Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I was reading a story today about an 89 year old lady who was arrested this week for keeping a football that had gone into her yard.  Of course, there was the requisite shaking of the head that was prompted by the words in front of me, but as I thought about it, I wondered “What was her motivation for keeping the ball?  What did she get out of it?”

I know some would like to turn this into a property rights issue.  Does she, as owner of the property, have the right to keep the ball when it comes into her yard uninvited?  Do the kids have the right to demand that she allow them onto her property to retrieve it, or do they have the right to compel her to retrieve it for them or give it back to them?  And, I’m sure the police did not go right to her house and arrest her upon receiving a complaint from a bunch of kids.  If any protocols were followed, they would have given her multiple opportunities to return the ball before she was actually arrested.  I’m sure she just refused to listen to reason or cooperate, and they were left with no choice.  Yeah, it’s pretty sad.

But the question of “Why?” still remains.  I think that I actually stumbled upon the answer on the way to work this morning.  It happened while I and everyone else on this particular road were being slowed down by unusually heavy traffic.  When the state authorities redesigned that part of the highway a few years ago, they did so with a view to the future.  There is actually room for four lanes (on each side of the road) to fit easily through this stretch of road, but unfortunately a couple of miles on either side of this stretch, there are areas that are still two lanes wide, and expansion would require massive engineering projects to ever get to the desired four lanes.  As a result, the area of the road that could hold four lanes, still has only two to keep from having a bottle-neck at the other end.  As I sat in traffic this morning, I saw two vehicles pull out into the huge shoulder area and simply drive about a mile down ahead of the other cars.  It was complete sorry-ness, and I found myself wondering “Why?” once again.  Why would they do this?  It shows a complete lack of regard for the law, and the other people who are being forced to wait their turn, and in the end, when they get to the point where they have to join the rest of the pack, they end up slowing traffic even further to let their sorry selves back in.

These people and the old lady from the first story reflect the attitude that they only care about themselves.  They have no regard for others around them or people that they might come into contact with.  Their greatest personal achievements involve elevating themselves above those around them (at least in their own minds). 

The answer is a reflection of the fact that there has been a removal of social mores, and it shows the death of the personal moral compass that has been encouraged by the cultural relativists in our land has begun to bear fruit.  People have been encouraged by schools, society, television, and psychologists to do what feels good to them regardless of how it affects other people.  There is no corporate desire to make our society a better, nicer place, and as result, it is not.

I finally got around to watching HBO’s John Adams this week.  It was great.  I noticed that there was indeed a corporate sense of honor and duty that led men to fight and to give their lives without pay, and without even being ordered or asked to.  During those times, a person could strongly disagree with another person.  He could even say that his ideas were ridiculous in print.  But, I also noticed that when they spoke face to face, they always spoke cordially to one another, and referred to the other person as ‘Sir’ even if they were skewering each other at the time.  They might question the man’s sanity or ability to reason, but they never questioned the motives of the other person because, if they did this, they might end up dead.  See Alexander Hamilton for a good example of what happened when people acted without decorum during this time.

People had expectations of other people during this time, and society reacted negatively when a person failed to live up to those expectations.  A good example of these attitudes could also be found in the Adams series.  In it he, John Adams, refused to help his son-in-law, and disowned his own son because they failed to live up to societal expectations.  Later generations still felt the pull of duty and a sense of corporate responsibility.  You only have to go back to WWII to find a time when Americans offered up their sons and themselves to fight in a war.  This was not a war where there might be a chance of getting killed by an insurgent (please do not think I am taking anything away from the bravery and sacrifices made by servicemen today).  It was a war where, if you were in the military, there was a strong likelihood of you suffering death or serious injury.  If you were able-bodied and you did not serve during WWII, you and your family were stigmatized by this decision.

During the 1940s and 1950s people were still expected to perform up to societal standards, and families that did not were also rightly stigmatized.  This corporate societal expectation motivated people to act in a way that was mutually beneficial to all.  It is not so today.  The adoption of the welfare state in cooperation with the elevation of the individual and the advocating of the ideas espoused by relativists have deprived Americans of the corporate disdain that would beneficially keep us all in line (sometimes literally).

Persons without a religion to assist them in attaining a moral compass today, often have no way of attaining any sense that they have a duty to the rest of the people around them to at least treat these people as they would like to be treated.

