Archive for the 'Individualism' Category

You Built It Yourself–with More Help Than You Know!

On our road trip last week we heard a news report of a politician abusing an honor roll student in public. The story didn’t use those words. We heard the politician praise the student for his achievement. He went on–and on and on–about how that student had achieved that honor himself. But the politician was just using the honor student. The politician turned the student’s legitimate accomplishment into one more excuse to distort President Obama’s recent statement that a successful small business owner “didn’t build [his business] himself.”

[IN CASE YOU’RE GETTING WORRIED–This isn’t intended as a partisan political rant–from here on! This incident highlights two contrasting worldviews present in many facets of life including the church. It puts us squarely on the boundary between faith and politics. I believe this border needs to be free and open with plenty of two-way traffic. Others prefer a rigid boundary that firmly separates faith and politics.]

Let’s call one of these worldviews the “individual” view. The individual view insists that the businessman (Mr. Smith to us) did build his business himself. He invested his own money, expertise, hard work, sleepless nights, perseverance, creativity, etc. That honor roll student (George), says the politician, is the one who went to class, did the homework, wrote the papers,and  made the grades. George is the one who chose to stay in and study rather than go out with his friends. The initiative and determination shown by George and Mr. Smith is worthy of celebration and imitation. I agree. I believe the President would agree.  Those who hold the individual view might call Mr. Smith “a self-made man”. They might even say he “pulled himself up by his own bootstraps”. He didn’t. None of us did. None of us can. It’s against the laws of physics. Try it—-if you can find boots with straps! Pull. Pull hard–harder!! You won’t pull yourself up off the ground. You’ll either wear yourself out very quickly–or lose your balance and fall in a heap!

The other view [we’ll call it the “community” view] celebrates Mr. Smith’s hard work and success. It also sees many who helped Mr. Smith’s journey to success. It’s certainly reasonable to suggest his childhood and family life were foundational. The community where he lived provided schools, parks, and other opportunities for him to learn and grow. Key adults in addition to his parents touched his life along the way. A teacher, coach, pastor, scout leader, or neighbor may have made a life-changing difference. That difference-maker may not have known it then–or even now! Mr. Smith started his business in a community and nation built by others before him. He relied on existing laws, transportation, and utiity infrastructure. He paid for the next generation’s use of that infrastructure (including things like public schools) through his taxes. George, the honor student, worked long and hard to make the honor roll–but not all by himself. More than likely his parents supported and encouraged him. Influential teachers motivated him. Beyond the local community, both state and federal tax dollars–yours and mine–helped provide the school system in which George excelled. Like Mr. Smith, George probably has adults in addition to his parents who enrich his life.

Do you see the difference  between these two ways to look at life? The individual view says “I did it. I deserve all the credit for my accomplishments. I helped myself. You help yourself.” The community view says, “I deserve credit for my hard work, for using my ability, perseverance, and creativity–but not all the credit. I did it in an environment I didn’t choose or create, with more help than I can name from family, friends, and folks I will never meet. I did it with the help of this community (however you describe it–church, family, tribe, town, nation, etc.). The communities of which I am a part will shape all the decisions in my life We’re in this together!”

Do you see the contrast? Keep your eyes and ears open as the political season intensifies. Pay attention to celebrities, family and friends, and talk on the street. Listen to your pastor–and to the meetings after church in the hallway, the coffee hour, and the parking lot. I don’t believe life is sustainable when the individual view predominates–in families, cities, nations, churches, or on our planet. The community view is realistic, practical, sustainable, biblical–and against the grain of human nature and the prevailing cultural winds. If you agree, will you seek to let this worldview shape more of your life? Will you seek ways to share this perspective, especially with folks who see life differently? Let’s agree to try to do that lovingly, openly, and non-yellingly! No political party is completely right or wrong on this one. Yes, we’re teetering on the narrow ledge of that faith/politics boundary. But keeping a solid  brick wall between the two has gotten us where we are. Let’s try something new. How about moving from faith and politics to faith-full politics?

 

 


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