The Wrong Turn

Iamthewayby Deana Chadwell1/14/16
Once my husband and I rounded the wrong bend in the middle of Montana and, being as far from civilization as one can get in the lower 48, we drove a couple hundred miles before we knew for sure we were lost, and even longer before we finally found an opportunity to amend our trajectory. It was a spooky, Twilight Zone time for us; the Rockies kept getting closer and closer, and they shouldn’t have been doing that.

America is now living through such a lost period in our history, and it’s high time we thought about where things went wrong. In my Montana wanderings there were several factors involved; we’d neglected to bring the charger for the GPS, had consulted the wrong map, and had failed to pay attention when the road veered gradually to the left. The same is true for our national journey.

As with most errors this one started with bad thinking; we’ve made two huge philosophical mistakes, one an outgrowth of the other, and they may cost us everything: 1) we have been lazy and wimpy on the issue of Truth and, as a result, 2) we have bought the lie that human nature is basically good.[pullquote]If nothing is really true, then there’s no reason to knuckle down and learn anything, no reason to think very hard, no reason to amass facts – we suspect they’re not true anyway.[/pullquote]

Let’s look first at the issue of Truth. I say we wimped out because it is much easier, at least for a while, to whitewash all controversies and claim that Truth is so flexible that it can take any shape we want it to. If we assume that truth is merely a human construct, we can claim that it comes in thousands of differing colors and sizes, tailor made to fit any need. Thus we avoid having to discern differences, make moral judgments, or stand up for anything. We can act superior to those who still see vast chasms between belief systems and we claim “open-mindedness” utterly unaware of the meaninglessness of that term.

If nothing is really true, then there’s no reason to knuckle down and learn anything, no reason to think very hard, no reason to amass facts – we suspect they’re not true anyway. I am dumbfounded by the ignorant assertion that Muslims and Christians worship the same god. A person doesn’t have to know, can’t know, anything much about either belief and make that statement. In an un-truthful world ignorance is not only bliss, it is the inescapable condition.

If nothing is ever True, then differences don’t exist and moral issues fade into quaint historical oddities and we needn’t trouble ourselves about anything except a failure to accept this new credo. Contradictory as it may seem, that is the absolute.

You see, if one decides against absolute Truth, one decides against logic; it is, after all, a self-refuting logical impossibility to say, “There is no such thing as absolute truth.” And what happens when a society decides to ignore the nonsense factor and base its “thinking” on such a floppy foundation? Insanity is what happens.

We have a society in which one can scream about a “war on women” but support passionately a group that excels at subordinating, torturing, mutilating, raping and terrifying its women from their childhood. We have a society that has frozen in the face of an enemy so horrifying that we can’t even work up the courage to publicly condemn them, let alone commit to war. We have a society that has no moral boundaries, other than avoiding offending another person’s sensibilities. We have no problem with killing inconvenient babies in spite of its genocidal results, no problem with sexual promiscuity regardless of the physical disease and family turmoil that causes, and worst of all, we no longer expect our leadership to be truthful people of integrity.

As the Clinton campaign drags itself forward I am amazed at the number of her supporters – both public figures and private acquaintances of mine – who are content to make excuses for her habitual, pathological duplicity. I recently asked a Facebook Clintonite how she dealt with the proven dishonesty of her hero. She replied that she “just didn’t look at it that way.” ??? Such a nonsensical response leaves me speechless.

If we decide that Truth is what we want it to be, we can come to those conclusions. There is a problem with that, however. Sooner or later reality will come crashing through the door and it will have to be dealt with. That’s where we are right now. Grendel is splintering the gates and we can no longer just pass the joint, sing loudly and pretend he’s not out there. He is.

Because we have treated reality like a do-it-yourself kit, we’ve arrived at a second philosophical no-man’s land; we’ve decided that, despite all evidence to the contrary, humanity is basically good. We have rejected the biblical edict that “All men have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Original sin is no longer our national creed. I’m OK, you’re OK seems like a harmless dogma, but, since it’s essentially not true, it’s leading down a really murky trail.

If we are basically born good, then child rearing becomes nothing more than keeping the child alive until he can fend for himself, never mind the fact that such parental neglect has created at least two generations of self-centered, amoral monsters. We are not naturally good. We can be good, but we don’t start that way. What baby has ever given a rip that his mother hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since he was born? What two-year-old goes sweetly off to her nap because she knows mommy needs some quiet time? Children need to be taught, sternly and consistently, to put others first.

