Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Notes from the Road

Like I said previously, I've recently returned from a family road trip over Christmas. We didn't drive the Wagonqueen Family Truckster, but we did put over 3000 miles on our Mitsubishi Endeavor. Anway, after getting snowed in trying to drive on I-80 coming home, our schedule slipped a day and that meant getting stuck in the post-New-Year's-Eve Las Vegas traffic. They say, "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" except for the traffic that is. So I-15 was a total parking lot. While patiently (I wish!) waiting in traffic while our 3 month-old was crying at the top of her lungs and our now 3 year-old was kicking the back of my seat, it was awfully tempting to pull over to the shoulder and see how far I could get before getting ticketed. Actually it wasn't. But that didn't stop several others from trying, and watching them blatantly break the law ticked me off. I was rooting for them to get pulled over and reveled in the thought of how much the ticket would be.

But then I asked myself why that made me so upset? Sure they'd get to where they're going faster, but really not by much because they couldn't ride on the shoulder forever. And besides, it's not like I never break the law driving. In fact, as soon as traffic started to thin I was back to driving my usual 9 mph over the speed limit. And that got me thinking about right and wrong. If I was as good a Christian as I try and proclaim, I should abide by Romans 13 and obey the law of the land no matter what. And that includes following the speed limit. But I'm confident I'm not the only Christian who speeds. Not only that, but I've probably cursed under my breath others whose convictions tell them to strictly follow the limit.

So it strikes me that while our convictions are black and white, we live in a world of grey, and that has a major influence on the decisions we make. This begs the question, what informs our morals? The Bible, the world, or some combination of both? If we were perfect like Jesus, we could say that we are only "do[ing] the will of Him who sent me." (Jn 4:34) That's not an excuse however for letting the world inform our morality. This is where the Christian Worldview comes into play. We need to be able to look at the world from a Christ-like perspective while at the same time recognizing that we are sinners and imperfect, so we strive to uphold God's standards the best we can.

I wanted to list off some more examples of the "grey" world in which we live to illustrate why we can't let the world define our morals. I was thinking of this when I got back to work, and a couple of contrasting examples came to mind. First, most companies will fire you on the spot if you're looking at pornography on your computer during work-hours. But the same standard doesn't apply if you're checking sport scores, headlines, etc. Is there a practical difference? Not really, the only difference is in the social norm of pornography being a vice. I don't disagree with that. But what about smoke-breaks? There are several co-workers in my building that take smoke breaks every couple of hours or so. That's considered ok. But if I wanted to take a "drink break" and down a shot or have a bottle of beer every couple of hours, I'd probably have to start looking for another job. What's the practical difference? There is none, but unlike with pornography, smoking is considered more of a vice than drinking yet that is the social norm.

Not only are our social norms inconsistent, they're also ever-changing. Take slavery, the roles of women, and most recently homosexuality as examples. While in some cases the world's morals have changed for the better (in the case of abolishing slavery for example) in many others they have been changes for the worse (the over-sexualization in our culture presently). This lends more weight to holding to the standards of the Bible over the world since, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." (Is 40:6-8/1 Pt 1:24-25) The Bible doesn't change. God doesn't change. But the standards of the world are always changing.

Now today was the New Hampshire Primary. I won't go into winners and losers, but I want to apply this to politics. There are many who despise the fact that some candidates are so open about their faith. They point to the separation of Church and State and say that religion should have no role in politics. If that's the case, then where do we expect our leaders to derive their morality? The present inconsistent and ever-changing social norms? Public opinion polls? History or philosophy? Personally, I'd prefer a leader whose convictions are built on rock and not on sand. Social norms, public opinion, history and philosophy are all important in informing political decision-making. But character and leadership aren't the same as deal-making and power-broking. And this is what has been shown in the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary; voters are looking for leaders with character. Statesmen instead of politicians. And personal views on wedge-issues don't seem to matter as much, evidenced by the widespread reporting of the cross appeal of McCain and Obama despite opposite positions on just about everything. (then again, it was just announced that Clinton edged out Obama, but I think my point is still valid)

Bottom line, we should all strive to attain, in our day to day living as well as our politics, the goal set forth in Ephesians. "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." (Eph 4:14)

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