Friday, February 5, 2010

as freedom is a breakfastfood

I never thought of myself as one of those lock-yourself-away-in-a-closet-awaiting-the-end-times, conspiracy freak, fear-mongering, technology haters until I read the following passage from an essay entitled "FAIL" by Chuck Klosterman.
When it's warm out I like to sit inside air-conditioned rooms. ...

Yet what am I giving up in order to have a 70 degree living room in July?

Nothing that's particularly important to me.

For the air conditioner to work, I need to live in a building that has electricity, so I have to connected to the rest of society.  That's fine.  That's no problem.  Of course, to be accepted by society, I have to accept the rules and laws of community living.  That's fine, too.  Now, to thrive and flourish and afford my electric bill, I will also have to earn money.  But that's okay--most jobs are social and many are enriching and unnecessary.  However, the only way to earn money is to do something (or provide something) that is valued by other people.  And since I don't get to decide what other people value, what I do to make a living is not really my decision.  So--in order to have air-conditioning--I will agree to live in a specific place with other people, following whatever rules happen to exist there, all while working at a job that was constructed by someone else for their benefit.

In order to have a 70-degree living room, I give up almost everything.

Yet nothing that's particularly important to me.

The point is: "Technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom."

We don't value freedom.  We constantly make decisions that we know will result in the forfeiting of our freedoms and we do so for the worst of all reasons: comfort.

We don't value freedom and we will trade it for almost anything.

Our freedoms are daily, constantly under assault and almost never in the ways we would expect.

For a minor example, just take a look at the sports world.  This week all eyes are focused on Miami, the site of Super Bowl XLIV.  The Colts' quarterback, Peyton Manning, is the center of attention as he is the most talented player in Sunday's game if not in the game of football today.  Yet he has only won one Super Bowl in a career marked by statistical accolades and accomplishments.  If the Colts emerge victorious on Sunday night, almost every commentator on every sports station in the world will be anointing him as the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League.

This will happen for two reasons.  One, sports commentators need something to talk about and they always want to claim that we are watching the greatest player to ever play the game.  Historically great players sell out stadiums and lead to huge television contracts for the networks.  They sell commercials, they move merchandise, and they inspire us to greatness ourselves.

That is precisely why we should never proclaim someone the greatest to play their particular position until we are really sure about it.  There's more than just money on the line.

The second reason is because Peyton Manning fits a quarterback archetype that has been in place since long before he ever stepped on a football field.  Nevermind that he lacks the golden arm of Johnny Unitas or the charisma of Joe Namath or the grit and toughness of Terry Bradshaw or the cool demeanor of the ultimate winner Joe Montana.

After all, he comes to the line on each play screaming like a cracked-out paranoid schizophrenic with Tourette's syndrome.  That's got to count for something, right?

Color me unimpressed.  That's why I will never think Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time.  Because I don't buy into the hype.  Manning didn't invent the audible.  He's just a smart quarterback who has played on above average teams and won Super Bowl(s) in years in which there were no great teams out there to knock him out of the playoffs.

But commentators will anoint him nonetheless.  Because it is easier to join the chorus of the crowd than to risk singing off key.

We don't want freedom because we fear the burden that freedom carries.

In an example wholly foreign to discussions of football, consider the movement within young evangelical churches to rekindle the theology of John Calvin.

In short, the newly reformed evangelical movement takes the position that freedom is an illusion and that God in his sovereignty controls "even our smallest decisions."

This, of course, leads to a host of theological problems for people who are considering the existence of evil in the world and trying to reconcile that with the idea of a good and omnipotent God.  Why does God allow evil people to prosper while the virtuous continue to suffer?  Why did God even bother to create human beings at all if they were merely going to be automatons and pawns in a grander struggle ever frustrated by their inability to exercise free will?  How can a creation without the ability to make its own choices be held to the consequences because of sin?  Why create a world where Jesus Christ would have to suffer a horrific, undignified death on a cross if sin and evil could have been prevented if God was just more careful in His stewardship of creation?

As you might be able to tell, I'm no Calvinist.

But the question is: Why is anyone?  It is a completely unsatisfying theology ending only in fatalism and despair when put in the context of a world of suffering and in light of the inability of human beings to effect any real change in the world.

We're scared to be free.  We fear what the realization of our own freedom might be.  So we would rather have our theology dictated to us by John Piper than take the time to read the Bible for ourselves and draw our own conclusions.  Certainly, God never intended for Christians to bother with an original thought or a new theology after his greatest and final prophet John Calvin left the earth.

We don't want to think for ourselves.  It's easier this way.  For one, if we rely on our own thoughts, we could end up making mistakes.  We could end up being wrong.

Well, you can count me in the same camp as Galileo who said, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

I would rather take the risky, adventurous path of freedom and end up being wrong than be right but in chains.  I would rather worship a God who loves me than one who controls me.

Great theologians, quarterbacks, and commentators took risks and felt freedom.  We cannot abandon that freedom for a comfortable existence now.

And if we do, then there's no greatness left in us.


Katie said...

What did Manning do to you to deserve being compared to a drug addict with a disability/mental illness?? Good stuff other than denying a certain QB credit that he is due. Klosterman is always good for provoking thought and a good laugh.

Brent Woodcox said...

I have a lot more reasons for hating Manning than I can cover in one blog post. Trust me. Some rational, some irrational. Klosterman is the man. I wish I could write like him but I'm not sure I want to think like him.