February 18, 2012

Is it safe yet?

I originally wrote this during the healthcare debate.  I think the Republicans are also focused on safety in entirely different areas and might also be going a bit overboard in their zeal.  I brought this out of hiding because of a trend called "helicopter parenting" that was the focus on Monday's The Church of No People, which you can read here.  
The philosophy that seems to be driving the Democrats is that of safety—safety from financial failure, safety from medical errors, safety from high medical costs, and safety from anything that might possibly produce unhappiness. And if they have to take away personal liberty to achieve that goal, then that is the price that we all must pay for safety. Some of those things are acceptable in moderation—making sure companies sell us products that won’t kill us under normal use is a good thing, as is making sure that companies do not enslave their workers. However, I see several flaws in the philosophy of safety.

A fatal flaw in the philosophy of unending safety is that Democrats can’t make us truly safe because the sin in each of us will cause us to always want what is truly bad for us. Given a choice most of us would date the bad boy or girl, smoke a pack or two a day, drive our car after knocking back a few drinks, sit in totally inactivity for long periods of time to watch inane programs while our brain turns to oatmeal, eat foods chock full of saturated fat and high fructose corn syrup and always unplug an electrical device by pulling on the cord. These are the choices we make when we have been "freed" from self-control and reason. You can take a person out of danger but you can’t take danger out of the person is a statement that was inspired by reading a “Baby Blues” cartoon.

 An unintended consequence of this safety-driven philosophy is the inability of future generations (and maybe this one to boot) to learn from experience and become truly wise. Knowledge is defined as the acquisition of information. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge to our lives. Sometimes, failure is the best teacher of wisdom. For example, living within my means became a survival tactic when I ended up racking up credit card debt and I learned to ask the important question of “Do I need this?” whenever I wanted to buy something for myself. Now it benefits my family as well. I also wouldn’t have known how to recogize admirable character qualities in men without dating a few stinkers. I have learned a lot about anger and how to control it by having utter failures in anger management. Whenever my kids or I fail at something, I always ask the question to them or to myself: “What can I/we learn from this?” The benefit of such a question is that I/we don’t usually make the same mistake more than a dozen times (smile).  Would Thomas Edison invented the light bulb if he never tried or gave up after the first failure? The same could be said of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Antony and most of the people that we consider today to be “remarkable people.” All were utter failures at one time or more in their lives. And yet, through their failures, they learned a lot and became imperfectly great men and women from whom we can learn.

Yet another problem is that living in a perfectly safe environment erodes our compassion. If we are all perfectly safe, then we have no understanding of suffering and cannot offer comfort to those who are suffering because, after all, it must be their fault.   And if I am pursuing total safety, then if something bad happens to me it must be someone else’s fault. Oops, there goes forgiveness out the door also. So we become a nation of finger-pointing blame shifters when trouble comes to us and hard-hearted judges when trouble comes to other people rather than being a nation of people who forgive and are forgiven and who provide comfort and aid to those who are bullied/failures/ incapacitated or facing any other loss.

As a Christian, this safety driven philosophy also flies in the face of the gospel. The gospel is a story of the intense suffering of one man, the Son of God, who didn’t deserve it and could have given it a smack down and walked away unscathed, had he chosen to do so. In John 18:5, Jesus knocked down a contingent of soldiers coming to arrest him with mere words. However, after demonstrating this power, he submitted to their arrest and allowed them to kill him on the cross so that the sins of the mankind could be attributed to him and thus, fufill the law’s requirements that the guilty should receive a death penalty. And he didn’t do it for a bunch of people who were necessarily deserving of his sacrifice. In truth, He sacrificed his life for a bunch of  us sin-festering slobs, so that we could be made right before the God of the Universe who is consistently, completely right in everything He does, thinks and speaks.

And, out of this outpouring of love, which is God’s motivation for saving us, rather than the worth of our deeds, Christians can and should offer our lives in sacrificial obedience to God. Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:12 and 13: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Jesus himself in Matthew 10:24 said that the student is not above his teacher nor is the servant above his master. That means that if my Lord Jesus allowed himself to suffer, shouldn’t I? Therefore, Christianity is the anti-safety philosophy, calling people to carry their own crosses for God and give their time, talents, money and adoration unreservedly and unabashedly, rejoicing in being fools for Christ rather than someone else’s fool.

And yet, if I were totally honest, I like the idea of safety. I want my children to revel in their differences without the scorn that comes from bullies and the “in crowd” and homeschooling provides that outlet, though it isn’t the main reason that I homeschool. If I had my way, I would have stayed in the same neighborhood with the same friends all my life. However, God, in his wisdom, chose to move me and my family 1800 miles away from good friends and family. I even have trouble with climbing up tall ladders because their unsteadiness gives me visions of falling from heights to my death. And I hate failing. I hate burning meals, ripping out rows of knitting, starting over on a sewing project, having drips of paint on my walls or floors, failing my kids, my husband, my dog, my friends. Fear of failure is the most reliable source of my procrastination. And yet, I read what Paul says in Romans 5:3-5 and take courage: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” So I must become anti-safety, to be an example for my children, to live as a patriotic American and, most importantly, to be a servant of the Lord Most High.
I would like to add one more thing to this  as an afterward.  God has been making me eat these words and leave my safety/comfort zone in so many ways.  There are times when it has been very hard and frustrating and humbling.  And yet, looking back, I consider myself blessed for the experiences He has given me, the people who I have the privilege to call friends and the awe in how God works so gently and yet so persistently to open my eyes to see His vision of heaven, His vision of me and those around me.  Alleluliah!

1 comment:

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Tandemingtroll,

Regarding your comment on my post "Swords and Dragon-Slayers," What a fun glimpse into your family through these comments. Thank you! What did they say when you read these to them?

Whew, there is a lot to think about in your post here. The fine balance between protecting our kids and yet teaching them responsibility.

Have a great week.

Jennifer Dougan