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When Good Ideas Go Bad

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Yesterday was, for a change, a pretty fun day to hang around Twitter.  You see the day started with Elizabeth Warren releasing the results of DNA tests that revealed:

Bustamante’s analysis places Warren’s Native American ancestor between six and 10 generations ago, with the report estimating eight generations.

You have to admit – that makes her claims to Native American ancestry pretty tenuous.  It really is cringe-worthy.  Twitter responded with everything from examinations of resulting institutional corruption to pure snark.  It was the snark that made the day fun, but it is worthwhile to take this seriously for just a bit.

You see, either Warren seriously believes she has been oppressed based on “5 genetic segments” or she has made a political calculation that enough people would think so to boost first her academic and now her political career.  That set me to thinking about how we have managed to turn oppression, or at least the perception of oppression, into political power.  If you are put-upon in some fashion then you should actually be in control.  This should sound vaguely familiar – “the workers control the means of production.”  The impulse that drives our grievance-based politics is pretty much the same impulse that drives socialism and communism.  That is probably an obvious, even clichéd, notion – but it is an important one.

Further the grievance-based politics under which we suffer is a playbook built from the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.  What is sad here is that both strains of thought, about socialism and social justice, are corruptions of good ideas.  As I examined last month, the civil rights movement as conceived by Martin Luther King was indeed just, but it was quickly perverted by the thought of Malcolm X.  Socialism is, in some sense, a biblical ideal, but as it has been practiced throughout history it has been a horrific, tyrannical abomination.

What is it that turns such good ideas so horribly bad?

The answer is, of course, us.  While King’s movement was born of justice and executed in love, Malcolm X gave into pride, wrath, and envy.  The socialist ideal of Acts 2 was perverted in the Soviet Union by  greed, sloth, and gluttony.  Good ideas go bad because they are brought to fruition by very flawed, generally bad people.  The problem is never the political or economic system, it’s the people in them.  While the republican politics and capitalist economics of the United States have done a better job of reining in our tendencies than any other system in history – as we are currently seeing, even they can be perverted by our actions.

The bottom line is this, the deep fissure that divides our nation is between people that want to better themselves and people that simply want.  This fissure represents a failing not in our government, but in our schools and churches. These are the institutions that form who we are.  In schools we teach facts and transmit information, but we no longer form character.  In churches we pander to the desires in the pews rather than tame the desires in the pews – worst of all we do so in the name of love.

By the logic too many churches follow today, if a child wants to play with fire, we should let them. After all, we love them and would hate to criticize lest they feel unloved.  No one will be hurt but themselves.  When you are in the emergency room with that child and they are undergoing treatment for severe burns, you’re going to have to ask yourself about the true nature of love.

As Proverbs says:

For whom the Lord loves He reproves,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

And as Paul instructs Timothy:

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.  The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,  with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. [emphasis added]

Real love, God’s love, does not “accept,” it corrects.  When we allow people to tell us that we do not love them when we correct them, we are failing as leaders and as Christians, and most importantly in loving them.  You see, here is the thing, we we hear people tell us we do not love them because we do not “accept them just the way they are,” and we buy into it, it is not our love for them that is buying in – it is our need to be loved by them.  It is not love, it is selfishness.  As Paul said elsewhere, love, “does not seek its own.”

Perhaps this is where we need to start to fix things – we need to start by learning that God’s love, and God’s love alone, is sufficient.


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