thing I’ve done, or justify not doing some good thing I should be doing. I think everyone does it once in a while.

We think: Well at least I’m not like [insert person you think sucks here]! What an asshole!

And all the sudden we feel better about the times we were assholes because it was less assholey than the times that suckier person over there was.

I’m Catholic.

There are a lot of rules and frankly, I’m not the best Catholic in the world. I don’t mean I might be second place, either. I mean, I’m probably in like 118 millionth place.

The reasons I’m not a great Catholic generally revolve around sex and drinking, which is likely the reason most people aren’t great at being one.

Here’s what people like me do. We look around at the world and we see all the people who are bigger assholes than we are. (Which might not even be true. We just think it is.)

Guys are married and their wives are pissed at them, but sometimes they think: At least I’m not like Roger! That guy cheats on his wife all the time! At least I’m not like Larry! That guy gambles his paycheck every week! At least I’m not like Freddy! That guy gets drunk every night! At least I’m not like Michael! That guy hits his wife and kids!

And because we don’t cheat, and we don’t gamble away our savings, and we don’t drink excessively, and we don’t physically abuse anyone, all the sudden we feel morally outraged because our wives or whoever are criticizing us about something. And it could be so much worse! we think. They should be grateful!

Because we’re getting a C on our report card while other people are getting Ds and Fs, we sometimes feel like we’re doing a good job.

It’s because people like to lie to themselves in order to feel better and sleep at night. I’ve done that before.

Getting Cs isn’t so bad!

It kind of is. C grades are shitty.

There is much debate about what’s right and what’s wrong. People disagree all the time about what is okay and not okay to do. It’s at the very heart of the cultural and political wars being waged globally.

I don’t know what’s right.

I don’t know what’s wrong.

I only know how certain things make me feel. I know some things seem okay to me. And some things do not. And that’s how I decide for myself.

And this is the part where it gets scary.

The Search for Truth

The following is indisputable: SOMETHING is true.

What I mean by that is, if you knew everything there was to know, you would know all of the true things from all of the false things. And for the purpose of this conversation, I’m mostly talking about what’s good or bad, or right or wrong. No ambiguity. No guessing.

There are people—many of them—who believe everyone gets to decide for themselves what’s right and wrong. That’s relativism. And I promise I’m as guilty of practicing it as anyone.

But what I’m absolutely sure of is that SOMETHING is true. Something is right. Something is real.

And that anyone on a quest to live the best, most-fulfilled life possible is OBLIGATED to seek it. We must seek truth. 

The Purple Shirt Theory

There either is a God. Or there isn’t. If there is no creator and everything is random and there is no such thing as right or wrong, then life is meaningless.

The Purple Shirt Theory only matters for people who believe in God, or believe it’s possible there is a divine creator or supreme being that started this whole life thing.

It goes like this:

IF you believe in God, then you believe there is an all-powerful creator who made the universe. Yahweh. The Boss. The Artist.

Ergo, what we think or feel or believe doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is whatever the facts are. Whatever the truth is.

If God is true and God exists, then God makes the rules.

Sometimes, humans say that God made some rules and I don’t always agree with them. About things I should or shouldn’t do. About things I should or shouldn’t say. About who people choose to love and live with.

And we argue and we bicker, and maybe some of us are right, or maybe all of us are wrong.

I just think it’s REALLY important to always keep the truth in mind.

And the truth is this: IF there is a God. God makes the rules. Not us. Not the ants.

And no matter how unreasonable or incorrect or unfair we consider a rule or law or truth to be, our feelings and opinions on the matter mean precisely dick.

There is truth. Something is true. Something is certain. Something is real.

And it might be (it might!) that God says the greatest sin or moral crime you can commit is: Wearing a purple shirt.

We think it’s silly. OF COURSE it’s okay to wear a purple shirt! we all think. It doesn’t make sense to me that God would punish me for that! If that’s the kind of God he/she/it is, I don’t want to know him/her/it anyway!!!

We’ve all heard, said or thought that.

But we’re wrong—dead wrong—every time we resort to our feelings and opinions to justify an action or belief.

If life has no meaning… then I guess life has no meaning, and this is the most-pointless thing I’ve ever written.

But maybe it does have meaning.

Because SOMETHING is true.

We are wise to pursue whatever the truth is. We are foolish to not.

Maybe it’s okay to wear purple shirts. I think it probably is. But I wonder what the truth is.

Because maybe it’s not.

24 thoughts on “The Purple Shirt Theory”

    1. I didn’t get into specifics because I try really hard to not offend people.

      So let’s use something like marijuana.

