December 12, 2015

When will it be safe?

Three years ago, I was inspired by one national debate and a blogger to write an essay called, "Is It Safe Yet?"  Today I am re-writing it to exclude political leanings because I have so much inspiration from so many sources, it has become clear that the pursuit of safety transcends political boundaries.  I made some other changes, deleting some thoughts that I now realize are irrelevant, adding another thought and tightening up other paragraphs.  This essay is not saying that making reasonable efforts to be safe is bad.  Locking up criminals after they have committed a crime, requiring machinery to be safe, enforcing traffic laws, protecting people from thieves and swindlers, and some measures of gun control are wise and necessary measures.  What I am talking about is pursuing safety as the primary objective of our country. 

A fatal flaw in the philosophy of the pursuit of safety is that no law, no political party, no weapon can 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 of cigarettes 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 while taking a bath. These are the choices we make when we have been "freed" from self-control and reason.  Furthermore, sin convinces us to wallow in our hurts and grievances, encouraging us to withhold forgiveness until it turns to bitterness and hatred, qualities which make us unsafe towards others.  You can take the person out of danger but you can't take danger out of the person*

An unintended consequence of our desire for safety is that the desire to live 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 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, incapacitated, helpless and/or hopeless. 

ASIDE:  Remember, I wrote the above paragraph three years ago.  Is ANY of this bringing up thoughts on our political narrative at all?  Does this resemble what we have become as a country? 

And yet another consequence that I didn't discuss initially is that, in the interest of our safety, we would take stances that effectively assume someone's guilt until proven innocence, which is happening as people want to pass laws of all kinds to prevent things from happening.  George W. Bush attacked Iraq on the pretense that they 'might' attack us with weapons of mass destruction before any evidence was presented nationally to back him up.  Muslims are locked up in Guantanamo Bay as potential terrorists or accomplices of terrorists without the benefit of a Constitutional-based trial (i.e., where the prosecution must prove the defendant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt).  Those advocating for tougher gun control laws or even an end to the 2nd amendment are effectively saying that we need to assume people will use guns for evil rather than hunting or using it to protect themselves against lunatics with guns, who seem to have a knack for getting them both legally and illegally.  Police seem to assume that black men are out to kill them because there have been so many incidences where police officers have used guns as their first line of defense, shooting to kill and black men believe that police are out to kill them because police are shooting to kill them seemingly as a reflex.  Some Americans advocate tougher immigration policies for certain groups of people or shutting down immigration altogether to prevent potential rapists, thieves, murderers and terrorists from entering the country.  Once again, prevention is impossible and there are times I wonder if we are turning people into paranoid crackpots with all the fear-mongering promoted by our politicians and the media and in our pursuit of this insane level of safety. 

As a Christian, this safety-driven philosophy also flies in the face of the gospel, which is a story of the intense suffering of one man who was executed on the cross for crimes he didn't commit.  Philippians 2:5-11 lists all of the things Jesus suffered so that we, the guilty, sin-festering slobs, could be redeemed from the death penalty we truly deserved:  He suffered to be separated from the Father and Holy Spirit; he suffered to become a helpless baby who grew to be a poor man in a small village; he suffered to become a servant, he suffered a brutal, undeserved death.  John 18:5 says that Jesus knocked down a contingent of soldiers coming to arrest him with mere words.  And yet, he submitted to their arrest, their illegal trial, torture and guilty verdict rather than walking away.  Why?  What was his motivation?  Romans 5:8 says "...God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  God continues to pour out his love for us daily and Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily and love others like he has loved us, i.e., whether they deserve it or not.  His plans for his children might include suffering for His sake or suffering for the sins of others.  In other words, Christians should be the ones pursuing an anti-safety philosophy, encouraging each other to give up the rights we feel we deserve and serve the God who so richly deserves all of our love and respect.  I know that this sounds like absolute foolishness, but I would rather be a fool for Christ than a fool worshipping at the alter of unattainable safety, always unsatisfied until I become an abject coward.

And yet, I confess that I still have fears lurking and trying to control me--fears that my kids will die unnatural deaths, that the economy will collapse, that we are only a few generations away from a tyrannical leader who can take control because Americans have been chipping away at the Constitution over the course of time in the pursuit of safety.  And yet, there are so many Bible verses encouraging us to stop being afraid and to be of good courage.  Romans 5:3-5 says "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."  And this gives me the power to turn away from my fears and to serve God wherever He leads me and encourage my kids and others to do the same because I know that he will either provide his protection in this life or take me/my kids/my fellow Christians to be with him forever, a place of complete, perfect safety.

Below is an afterward I wrote three years ago, but it is even more true today than it was then. 
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 and earth, His vision of me and those around me.  Alleluliah!

* inspired by a Baby Blues cartoon

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