For the vast majority of history, society has depended largely on the religious obedience of the individual to keep lawlessness and violence at a minimum.
Otherwise, how could a relatively small police force protect the citizenry as a whole?
Civil peace found its foundation in the individual’s personal commitment to obey the laws of God which flooded over into the same personal commitment of obedience to the laws of government.
You know, people just did what was right because it was the right thing to do. They didn’t need to have the reasons explained why speeding through a neighborhood, or breaking into your neighbor’s home, or embezzling from the company were against the law.
Not so much anymore.
Instead of the main deterrent of illegal activity being personal integrity, we have come to rely on scaring people into submission through tougher and tougher punishments.
And that is only if they get caught.
It’s kind of like a parent who only tells a child “no.”
NO, don’t run out into the street.
NO, don’t climb on the bookcase.
NO, you may not have a cookie
And on and on.
Or hide what they are doing.
We’ve all heard the instant response to our queries “what are you guys doing?”
More and more of the adults in society have adopted the same mindset: wait until no one is looking, cover up the evidence, and calmly lie when questioned.
Ann and I learned, perhaps later than we should have, that it is critical to provide as many “yes” answers as we did “no” answers.
Yes, you can run in the backyard.
Yes, you can climb the trees and on the swing set.
Yes, you can have some cheese and apples.
It also usually elicits an honest answer instead of the predictable “NOTHING.”
This is freedom for both the child and the parent.
So, as children of a larger parental society, how do we learn the same lesson?
For example, I have watched the debate go on and on for years regarding Global Warming. The fight goes back and forth about the science and whether or not man is the cause of either imagined or impending doom.
I don’t know that it really matters.
To me, we have been given the responsibility of stewardship over this beautiful planet. As stewards, our job is to do the best we can with what we have, while using all we know.
Should we conserve our water use only when a drought threatens?
Should we turn off our idling engines only when gas is over $4 a gallon?
Should we keep our thermostats a little lower in the winter and a little higher in the summer only when we risk a power surge on the grid?
I think each person will have to answer all of these types of questions, regarding so many different issues, for themselves. Thankfully, we still have the freedom to do so.
How long do you think we will keep this freedom?
All we seem to hear is NO.
What would happen if instead of waiting for someone else to decide for us, we moved forward by finding our own YES answers? Running in the backyard rather than the street; climbing the trees rather than the bookcase; choosing for ourselves a healthier snack?
You know, just doing what we feel is best simply because it is the right thing to do.
So, what is the right thing to do?
Kind of puts this whole march toward maintaining our Freedom of Religion in a little brighter light.
If we aren’t willing to act individually to just do the right thing, waiting instead until we are caught and told NO, then the possible number of YES’s in our future will continue to diminish.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best example of this. For every perceived NO we may feel we are given, there are so many more YES’s that bring us that same level of comfort, and openness, and honesty that our children learned so long ago.
This is freedom that no one can take from us. We know that we only lose it if we give it away.
A society that depends on being told NO to keep things in order quickly loses the opportunity to choose.
And often it is choosing between two bad choices.
However, when enough individuals seek to do what is right just because it is the right thing to do, we find our choices are choosing from good, better, or best.