On this subject, I have no answers, only complaints.  Popular religions continue to cut off their collective noses to spite their faces (see the Baptists boycotting Disney for a good example, but they are not alone).  They seem to drive more people away with the self-serving rants than they bring in.  I believe many young parents would use a church as a good way to instill good morals and mores in their children if the churches would actually stay on message and not veer off to attack Miley Cyrus, for instance, whenever they get bored.  As far as society getting a handle on itself and reestablishing its own set of social mores to help encourage decorum, this would be impossible at this point.  Not only is that horse out of the barn, but that barn has long since burned down.

In the end, we are left with individual choices to do the right thing or not.  Those of us who choose to act with decorum and respect for others while teaching it to or children will be the ones that keep society from completely falling apart.

You still have a choice.  You can be the mean old lady at the end of the block that keeps the ball, and no one will mourn you when you die, or you can be the old lady who gets the ball for the kids along with a cookie.  Which one of these makes more of a mark?

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Christian Attitudes Toward Halloween

Many Christians are confused and troubled about what to do with Halloween.  The imagery, movies and media coverage associated with this the events surrounding the 31st of October often leave us wondering what is the best thing to do, especially when we have kids. 

Some Christians take the popular and age-old Christian stance that if there might be a problem somewhere with it, then it is best to run away from the situation entirely.  These people just stay home and ignore the holiday all together.  Some Churches promote fall-themed alternatives or ‘Hell-houses.’  While others simply view Halloween as a fun family activity where the kids get to dress up and get candy.

I have a friend who subscribes to the ‘Halloween is evil, and we should ignore it’ theory.  Last year we both expressed our ideas about Halloween in a few emails.  They were cordial and respectful, but we did not agree.  I have decided to break down his arguments against Halloween and my responses to him.  I think the basic arguments for and against participating in the holiday were covered pretty well by both of us.

The main point made by Christians who oppose the holiday is that it appears to be evil and that it leads to or promotes evil things.  Most people who oppose the holiday see the images of skeletons, demons, devils, witches and ghosts, and say that it is inappropriate for children to see these evil images promoted in a positive setting.  The popular Bible verse that is used by any Christian that is against anything is used here.  Romans 14:13 says, “…make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”  They say that these sorts of activities should be avoided so that we do not set a bad example for others.

The other main argument is the ‘gateway drug’ contention.  They believe that the evil ideas that surround Halloween provide a gateway for children to become interested in other evil activities.  In this argument, dressing your child up as a fairy princess who has magic powers will lead to her wanting to dress up as a witch later.  As they grow older, the positive images created by dressing up like this as they were younger will add to the possibility of them being attracted by actual occult activities.  My friend referred to the candy associated with Halloween as ‘the trap’ that gets kids interested in the first place.

Some see true problems with Halloween activities, and paint all Halloween activities with this brush.  They see some people having rowdy parties with a lot of drinking or possibly a Ouija Board or Séance.  They also see fringe occult groups garnering attention during the Halloween season by performing actual dark rights in ‘celebration’ of the holiday.  They sometimes look at the history of Halloween, and see its negative effects on people (mostly Chrstians, by the way) in centuries past.

Finally, there are truly evil people such as pedophiles who could be having children come to their doors looking for candy.  This is a truly disturbing possibility.

There may be other arguments against Halloween, but the ones supplied above are a good example of most of them.

I, however, do not agree that Halloween is evil.  The idea, that we, as Christians must ‘flee any appearance of evil,’ is just not supported in the context of Halloween.  Christians use Romans 14:13 is a Catch 22 saying, ‘because I believe there is an appearance of evil, then an appearance of evil exists.  Therefore, I can use the argument that we must flee any appearance of evil to support the fact that the idea is evil in the first place.’  This circular logic is not even supported in the context of the same verse that it is taken out of, much less in the context of the surrounding passage. 

Romans 14 verse 13-

13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

We are definitely admonished not to cause each other to stumble, but leading into the verse, it also admonishes us not to stop passing judgment on one another.  These same arguments have been used for centuries by some denominations to decry drinking (at all) and dancing and other denominations to condemn music.  The point is that the Bible, for the most part, does not deal with innocuous things such as Halloween.  In fact, often these people who tend to ‘make up sins’ when they see something that they do not like, do it in the face of scripture that argues against their point of view.  For example, in the case of drinking, Jesus made the best wine when he attended the wedding.  The word used for it describes a particularly good and potent form of wine, not grape juice.   Admonitions against dancing and music also do not hold up to Biblical scrutiny. There are hundreds of examples where the Bible calls upon someone to play an instrument, and the women who condemned David for dancing, in the nude no less, were punished by God for their actions.  My point is that it is never a good practice to go labeling something as a sin or wrong just because we are personally uncomfortable with it. 

