Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Philosophy of Liberty

And of course, as soon as I post, I stumble onto this.

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Free to Choose – 2.0

Following up on my last post, but also dovetailing with a heated debate on David’s blog and my Facebook wall, allow me to further develop my thoughts here on Values and Choice.

 

What is your single most important priority?  Your initial response might be your family’s health, your faith, happiness, or security.  But if you think about it, does your most important priority ever change?  Is it possible that it changes day to day, minute to minute, depending on the circumstances of your life?  Maybe right now, your security (and let’s just broadly label that as protection from a violent attack) is the most important thing in your life.  The question then is ‘do you forsake all other needs to ensure your security’?  Always?  Do your needs change as you get older?  Find yourself unemployed or sick?  Suddenly come into a lot of money?

 

Let’s imagine that you live out in the middle of rural America.  The crime rate in your neighborhood is practically non-existent.  Security might not be as high of a priority as, say, the cost of gasoline.  But maybe, every summer you visit your family in the big city.  For that short visit, security has probably jumped to the front of priorities.

 

What I’m trying to show is that everyone has different priorities and they can change at any given moment depending on circumstances.  At the same time, people are always trying to impress upon you the fact that their cause is more urgent and requires more of your attention than you’re currently giving.  “Maybe you haven’t been thinking about your last wishes, but you need to drop everything right now and give it some serious thought.”  Sound familiar?

 

The problem we face as a pluralistic society is commonly known as scarcity.  Simply put, there’s a limit to the money, time, resources, and energy that we can devote to all our competing priorities.  Scarcity forces us to make choices as individuals.  We might also say that scarcity motivates us to make decisions that affect others.  It’s human nature to believe we’re always right, always doing good, always using our head and our hearts.  But the simple fact is that within a pluralistic society, it is impossible to make everyone happy all the time.

 

The question then is ‘how do we function in a civilized society in light of scarcity and competing preferences?’  One argument offered by many is that we should let the smartest people decide for us because the experts know what’s best.  They know, for example, that your security should trump your wealth and your faith.  And they argue that dissention or giving the ability to simply opt-out destroys the foundation of their justification and it must not be allowed.  All for the greater good.

 

The problem with this approach is plain to see.  Even the smartest people cannot possibly speak for everyone, represent the greater good, or even be trusted to DO the greatest good. 

 

fantasy-islandSome skeptics argue that freedom isn’t realistic.  Their world view is such that man is inherently selfish, greedy, evil, dumb, and incapable of doing the greater good if left to their own choosing.  They’ll accuse you of living on Fantasy Island. 

 

They’ll tell you story after story after story of their first hand experiences witnessing the depravity of man.  They will stomp, curse, and holler, resolute in their conviction that it’s only by force that the greater good can be achieved.

 

I don’t disagree that man is depraved.  The Bible tells us that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  The thing I can’t seem to reconcile with skeptics of freedom is – what makes the experts any more altruistic and self-sacrificing than the average commoner?  Is it some kind of educated enlightenment?  If we study hard enough or surround ourselves by enough smart people, will we reach a kind of humanist nirvana?  If that were the case, surely the smartest people in the world would also be the most moral.  Taken one step further, wouldn’t then God naturally have chosen the smartest people around to be his witnesses?

 

But we know that God did not choose the smartest people around to speak for Him.  He never chose the biggest and physically strongest men to lead his armies.  In fact, Scripture tells us time and again that the wisdom of men is foolishness and that the gospel itself appears to be foolishness to the wisest men of our day. 

 

Now, does this mean that God’s advocating outright anarchy?  Goodness, no.  God’s obviously given instructions for the institution of government, local authorities, even how husbands, wives and children should behave toward one another.  But I think, clearly God has not put as much weight on the wisdom of man (as being the determining factor for what’s right or wrong),  contrary to what some opponents of liberty would have you believe.

 

This also is the reason why our Founding Fathers didn’t simply incorporate a “Majority Rules” government.  It’s because we are human and under the right circumstances, all humans will selfishly put their own priorities ahead of everyone else’s.  Unless we respect and vigilantly protect our individual freedoms to choose what’s most important for us, catering to the mob will eventually lead to the loss of all of our freedoms.

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Where are your treasures?

Do you have family heirlooms?  Furniture, jewelry, artwork that used to belong to your great grandfather?  My brothers, wife and I have talked about this topic many times, but most of the Asian American families I know don’t have very many heirlooms because they immigrated to this country less than 3 generations ago.  Now, there are Americans of Asian ancestries that go back for many, many generations so I’m not trying to overgeneralize.

 

My parents moved to the United States from Korea when I was about 3 months old.  We arrived with a couple suitcases.  That’s it.  Everything else stayed in Korea.  Since then, we have been back to visit family, but we don’t own anything there anymore.  Keep in mind, my Dad grew up during the Korean War and I’m sure a lot of stuff was lost.

 

I know for many people, family heirlooms are extremely important to them.  As a child, I remember once going to a friend’s house and seeing some antique guns displayed that once belonged to my friend’s great, great someone who fought in the Civil War.  His family took great pride in that and it helped defined who they were.

 

To me, this is a concept that’s completely foreign.  My parents have stuff.  Some of it is really expensive stuff.  However growing up, I never got the sense that their things were precious as in, if it were lost, our family would be devastated.  I know that Dad’s got boatloads of insurance for things like fire or theft, but in the end, it could all be replaced.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciated all of the finer things that my parents had.  As a child, I had more than most kids.  My brothers and I had tons of toys, clothes, bikes, etc.  We vacationed in places that many of my friends had never seen.  I’ve never gone hungry.  In fact, by all standards, I’ve eaten quite well in my lifetime.