If our children aren’t trained out of their natural tendencies we end up with mobs of teenagers terrorizing mall shoppers, having sex at school (sometimes with the teacher, because that generation doesn’t know any better either), and destroying any learning that might be able to happen in a classroom.

When we assume that human beings are just hunky-dory we paint ourselves into a very uncomfortable corner. How then do we account for the hellish things that people do to each other? How can we process the knowledge that some of our fellow human beings are quite at ease with the idea of raping babies, beheading fellow countrymen, burning people alive? How do we explain that?[pullquote]All of human history has been a trail of tears – not because the rich have too much, or because our parents didn’t love us enough, or because some stranger didn’t approve of us. We hurt each other because something in us pushes us to do so.[/pullquote]

We try to blame such behavior on poverty, on racism (which also needs explaining), on society in general, which is a pretty rocky hypothesis since society is built of the crooked bricks of fallen, sinful individuals; it’s not a separate entity, but an outgrowth of all that is rotten in Denmark, if I might steal a phrase from the Bard.

Human beings, unless trained to be decent, humble, and caring, have in our very DNA the capacity to think and commit evil – absolute evil. Each generation comes face-to-face with that fact. All of human history has been a trail of tears – not because the rich have too much, or because our parents didn’t love us enough, or because some stranger didn’t approve of us. We hurt each other because something in us pushes us to do so. This is why humanity needed a Savior. Only with His sacrifice and His influence has the world crept slowly out of the toil and horror of life on this earth.

But if we deny Truth (i.e. God) and continue looking past all the evidence of our flawed nature, the prosperity and progress of the last 2,000 years will be lost, is being lost. I pray consistently that enough of us will wake up and realize that there is an absolute mountain of Truth out in front of us, and we’re about to crash headlong into it. Truth is immutable; it isn’t going to move out of our way.


Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com and is a writing and speech professor at Pacific Bible College in Southern Oregon.
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Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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24 Responses to The Wrong Turn

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    A truly spending essay, Deana. And inspiring. And conformation that what we’re doing here is worthwhile. Thanks for sharing that with us once again.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    To me, the question of truth first involves separating observable fact (which obviously represents absolute truth) and opinions. Some opinions (like scientific theories) are intended to explain facts and may be very well established — but they’re still opinions, not observable facts. And some opinions are even less reliable — but to liberals, all their opinions are equivalent to facts. (This is one of the main problems with liberal fact-checking sites.)

    My view is that most people want to be good, but only as long as it suits their personal interest. At the same time, what they think is good is heavily determined by culture. Southern culture 200 years ago accepted slavery (justifying it, despite their nominal belief in human equality, on the unsupported and fallacious grounds that blacks were inherently inferior). Arab/Muslim culture today accepts a great deal of ill-treatment of women. Modern liberalism increasingly believes abortion is morally right. These and other such views lead to behavior we call bad, but they think otherwise.

    • Rosalys says:

      “My view is that most people want to be good…”

      Revise that a little and I’ll agree with you. I think that most people want to be viewed as good by others.

      Take Miley Cyrus. I succumbed to the temptation to watch her being interviewed on some late night show (until I could take it no longer – about two minutes.) She came out wearing not much up top, but she did put a brightly colored, glittery, flowery sticker over each nipple (thus both covering and drawing attention to them.) When the host asked her what her father thought of the way she presented herself in public she said, “He probably would prefer I cover my tits, but he would rather I show my tits and be a good person than for me to cover them up and be bad.” (paraphrased) The implication being that Ms. Cyrus views herself as “good” when she clearly is not – she isn’t even nice. And what about ole Papa Billy? I have never seen (nor do I want to!) the original twerking event that premiered the “new Miley,” but I read about it afterwards and understand that Daddy was tweeting accolades about his spawn during the event. Clearly this is a man who never learned how to be a father.

      And speaking of fathers… One of the things that bothered me about the whole Clinton/Lewinsky affair was the reaction of Monica’s father. Here is the President of the United States doing his daughter dirty, and his reaction is, “Ken Starr is out of control!” Honestly, if that had been me – first, my Dad would have been thoroughly disgusted with me. Second, my Dad would have ended his days in prison for the attempted assassination of a president! And that would be the proper reaction of a father!