      People think: It’s just like alcohol and it grows out of the ground! I never hurt anyone when I use it! How it can it be wrong!?!?

      I’ve made those very same points before.

      All this post is saying, is that’s a bullshit argument. It’s either okay or not okay to smoke pot (morally). What we think is irrelevant to whatever the truth is.

      I just want to encourage more people to admit that they don’t know anything and that it’s okay, and that trying to figure it out is a worthy endeavor.

      1. completelyinthedark

        OK that’s a good analogy. Timely, since I just learned from my bro that his spouse has a gambling addiction, is refusing counseling and they’re likely headed toward divorce. And they have 3 kids. Maybe her argument is “at least gambling is not heroin addiction!” I don’t know. But any behavior that detracts from the welfare of your family, well, how “correct” can that behavior be? Yes, trying to figure out the right thing to do IS a worthy endeavor. 🙂

      2. Gotta disagree on this one. It’s morally okay to smoke pot if it prevents you from having debilitating seizures every half hour. It’s immoral if you smoke it only so you can give your 18 month old son a contact high (or something like that). And then there’s folks that smoke it for recreation. three extremes. And even then, who are we to say baby boy doesn’t deserve to get the munchies now and then too? =)

        My point is, it’s the ambiguity that should make more people admit that they don’t know anything (or at least, they don’t know EVERYTHING or even their “absolutes” (“yes there is a God, and you should have your head cut off with a chainsaw if you don’t believe”). The more people recognize that on almost everything, there is ambiguity, that becomes the truth and we become much more humble. Then maybe, just maybe, we can start seeking what’s right for ourselves, and for our fellow man, in a range that lies within that ambiguity.

        Or… fetch me my chain sharpener and bar oil!

  1. Great post. Your, “I’m not as bad as the other guy so I’m okay” analogy reminds me of what I’m always saying, God doesn’t accept plea bargains. We’re not all being graded on a curve here.

    Just one small point however, “And no matter how unreasonable or incorrect or unfair we consider a rule or law or truth to be, our feelings and opinions on the matter mean precisely dick.”

    I understand what you are saying, but I think our feelings and opinions matter a great deal to God. There can be huge benefits to examining why we feel something is unfair, because that speaks to the nature of who we are, to our own stories. God is not a dictator who hands down arbitrary rules, He is a loving God trying to make our lives easier, not unlike a parent does with a child.

    1. I, too, believe in a benevolent God.

      I was only trying to make one point with this post: Something is true. And I don’t know what it is, but I feel obligated to figure it out.

      We all think or believe something.

      I just think it’s critical we all keep in the back of our minds the fact that whatever is true is true regardless of what we think or believe.

  2. If you believe that Jesus is God’s son and he died on the cross for your sins- he never asks us to be good enough or wear or not wear purple- all we must do is realize we are nothing without him but everything through Christ. In believing this very simple fact, we are heirs to the throne, and a child of the most high God who loves us. God is a lot less religious than people give him credit for. He loves all of us and it grieves his heart when we his children make decisions that negatively impact our lives or other people’s lives. The truth is that God wants us to enjoy life. Sin is what separates us from God. Sin is not getting Botox, or wearing purple. In dying on the cross Jesus bridged the gap and paid for all our sins. By acknowledging this in your heart there is a freedom that comes from knowing you don’t ever have to be good enough- being perfect is simply impossible- we are only human after all. The wonderful news is that Jesus paid the debt in full. It’s so refreshingly simple that so many people totally miss it. This is what I mean by saying “I am nothing without Christ, but everything through him”. I am special, I am made in God’s image, I am his… And so are you if you ask him to come into your heart and forgive your sins.

    1. At the risk of offending my Christian brethren, I avoid writing so micro as to only include people who practice the same faith as me.

      It’s because, despite my affinity for Christian principles (and the very sacred beliefs we hold about Jesus), I refuse to write in such a way, or believe, that people of other faiths can’t also live a good, righteous life.

      Arguing about the specifics of individual faiths is for philosophers and theologians.


      I just want people to ask themselves hard questions. Thinking is good.

      Thank you so much for reading.