The ‘gateway drug’ argument really just expounds upon the same idea.  The thing that worries me the most in it is the hidden message that our imaginations are a bad thing.  I find it personally sad when children are not allowed to indulge the fantastic imaginations that God gave them.  There is nothing wrong with a kid pretending to be a fairy princess.  We start down a slippery slope when we start to label fairies as magical servants of the devil.  The idea of a magical fairy has nothing to do with Satan, and really neither does what most people think of as a witch.  It is all pretend.

The point is that good Christian parents have an obligation, as their children grow older to teach them the difference between pretending and true acts of evil.  If you allow your child to dress up as a witch, and they use that as a springboard into Satanism, then you have not done a very good job of parenting.  Somewhere along the way, you did not communicate the true nature of good and evil with your child.  It is the job of any parent to spend (sometimes inordinate) amounts of time communicating what it is to be a good person, a good Christian, and a good citizen to their children.  If they do not take the time to do so, their children may fall through the cracks, but it won’t be Halloween’s fault.

Regarding the argument that there are events planned by some around the Halloween holiday that do involve acts of evil, such as drinking parties and rites performed by occults, I would say that those who despise Halloween on religious grounds tend to lump too many things together.  The people who use Halloween as an opportunity to get drunk, do not do so because it is Halloween, they just want to get drunk, and use the occasion of Halloween as an excuse.  Just as NRA proponents will say correctly that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people,’  Halloween does not make people evil, evil people can, however, use Halloween for evil things.  The same is true for occult members.  They simply use Halloween to promote the evil that they would be doing regardless of the holiday.

Remember, most sins in the Bible are sins of excess.  Almost anything when done to excess can become a sin for the person doing it.  Drinking is a good example of this, but almost anything else can become a bad thing when done to excess.  I’ll use prayer for an example.  Can prayer become a sin?  Well, if a person spent every moment of every day in prayer to the detriment of his physical body and his family, I believe for him, this would be a sin.  Drinking, dancing, music, Halloween, almost anything in excess is a bad thing, and since God wants good things for us, we should refrain from excess.  We do not, however, need to through the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

The final argument against Halloween is that you do not know who is behind the door when your kids go up to it.  It could be a pedophile or someone that has laced the candy with something that will hurt them.  This is true.  These things could happen, and they are why responsible parents chaperone their children when they go trick-or-treating.  They only allow their children to go to houses where they know the people, and they already know where the pedophiles in their neighborhood live, because that information is available online.  They just stay away from those houses in the first place.  Responsible parenting requires parents to be extremely proactive.  If you are sitting at home, and allowing your small child to run around the neighbor trick-or-treating while unattended, I question your parenting skills.

I believe that most Christians who do not like Halloween are fundamentally wrong about what Halloween is for most people.  Halloween, like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and even Christmas is a fundamentally American institution.  For most people, Halloween is simply a day when people decide to get together by the millions and do something nice and fun for children.  For them, it is about the act of giving a piece of candy to a child.  It is a wonderful gesture, and many parents use this as a teaching tool to reinforce good manners in their children by encouraging them to say ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir,’ ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’

Taking the argument one step further, I would make the case that those Christians who turn their noses up or pull their children away when offered a piece of candy may be further from God’s will in all of this than those who take part in Halloween.  Spend some time researching one of the strongest themes of the New Testament, that of “Hospitality.”  The Bible has a lot to say on the subject, and some of the admonitions against being inhospitable are very strong.  Paul knew he did not have to keep the old dietary law anymore, but he did so because he was Jewish.  However, he went out of his way to point out that, for the sake of hospitality, he put these rules aside.  He said that if a Christian were invited into a person’s home to eat, then he should eat the meal graciously whether it was Kosher in a Jewish home or bacon in a Roman’s house. 

If a person in a spirit of hospitality offers my child a piece of candy on Halloween, I let them take it with a smile, and I make sure both of us say, “Thank you!”  If I do not know the person, I may discard the candy later.  I may even explain why to the child, but I respect the fact that the person giving the candy was trying to be nice.

In the end, I believe that for most people and for my family, Halloween is about imagination and millions of Americans taking the time to brighten the day for the children around them.  Might it be better if we had a similar day without any of the dark imagery?  Perhaps, but this is what we have, and the great thing about Halloween is that you can make of it whatever you want.