      Now Miley is not alone. We all want to be thought well of, myself included. And yet there are times (more than I like to acknowledge!) when my behavior is less than stellar. Try as I might (and sometimes I do try) I usually cannot convince myself that my evil is good. So when that happens, plan B is to try to hide the facts out of shame. The problem with the current culture is that we have progressed wa-a-a-a-a-y beyond shame!

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Timothy said:

        My view is that most people want to be good, but only as long as it suits their personal interest.

        Rosie said:

        Revise that a little and I’ll agree with you. I think that most people want to be viewed as good by others.

        I can’t find fault with what either one of you said. And Rosalys went on to regale us with her splendid wisdom in the rest of her comment.

        I was talking to my sister the other day on this subject. I don’t know how it came up exactly. But the gist of it was that I told her that I knew some people who were good, but that I was not among them.

        It’s terribly flattering, and very tempting, to call oneself good. Oh, I’m not a criminal. I’m a quote “productive member of society.” I would return a wallet if I found it — money intact. But I’ve known good people and that is a different standard.

        This is at the heart of the split between conservatives and Leftists. Conservatives are infused with the Christian idea (or they ought to be) that although man may be born innocent (as Dennis Prager terms it), he is not born good. He has to be made good. That is to say, we are all sinners. We are all bent in some way. And most importantly, we all need guidance. The stupidest popular phrase of today may be “It’s all good.” No, Virginia, it definitely is not all good.

        We see the swath of destruction afflicted upon society by those for whom the flattery of thinking oneself (or being thought of by others) as being a good person is the whole point. People wring their hands over “the homeless” while not caring in the least who the homeless are or what they are truly lacking. The same with homosexuals. It’s a horrid lifestyle to acquiesce to. And yet do any of these people care about the extremely high rate of suicide, and suicide attempts, by “the transgendered”? No. All they care to do is pay lip service to raving popular opinion to thus show how damned “nice” they supposedly are.

        Does anyone care about the destruction environmental wacko policies are having on people in their pursuit of a prosperous life? No. All they care about is to be seen to be a “carer.”

        You’ll never find good without wisdom. And today’s society is sorely lacking in wisdom, conceits of every second person being Albert Schweitzer or Florence Nightingale notwithstanding.

        And although I don’t believe in the literal story of the fall from the Garden of Eden, I do think there is an inherent truth there. Mankind is bent. Whether he is bent because of the necessities of living in nature (where Darwinian rules do indeed have great effect) or because of a series of corrupt choices, I do not know. But anyone who believes that man is basically good is a fool, and a destructive one at that.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Very good points. The Almanac of American Politics once noted that Marin County (California) was the sort of place where wealthy women went to the store in cashmere sweaters — but barefoot, to show “solidarity” with the poor. You may also recall celebrities who used to kick some homeless person off his particular grate so they could show their solidarity by sleeping there one night.

          There are many such means by which people choose to preen themselves for caring. But actually assisting such people, either directly or by contributing to charities that help them, is much less common (except for a few super-rich types, and much of their effort is ostentatiously generous).

          • Rosalys says:

            Don’t forget that the sainted poor and homeless can be just as mean, selfish, and vindictive as the rest of us. I’ll bet there have been more than a few fights among them over those heating grates. And there is little more despicable in this world than a recipient of gifts – whether it be charity, welfare, or the birthday variety – who shows a lack of gratitude, or worse, despises the giver.

        • Love this line: You’ll never find good without wisdom. I may have to rent that from you now and then.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Dear Deana, anything you wish to use (or steal) is fine by me.

            And the reason I believe that that in order to find good you’ll also need to find wise is because a lot of the “do-gooders” in the world are most unwise and leave a swath of destruction behind them.

            Dennis Prager says that his rabbi taught him there were two proclivities he must overcome as he set forth into life. One is the propensity to do evil. The other is the propensity to do good. And by the latter he meant the kind of shallow, mindless, unwise “do-gooding” that is only about one’s self, not about some objective idea of good, particularly an idea, and action, with an eye toward the actual effects on others. (Does all the liberal caterwauling about “the homeless” and their concomitant bashing of capitalism do one thing to actually help “the homeless”?)

            Certainly it is possible to have good results out of sheer dumb luck or a genuinely good, if simple, heart. I don’t think one has to have the wisdom of Solomon in order to do good. It doesn’t take a PhD to figure out that right thing to do when you find a wallet full of money on the side of the road. If you are on a crowded bus, particularly if you are a man (but this applies to women as well), it doesn’t take a complex intellectual formula to figure out that you should give up your seat to the elderly woman (or man).

