I remember watching cartoons during my early childhood. One character in particular made a lasting impression on me due to the confused look he had on his face as an angel was whispering in one ear and the devil was whispering in the other. Decades later, when my son was in middle school, he was describing someone that had gotten into some trouble and said: “Yeah, she has the devil on both shoulders.”
Today, as we habitually cram the talking buds further into both ears, people who lean slightly to the left are pushed further to the left while people who lean slightly to the right are pushed further to the right. As a result, we live our lives on an uneven keel, in a filter bubble that makes it very difficult to relate in a world with competing ideas or to productively engage with anyone that has a contrasting point of view. The spiritual idealism that has the power to take our planet from one level of true attainment to the next is seriously diminished because, as any aviation enthusiast can tell you, very little lift is produced at the wingtips.
Throughout the history of our planet, there have been people, at the commanding heights, who are unable to differentiate between true and false liberty. The bully pulpit is, as often as not, occupied by people that can’t seem to balance freedom with self-control. Many of us, as parents, have had to contend with one or more children that don’t think the rules apply to them.
Sooo, just what is this thing that we call liberty? Is it permissible, in the name of free speech, to yell fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire? Does self-expression on the dance floor mean that you, with your eyes closed, can flail your arms in such a manner that, while you have indeed become the center of attention, it is only because you have become a hazard to others on the floor? And what about truthfulness? Is it ok to mislead someone who may rely upon your word to their detriment?
Liberty that is unintelligent, unconditioned, and uncontrolled is a cruel deception that invariably leads to abject bondage for someone. It may be you; if you should decide to go wilding with the hordes through the hallowed halls of representative government. You could lose your freedom, for life, in accordance with the felony murder rule. You could lose your cherished 2nd Amendment right to own a gun. You could find yourself on a list that forever bars you from boarding a commercial flight. And, you may even end up complementing your mobile phone with an even more trackable ankle bracelet.
There is a delicate balance between true freedom and self-control. And, while good parents teach it, bad-faith pastors do not. The counterfeit wisdom that flows from many in authority, who are often enjoying excessive prominence, is leading us not into an era of light and life, but into an orgy of darkness and death. They often seem ignorant of the fact that, in Our Lord’s Universe, diminishing external restraints are always contingent upon augmenting internal restraints.
The Incarnation of Christ was about the achievement of God seeking us and finding us, together with the phenomenon of our seeking God and finding him. He did that to our mutual satisfaction, and during one brief lifetime in the flesh. The Bestowal was not about giving us license to presume upon Divine Mercy. When we act selfishly, we are behaving in ways that are antithetical to all that Jesus taught and exemplified. When we accumulate wealth, power, and prestige for self-aggrandizement, in ways that work to the detriment of others, we are like a cancer within the Body of Christ. We are modeling a depraved heart indifference.
If humanity chooses survival over extinction, we must turn our attention to those purpose driven leaders that are advancing us towardsan era of light and life. They are easy to recognize because their values proposition is crystal clear. There is no subterfuge. They focus us, as Jesus did, not upon themselves but on our own highest and best understanding of truth, beauty, and goodness as we give creative expression to these qualities. They encourage us to consider just how we can contribute, in an active and spiritually pragmatic way, toward the healing and elevation of life on our planet.
We must learn to recognize any sophistry that has the effect of corroding the democracy underpinnings of our constitutional republic. Long ago, Edmund Burke, in referring to the American colonists, described our ancestors as “able to snuff the approach of tyranny with every tainted breeze.” Today the tainted breezes are delivered by means of powerful airwaves that Burke probably never imagined. And, right now, the most deceptive practices, ones that leverage fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear are generating howling winds in contrast to the gentle breezes of true benevolence. The most refreshing breezes are the ones that are spiritually fragrant, the ones where truth, beauty, and goodness are clearly in evidence.
It is my fervent hope that you will learn to recognize the folly of succumbing to self-serving temptation and instead come to enjoy knowing Jesus, having an inspirational chorus of better angels and tutors on both shoulders.