So Friday morning I open my devotional email and it starts this way:
One of the canonical truths of American culture is that each person has the right to determine what’s best for one’s own life. In fact, we are taught to believe that what we want for ourselves is usually the best course to pursue. Graduation speakers across the land urge those who are commencing their lives to follow their own passions. More to the point, one of the speakers at the 2013 Harvard College graduation (Class Day, to be specific), proclaimed, “Do not listen to other people’s take on the life you should lead. By not listening, you can figure out what your heart is telling you to do.”
Unfortunately, our own intuition about what’s best for our lives often fails us. That’s one of the lessons from an intriguing book by Chip and Dan Heath, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. The Heath brothers, authors of the bestselling Made to Stick, summarize research that demonstrates how many of our firmly held opinions about our choices turn out to be wrong. We’re sure that we’re right, even though we are so often wrong. Our confidence in our own intuition may be enflamed by graduation speeches, but it should be quenched by a big dose of reality.
The first thought that ran through my mind was “Paging Hillary Clinton, Paging Hillary Clinton.” But if you really think about it, she is just one example of this problem.
There was a terrorist attack in London Friday and North Korea launched a missile towards Japan. That should be dominating everyone’s attention – I mean we are talking about mortal danger here. But no, our thoughts seem to be overrun with things trivial in comparison. Identity seems to dominate so much public discussion, and produces some really, really stupid things. For one thing, serious racial divides have long gone from this country – not saying its perfect, but compared to my youth the racism of today is a footnote on culture. Besides, do you think that nuke coming this way from North Korea is going to pay attention to the color of the people it kills?
One of the most “prestigious” institutions of higher learning in our nation first hired and then withdrew the offer to a convicted spy! But that’s not the good part, the good part is the dean’s excuse:
He said the school hadn’t intended to honor her or “endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow.”
“I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations,” he stated.
What?! You are paying cash money to this individual to pursue their thoughts, which will presumably become words – that by definition means you think those words are worth pursuing. That sure as heck sounds like an endorsement to me. You would think a dean at someplace like Harvard might have it a bit more together than that.
A Gallup survey shows that mainline Protestant denominations, such as the Episcopalians, are very accepting of abortion, sex outside of marriage, and gay and lesbian relationships. However, the survey also found that Southern Baptists, non-denominational churches, and Pentecostal churches are far less accepting of those practices than their mainline Protestant relatives.
Now first of all, that took a poll? (I guess we cannot actually know anything until we poll it.) Those mainline churches are throwing away centuries of tradition and church teaching in pursuit of some “inclusive” dream, and grossly misguided concept of “love.”
Nope, that Friday devotional is absolutely correct, “…our own intuition about what’s best for our lives often fails us.” Heck there are a few stories from my own personal life that would bear this out.
We are free in America, and we are free in Christ:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
But our freedom is something to use wisely. The apostle Paul reminds us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” I love the two sentence structure of that, first he is saying, “Yeah, you are free to do that, but it might not be too smart.” Most of us have heard that in our lives, and generally followed it up by doing something really stupid. But the second sentence, that’s the real kicker. There he is telling us that if we use our freedom in pursuit of the wrong things we will actually be sacrificing our freedom to those things. Paul repeats this idea in his letter to the Galatians, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
In other words, true freedom is found when the dogma actually does live loudly within us.
Look around, America is losing freedom on an almost daily basis. We see it directly in the massive regulations that drive our daily lives. But we see it more pervasively, even if indirectly, in the amazing lack of wisdom in so much of our public discussion. That lack of wisdom makes it apparent we are becoming slaves to our own misguided desires. It really is frightening.
The road to the restoration of American freedom does not start with reversing law or regulation, or in demanding more in petulant, childish demonstrations and cries of discrimination. Nope, that road starts by rediscovering “the dogma.” But before we can bring it to the nation, we have to bring it to ourselves.
This Sunday morning my prayer is that the dogma can live more loudly in me today than yesterday and that that would be true every day going forward.