            But “good” today too often is simply political posturing. It’s about that others see *you* as being a do-gooder (as defined often by the most obtuse, if not corrupt, standards). I urge people here to write good (and thus to contribute to doing good) by having a motivation more than just ranting. You’ve got to have your sights set further than just scratching your pissed-off itch. This is with the backdrop that much of “conservatism” online is little more than a book club and lecture circuit with little thought to actually changing the culture.

            And I won’t say that doing good is simple. We mere humans don’t have the full scope of time in our brains. We can do our best (if we are willing) to try to see and plan ahead and put our actions in some context, to have in mind not just the action of the moment but how these types of actions add up. But we are inherently limited to a bit of good here and a bit of good there and hoping we are weaving with the overall tapestry of Creation, and not against it.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              An important point to remember about the “do-gooders” (the sort I call the goodthinkful well-doers, referring to 2 different dystopias) is that their real concern (as I believe you’ve noted elsewhere) is to be seen as doing good (and also supporting the right causes), not actually doing anything useful. They justify this by choosing to believe that the Cause is just, but their lack of interest in verifying that it actually works belies their moral preening.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                I also put that preening and unconcern with doing anything useful down to the herd mentality. A man standing up and doing the right thing is often a brave act, for corruption, indecency, and lying is very often the norm — what we might otherwise call “New York Values.”

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Grendel is splintering the gates and we can no longer just pass the joint, sing loudly and pretend he’s not out there. He is.

    We need our Beowulf, but must also take an active part in our defense.

  4. Rosalys says:

    He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

    The good news (the Gospel!) and the truth is that Jesus is God, Jesus is Lord, and Jesus is Savior, and He wins! And those of us who are called by His name win with Him. Thank you, Deanna, for another great article!

  5. Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

    Timothy makes an important distinction between fact and opinion, but maybe there’s another that percolates under that one.

    I’ve long thought that the distinction between physical and metaphysical serves to protect us from the confusion and dangers of facile thought. I won’t go into boring detail, but the supposed divide between science and religion is one such facile thought that arises from ignoring this distinction. Many professionals in the physical science realm, including engineers, a cohort I’m lucky to reside in, have had their faith reinforced and beautified by simply observing our natural environment. One penetrating look at the newly published hi-res pix of Wright Mons on Pluto is the latest example for me. I see the machinations of the Big Guy, not merely a symbol of man’s near-sublime inventiveness.

    • Rosalys says:

      The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Psalm 19:1

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      One penetrating look at the newly published hi-res pix of Wright Mons on Pluto is the latest example for me.

      Jeez. I’ve been out of the loop lately. I had not idea they had good pictures of Pluto, like this one. Sort of reminds me of the Sherman Williams “cover the world” motif.

      Pluto is a beauty. Didn’t some jackass demote it from a planet?

      Regarding the difference between physical and metaphysical, I would make the case that everything is metaphysical. It’s metaphysical all the way down. We may describe the orbits (such as they are) of an electron. We can find a mathematical formula that works. We can describe and ascribe various attributes (charge, etc.).

      But at the end of the day, each and every thing we observe, feel, or think is a happenstance not explained by our science, no matter how groovy and physically useful the categorization is, not matter how tight the mathematical formulas. We describe but we ultimately do not explain.

      But what we tend to do, and this is understandable, is take our little micro explanations and think they are macro explanations. This is the heart and soul (such as it is) to atheistic materialism (there is no other kind of materialism, but you get my drift).

      As some honest scientists will tell you, it’s amazing that mathematics aligns with physical properties. Why should this be? No one knows. And as we’re discovering, the world is made up of at least twenty or so constants that, as far as we can tell, are in no way dependent upon the workings of the physical work itself. They seem to be manually set, if you will, instituted from without or above.

      • Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

        Maybe I understand your distinction, Brad. If you have an internal viewpoint, it makes perfect sense; there is only subjectivity. But in a social context, wherein we try to define or ascribe truth in order to have mutual understandings for the purposes of improving or directing our community, we need both Timothy’s formulation and mine. No mutual exclusivity here!

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Tom, I’m not sure I understand my distinction either other than that all that is remains an ontological mystery. We can categorize and refine our understandings of the regular actions of the “stuff” (matter and energy and whatever else there is) — finding mathematical rules and such. But I think we humans (not you) become too smug too easily and think we understand what I think remains deeply untouchable by our reason.

