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Making Choices

We get only a few choices in this life that make any difference. The list of in what and where that we did not or do not have anything to say or any choice in matters is much, much longer.

We didn’t get to pick our parents. That was beyond our ability to affect. We didn’t get to choose how or where that we were raised. We didn’t get to choose the color of our skin, or of our eyes (I would have picked blue, or maybe one blue and one yellow). We didn’t get to choose our hair, whether curled or straight, coarse or fine, and unless we take part in some of the latest techniques, of how much of it we will end up with. We didn’t get to choose whether we were issued all the standard parts, whether they would be uniform, whether they will last or function adequately, or if we would be considered handsome or beautiful. We didn’t get to choose our level of intelligence, for if we had wed all be so smart that no one could ever get along with anybody else. Pretty much all of these and a good number of other characteristics and particulars are given to us either by the hand of God, through some condition, by some seeming accident, through genetics, or due to choices made by parents.

In most of the world, you don’t get to choose your mate, or if you will even have one. You don’t get to choose your level of education, or your job or your terms of employment. And here’s one for you — in most places you don’t get to choose your religion: that’s done for you too.

Somehow most of the world is concerned less with the frivolities of a member of a “royal” family or some entertainers bad behavior or foibles than many here seem to be. Most folks outside of those on this continent are more focused on choices as to where the food and water for the day will come from, and simply don’t have much time to waste on flippancies.

We have a different take on things in the United States. Few mates are chosen by others. Here the grocery store is likely just around the corner, and you can exercise some privilege or rights to have it your way. You can even change your appearance if you have the means. And we have lots of time to waste without so much as a thought about how we might spend it.

The United States is at once the freest society for choice and individual freedom ever to have appeared on earth. Yet that wasn’t accidental (and it certainly wont last forever), but those who were born here didn’t have a thing to say about any of that either. It was all completed and laid down before we were zygotes. So from our limited perspective it is altogether happenstance that we were born here as opposed to some other less composed place.

You don’t get a choice on how long you will live or how you will die (unless you take a hand in the outcome of the second of these).

Now, we like to think that we have the controls held firmly in our own hands; that we are the force behind things and the shapers of our own destiny. That’s the American Way: Manifest Destiny, Territorial Imperative, and all the rest. But, it really isn’t so. Were so much more just the product of circumstances, of the particulars found outside of our measly realm of control, from within the raising we experienced in our immediate family and that of our early environment, than we perhaps ever care to admit.

I mentioned that similarly to any number of other things, your religion was likely given to you at an early age. Now with some it isn’t true, but for most that adhere to any religious calling or order they do so because they cut their teeth on it from an early age. So the religion of your fathers’ is likely your religion too. You see, the appropriateness, the rightness or wrongness of things has little to do with it in many cases. The major indicator or compass point is found in what you were taught from your youth and how well it was administered and how well you adapted to it. Do you doubt this?

Where do you suppose most fervent Jews, Islamists or Catholics come from? Where do Mormons or Congregationalists come from? Do they spring from the ground following a good rain? Well no, they are likely schooled and tutored in their youth through the efforts of their parents and in homes, schools, synagogues, temples, mosques, or churches through the efforts of teachers and the like. Where oh where do you suppose most members of churches of Christ come from? The answer is no different, as we are not really very good at the “going” part of the Great Commission, but some better in schooling our own children (at least some are).

Now the majority of people schooled and raised in any religious background won’t ever venture out of the box that has been painted around them. Most will be quite content to walk out the perimeter and note the boundaries, and will never go beyond the “orthodoxy” learned. If it was good enough for the generations before me it is good enough for me. We are very much creatures of custom and habit, those whose comfort comes through conformity in this sense; and we respond to what we have been taught and to what we have been schooled in. We are steeped in tradition to the loss of our souls. And in that sense the spiritually void person, the one who has no preconceptions or dogmas already rooted deep within them, has the advantage in coming to, or more correctly, finding the truth in things religious or otherwise.

Of course, that last statement implies that there is some truth to be had that transcends some of the things that we are taught or may have been schooled in. Truth transcends what we “know.”

How do you suppose someone becomes an adherent of socialism or say, fascism? Do they awake a fascist one morning after an agonizing night of dreams? Does the indigestion from a midday meal cause socialism or is there something more at work?

Things must appeal to our senses and to our sensibilities. If they do not we will not embrace them. To have truth (what I facetiously like to call “true facts”) take hold against our customs, traditions and to supplant our lessons taught we have to see where a collision with truth casts us against what we have known.

But if we simply follow what we have been taught well likely accept only those things and with little exercise.

Yet truth is still out there and it may not necessarily be even so much as recognized though we might cross paths hard against it. For truth is not subject to you or me. It is not a matter of predisposition or of some accident of breeding. It does not depend upon our acceptance to certify it – it remains what it is.

Does truth become a slave to opinions, beliefs or to what we have been schooled in? No — it remains at all times simply the truth.

So we can’t get to the pharmacy and buy a bottle of truth, an elixir to end all fears and to enlighten us in our walk here. We can’t come up the middle aisle after an invitation song and find it there. We can’t get it on-line at CMS or from some other site or by reading some paper. We have to diligently seek it: to root it out.

You know we like to believe that we tell the truth and that the truth is told to us by friends and family, but in reality, were really trusting sorts more often given to what we have heard and filled up only with opinion topped with just a dash of truth. The truth may be in there somewhere but the light may not be working so that we can’t readily distinguish it in the dark. In some cases you’d need a microscope as it may be in such small quantity so that it is rendered indiscernible; or perhaps a truth telescope would be in order as it may be distant light years away.

So how does one go about finding truth? Is the searching intellect one of those few ways through which we may exercise choice within our lives?

One of my favorite quotations was attributed to Galileo, who it is said stated, “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.” As Emeril would say “Bam!” We have to use the faculties we have been given and go in search of it – to weigh it and test it.

On the small matter of exercising choice in this life, it would seem that use of what innate intelligence we possess is one of those choices where we can affect things to some level and use, so that we may also have an effect for good not only on ourselves but on those who we may come in contact with. Wouldn’t it be the highest pursuit and exercise of choice to find and to hold the truth? So then truth appeals to intellect.

That is exactly what the Bible appeals to: the intellect. It is often portrayed as anti-intellectual, but that is only used to obfuscate the message and the details.

Jesus said some things that if taken as stated require the reader to force an opinion as to the verity of the statements. He said things like: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except by me.” He stated: “You believe in Abraham, know that before Abraham was – I am.” Further yet: “He that believes and is immersed shall be saved, but the one that does not believe shall be damned.”

Our intellect notes immediately that in these statements (and any number of others of similar stripe) that Jesus implied or directly stated that he is God and that his authority is without question; and that without honoring him and doing as he has given that we will be lost. A lot of people will not have that. But they didn’t arrive at that view through use of intellect – it is a mater of denial. Now it has been rightly noted that either Jesus is what he states himself to be or he was a liar and a lunatic. You see there really is no middle ground to be held in this.

The intellectual bottom line is that what he said is absolute truth or absolute fantasy. Who cares about a philosophy in which the master teacher is out of his mind? We already have plenty of those. So it seems that we (individually) must decide on what truth is and whether or not Jesus was giving out the truth or was simply delusional. To do this we should carefully weigh the evidence presented and mark the information as to its accuracy.

That is the most important choice that is left to us. What choice will you make?