 

Now that I’m a father and have my own family, I think about the kinds of things my children have.  They, too, have a lot of toys.  We have several computers, game systems, TVs, and blu-ray players in the house.  Everyone has a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, and there are enough toilets and tubs to keep us smelling fresh.  My wife spoils us with a never ending supply of delicious meals and treats.

 

Jenny and I had decided years ago that there’s no point in buying expensive stuff while we have babies and toddlers running around, spilling juice, throwing up, and coloring on every imaginable surface.  We do our best to train them in good manners and proper etiquette, but we still manage to find artistic surprises all over the house.

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There was a time early in our marriage when we spent our money very foolishly.  As a result, at one point we got into some really hard financial difficulties.  I was caught up in living the high life.  Houses, cars, and toys seemed so important.

 

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Jesus told us in Matthew 6:19-21

 

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

The stuff of this world is so fleeting. 

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Yes, it’s nice to be comfortable and I’m not about to tell people making millions or billions of dollars to stop.  And if you have family heirlooms, I hope you enjoy them and continue to keep your traditions alive.

 

But as Christians, we must be mindful that our priorities are always on our treasure above.  Do not let idolatry take root in your homes.  That road leads to insatiable needs for more and malcontent.   Find peace and sufficiency in God’s grace today.

 

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Fellowship through Food

(My youngest brother is probably laughing at me, if he even reads my blog.)

 

There’s something very intimate and touching about the food we eat.  At the most basic and biological level, we need to eat in order to survive.  But beyond getting our rations for sustenance, so much of our lives revolve around food.  People are passionate about Food.  Food tends to reach down deep to our spirit and stir up emotions and urges unlike anything else. 

 

There are entire industries devoted to promoting, producing, selling, distributing, storing, teaching, protecting, developing, and sharing the experience of Food.  There are people who write about the ‘healthy’ consumption of food while others love the excesses.

 

From creation, God provided fruits and plants for mankind.  The first temptation was to eat a forbidden food.  One could debate whether the fruit was pleasant-looking and desirable because of the God-like discernment of Good and Evil that came with it or if it just looked really yummy (I’m thinking for former).  Later after the Flood, God also gave us the animals to eat as food.

 

Food can be a way to bring people together or divide them.  The pilgrims that landed here, cold and hungry, celebrated the friendships they forged with the Indians with a Thanksgiving feast.  The Bible teaches us that Food can also lead to our demise.  Esau was willing to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew.  Dietary restrictions on the Israelites were a cause of division and separation from Gentiles.  (Later on, God shares to Peter and Paul how the divisions to keep the Israelites separate under the Law had changed with the resurrection of Christ.)

 

In this respect, Food is a huge social cornerstone of civilization.  The breaking of bread together with friends, family and total strangers can open doors of conversation, compassion, and sharing.  I believe very strongly that in order to really get to know someone, it’s essential to share meals together.  I know that every single celebration, announcement, remembrance, and memorial I have ever attended involved Food.

 

I will also share that it is because of Food that my wife first caught my eye.  We met in college.  We lived in student apartments.  Jenny and her roommate were always hosting dinners or coffee in their apartment.  One day, she invited me over for dinner and put together the most incredible pork tenderloin meal.  The meal was delicious, but what grabbed my attention was that she cooked with her soul.  I could see her heart poured into her cooking.  And it was beautiful.  From then on, I knew I was going to do whatever it took to snatch her up.

 

I’ve said this before many times in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but I do mean it in all sincerity.  Ladies – if you are trying to attract a man to court you, start with his stomach.  If you don’t know how to cook, LEARN.  You will get far better results in the investments you make in learning how to cook vs. learning how to pole dance or rock climb.  Mothers – TEACH your daughters how to serve a meal including how to write up a shopping list and go buy groceries, plan for the number of attendees, time and prep, and serve.  These are skills that are quickly disappearing from our society, but I can tell you that my daughters will someday stand out from the crowd because Jenny has been training them from a very young age.

 

This weekend, we’re hosting a potluck dinner after church at our home.  We try to host one at least once a quarter.  We usually get a pretty good turn out and the food that people bring is incredible.  There are some churches that dine together every Sunday or Wednesday as a part of their fellowship.  Others are deathly afraid of the associations that might be insinuated with their congregation if they start having picnics on the lawn. 

 

I believe Christians are called to gather together to worship God and Christ, to keep each other accountable, to help in times of need, and to support and encourage one another.  Too often Christians focus only on having excellent worship that we neglect the social connections we need to have with one another.  Sharing the experience of a meal together – not just eating together – is the most simple way to open doors and build relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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Baptized every week?

This is more of a mental note for me to come back to this topic when I have some time.  I was donating blood this morning when the nurse that was taking my blood started talking with one of the other techs.  The conversation went something like this:

 

A: You should come with me to church.

B:  I know, I should.

A: Have you been baptized?

B:  Girl, I was baptized almost every week growing up.

A:  Every week?  You know you only need to do it once?

B:  I know, but my mom was a preacher and she was just being extra cautious with us.

 

There’s so many things wrong with this conversation, but I have too many things I have to do tonight.  I will come back to this at some point.

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