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Unintended Consequences

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Friday, the LATimes carried a story about garment manufacturers that are departing California in the wake of the recent minimum wage hike.  When the law was sold it was all about fast food workers, but in a matter of weeks we are seeing where the real consequences will come.  What is left of manufacturing in California will depart as fast as it can.  Manufacturers rarely pay anybody minimum wage, save perhaps during their initial probationary period, but the vast majority of their payroll is between the current minimum wage and the new wage of $15/hour.  People have to eat.  Fast food cannot leave California.  Yes, the fast food industry will have to make some major adjustments, but it’ll figure it out.  Manufacturing is a whole different story – they are out of here.  Manufacturing’s competition is not the place on the other corner or across town – it’s the factory in Mississippi, or the factory in the third world.  The manufacturing exodus, something that has been plaguing the state of California for several decades, just hit high gear. Oops, unintended consequence.

My wife and I took a road trip the last few days.  I was stunned by the number of people on the road that were just flat our rude.  My number one observation was when traffic was in lined up in the slow lane to make a tight transition of some sort, the number of people that would rush to the front of the line in the next lane and simply barge in was enormous.  It was not one or two “exceptions,” it was a lot of people.  I looked at my wife and said, “Those people would never dream of doing that if it was a queue for a bank teller or at Starbucks.”  She noted that in the car one is anonymous.  In other words, people feel free to be rude if they don’t think they’ll be caught.  All I could think about was the unintended consequences of such an approach to life.

Anonymity is simply a way of hiding.  When Adam and Eve discovered sin, their first response was to hide from God.  There is an unintended consequence.  Our sin, small and relatively innocent like butting in line, to the very major sins, cause us to hide from God.  Rather than the glory we thought the sin would bring us, we unintentionally end up separated from God.  That is true of any relationship, when you hide something from someone there is separation from that person.

This really applies to much that goes on in the online world.  The anonymity breeds all sorts of ill-advised conduct.  People that would never look you in the eye and call you a “cowardly hypocrite” are quite willing to do so when hiding behind a lot of electrons and a made-up “handle.”  Heck, many people use their real name on the internet, but still hide.  They craft an image and then avoid actual, personal interaction in a effort to maintain that image – that’s hiding.  But unintended consequence, rather than enhance relationship, they are cut off from them.

Worse yet, this habit of hiding becomes a a descending spiral, one must hide, or lie, more to maintain the cover established.  And with each step the result is more isolation.   Think for just a minute about the movie “Fellowship of the Ring.”  Bilbo Baggins efforts to hide the ring were isolating him more and more from his circle of relationships.  But worse yet, when in Rivendell and Frodo shows him the ring one last time we see his face transformed momentarily into something monstrous.  The unintended consequence of Bilbo’s hiding was to transform him, for the worse.  The hideous Gollum was a Hobbit that had hidden the ring for so long that the transformation to monster was nearly complete.   Hiding our true selves, with its unintended consequence of isolation, has even deeper unintended consequences, and they are not good.

But just as God found Adam and Eve in the garden.  So He sees us even when we hide from Him. Jesus said:

For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.

Once we accept that fact (that’s what confession whether sacramental or otherwise is all about), the fact that we simply cannot hide from God, is when things begin to get better.  Christ died for us, even though none of our sin was hidden from Him.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When we hide, we are not hiding from God, we are hiding only from ourselves, and refusing to see and accept the love that God has for us.  The world does not isolate us, we isolate ourselves.

Our hiding, our efforts to remain anonymous when we transgress, do not grant the result we thought they would.  Rather, as an unintended consequence, it isolates us and makes us hide all the more.  The way out is not simply to stop, but to realize that we are not nearly as well hidden as we think we are – and God loves us anyway.  We don’t need to hide becasue we are not really hidden and we are still deeply loved.


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