  3. Controversial subject! I too was raised a Catholic but a conflicted one. My mother is very religious, as are my extended family, grandparents,etc and I went to all-girl Catholic schools…but my father is an atheist. We don’t really talk about that but I guess it gave me the knowledge growing up that not everyone believes. I’d consider myself unsure. I just don’t know. And, yes, I’m totally fine with not knowing. But I don’t believe that life is meaningless or that right or wrong don’t matter if God doesn’t exist. I think, irrespective of God, basic compassion and humanity are necessary and it’s those qualities that make us ultimately good or bad people. I try to live by the main lesson from the Ten Commandments as I see it – treat others as you want them to treat you. Honestly that’s what it boils down to for me. And possibly that’s wrong and I’ll end up in hell for all eternity but right now I’m doing the best I can and that’s all I personally expect from myself, or anyone – and because I don’t know what’s true or not, that’s fine with me,

    1. Not really! The fact that something is true and pretty much none of us know what that is, isn’t really a debatable thing. We just all like to forget it. Me, more than most.

      Like you, I believe that people who try really hard are counted among the “good.”

      I just also like to keep in mind that what I believe will never really matter, unless it happens to also be true.

      1. Whereas i think it is debatable – i think believing in a creator is the only thing that implies that there is a truth. I think, taking God out of the equation, right/wrong/good/bad are decided by societal norms and our perception of that.
        However, if you’re referring to the fact that either there is/isn’t a creator, i agree – one of those is certainly true but, since we have no way to know irrefutably, its up to each individual to decide whats right and wrong and to live in a way we can be proud of.

        1. Even in the absence of God, something is true. Something is the way it is.

          Laws of nature exist no matter what.

          Facts exist no matter what.

          Let’s not make it about God. Let’s make it about extraterrestrials.

          Some people believe in intelligent life on other planets. Some people don’t.

          One of them is right. Something is true. Even though neither group knows for sure.

          That said. You’re absolutely correct in that the entire point of this post was a God conversation, and is totally wasted on a person convinced there isn’t one.

          I hope you’re having a good day over there!

          1. Ya see i’m not convinced there isn’t one. I absolutely don’t know. I just feel that whether there is or isn’t, in the absence of knowing we do the best we can. Thats all!

          2. I think it’s unreasonable to demand more than someone’s best, honest effort.

            I couldn’t agree more.

  4. Weighty subject isn’t it? Especially when trying not to offend anyone. Here is the the terrible thing about this subject, most if not all the major religions of the world have one core ‘truth’; love your neighbor. We don’t do that very well. They also have another core ‘truth’, don’t kill, murder. Yeah, we pretty much fail at that one also. The rest of the rules? They swing around, hit a few folks, mostly women and those weaker than whoever was in charge when the rules were written (funny how that works).

    Oddly, the religions of the God you are talking about well they are all related. When I say related, I mean they all trace their roots down from the same tree. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all branches of the same tree. In fact Christians and Muslims are directly related. Hard to argue all those begats.

    At the end of the day, compassion, empathy, caring for those weaker than ourselves, charity; no matter the God we pray to I suspect that is what we are intended to do. The rest? That is simply a power struggle.

    1. Yeah, the trying not to offend people thing is a real bitch.

      I agree strongly with virtually everything you’ve written here. I try really hard to keep my judgments and opinions limited to only the things about which I feel certain.

      And that’s not very many things. 🙂

  5. Everyone here (Outside of Christelle) are talking about rules. Rules are about religion. God is not about rules as much as grace. Even really strong Christians have a hard time separating rules from God. But this debate keeps ending at being the best person we can be (with our fingers crossed that it will all work itself out in the end) BUT when we fully embrace that we cannot follow enough rules to be nice enough for that to happen, we are freed to live under the blood of the cross. I hope these few posts you write stir in people’s souls to go deeper into understanding grace and freedom and hope. It’s a really beautiful thing.

  6. Pingback: Something About the Gay Marriage Ruling Doesn’t Feel Right | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  7. … And if you can never know the truth? As is the case in so much of pursuing bigger answers or moral perfection… How do you then make choices? Surely you should do so from your beliefs and in that case your beliefs do matter. They matter enough to affect the course of your history.
    That may not be enough for a deity. You may think you’ll have to answer to said higher being later. Can that God blame you for choosing the wrong religion? The wrong world view? – When it was the one you were provided in the absence of knowing the truth.
    If you’re going to be judged later it matters whether Purple shirts are okay, but the only thing you have to guide you is your belief. Sooo what then?


  8. “Only the truth will set you Free”. Reading the Bible helps a lot. Just be careful of picking a Bible to read, for there’s a lot that was translated differently and some added things not really written by the original writer of the scriptures. You must set aside temporarily all the knowledge you acquired. Read it from Genesis to Revelation. Don’t interpret the words, let it in to your heart.

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