          And that lack of epistemological and ontological humility is a mark of the Left. They are their own god. And if you ask me, they are the poorer for it.

          • Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

            You are so right, Brad. We’ve barely penetrated the bounty of secrets around us. Great point about their lack of humility. Goeth before the fall, after all.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Thanks, Tom. And right back at you. It’s great to have another intelligent fellow here.

              Deana’s basic premise is a good one, “The Wrong Turn.” We’ve made a lot of wrong turns since about 1890 when arguably the “Progressive” era began thereabouts.

              “Liberalism” ultimately means a lack of wisdom, reducing man down to a caricature of himself, slicing off the simplistic from the world of the rich and complex. Liberalism is comprised of simplistic notions through and through.

              But life is complicated. Yes, America is a land of freedom. But it’s not freedom to do anything, nor can you have freedom without a certain about of control (law and order, regulating commerce, defense, etc.).

              The Red Diaper Doper generations got it into their heads that the proper and best way to be was to be The Forever Juvenile. It was to be sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll 24/7. And any fuddy-duddy who tried to tell them that this was unworkable, that there were some very good reasons there were moral fences in place, was laughed at and mocked.

              This simplistic attitude pervades all ideas of the Left, including their utopian environmental notions as well as their Keynesian notions regarding economics. You can have everything you ask for if you’ll just let government borrow, spend, prime the pump, and rinse-and-repeat. No limits. Trade-offs and making choices are for suckers.

              Ironically we see this “liberal” generation now producing and voting for the most illiberal of people. This “liberalism” is most pronounced on college campuses with their speech codes and other Orwellian confines.

              And the funniest thing of all — completely predictable according to Orwell and leading conservatives — is that as the government gains more and more control over individual freedoms, the dumbed-down populace convinces itself it is freer than ever because it can have sex without consequences, it can play video games all day long, it can cover itself with tattoos, and it can be distracted by all means of juvenile entertainment.

              This brings new light to our dumbed-down education system. Perhaps it isn’t as stupid as we think. As Bruce Price notes in a recent article at American Thinker:

              A further implication is that there does seem to be a global effort to dumb down schools.  The oligarchs are all too eager to use inferior theories and methods.  What a mother lode they have!  They can employ all the quackery first introduced and refined in the United States, the paradigm being sight-words to teach reading.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Since you mention Orwell, this would be a good place to mention an article about the origin of the idea of 1984, which Jonah Goldberg linked to in his weekly piece today. It seems that the socialist Orwell was coming to see the danger in centralized government, whether by the Left or the Right. The link is:

                http://www.openculture.com/2014/01/george-orwell-explains-in-a-revealing-1944-letter-why-hed-write-1984.html

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Tim,

                That was a very intelligent letter from Orwell. I believe he was correct in his belief that the common people might not fall for the lies propagated by the totalitarian intellectuals.

                In fact, that is the only hope the world has not to fall under the yoke of the elites and central planners who, be they of the “left” or “right”, have accepted the materialistic view of the world.

                Strangely, I think the Trump phenomenon is a manifestation of what Orwell’s had in mind.

  6. Paul says:

    When the King asks you to be part of the Family yet you still ware clothes of your past life someone is going to ask you to change clothes. A person is no longer a sinner when they have handed their heart & life over to THE KING. Our sin is not covered it is completely dealt with, that is why it is called Good News. Righteousness is a gift therefore we are righteous. A gift, all we need to do is believe. The gospel is 10 times better than we were told. We have made it so complicated. That is why it is our inheritance, not earned by our efforts. Jesus did it ALL.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks for the affirmation, Paul. I know that will strike a good chord with a lot of people. God knows we have to put up with far too many toxic atheist types.

      Mr. Kung was opining the other day that our political beliefs and philosophies are likely highly dependent upon one’s view of man. And if one is a materialist (there is nothing but matter), man is but an accident, and thus there is, and cannot be, no attachment to any kind of objective truth. Man becomes the measure of all things. He may do as he likes. “Good” becomes a mere function of numbers, aka “consensus.” Man is thus reduced to little better than a dumb herd animal.

      Or one can see man (and, in fact, all of nature) as a specifically created thing. That changes everything, although doesn’t solve everything, for will one then hold to the metaphysical/religious views of the Christians (good) or the noxious views of the Muslims (bad)? Ideas matter. One could, of course, hold to the truly goofy views of the Church of Global Warming.

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