First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Smashing Statues in the Woods

I was hiking on a mountain that overlooks the valley where I live. A friend and I went up there to see if we could view our houses from there. At the top of the mountain there are a series of communication towers. There is one big microwave tower that stands out from the rest. It has large white oval shaped cones facing in different directions. My friend and I noticed that the white faces had little dark marks on them. After a few minutes we realized that the marks were bullet holes. People had been using the tower as target practice. Other signs of destruction were also seen up in that quiet place. A wire fence was torn down and windows of the attached buildings were smashed. There was an old marble statue that had been erected many years ago. It seems to have been a saint who was blessing the people in the valley below. But the only thing left of the statue was the legs and the stand. Vandals had smashed the rest. Maybe the people who did this didn’t like the idea of being blessed.

I hike quite a bit, and so in the woods I have often found the remains of unbelievable human behavior. The skeletal remains of cars, stripped of everything including the engines, left to rot miles from the nearest road. Junk tires, foam insulation, plastic sheets, dumped deep in the evergreens. The remains of buildings, most likely ghost towns, spray painted or just smashed to bits. This behavior has caused me to wonder why people do crazy things in the woods. Why go to all of the trouble of traveling miles from home just to get drunk around a camp fire and smash beer bottles on the ground? The answer that I have come up with is that people feel free in the woods. With no one else around they feel released from the restrictions that society places on them and they think that they can do anything. And by anything that includes destroying property that doesn’t belong to them and/or permanently damaging natural habitat that belongs in the public trust. And so my question to you is; is this what freedom looks like?
I certainly hope not. If freedom means that I can do anything that I want to do, including hurting others, then the free life is not a life worth living. So if I reject this common notion of freedom, then what is the alternative? There must be limits that we place on our behavior. If not then we take away the freedom of others. We must restrict our actions in order to live together in a supportive way.

Society must have rules. There must be a code of conduct by which we operate. But the limits of our rules are being pushed by our individualistic society. The Internet is an amazing creation that gives all of us many ways to express ourselves. I looked for advice on building a telescope. And I was pleased to find many people who build telescopes as a hobby. And they are happy to publish instructions on how to do this. This is a great example of the positive impact the Internet has had. But the Internet also can have a destructive impact. I remember the story of a local politician whose home phone number was placed on the Internet as an ad for sex. It was like saying, for a good time call… This man and his family were harassed day and night until they changed their phone number. The story expresses the need for some restrictions on self-expression. Unrestrained expression means that innocent people are going to get hurt.

There are issues here that affect our greater society. Did you know that anyone could learn to make a bomb on the Internet? This type of information has been available for a long time in obscure books. But those books were hard to come by. Now this information is easy to obtain. Many people can learn to make bombs out of materials purchased at hardware stores. I’m not sure whether the second amendment protects the publication of this material or not, but surely there must be a way for our society to protect itself against people who spread information for the purpose of hurting others.

Ethical living requires limits on our actions. The unrestricted exercising of rights can take away rights from others. For example, I have seen some ugly fences in beautiful neighborhoods. If you live in a lovely neighborhood with open yards and someone puts up a cyclone fence that doesn’t fit the area, do you have a right to complain? In the Sonoma, California there are many housing developments with strong homeowners associations. They tell the owners what type of fence to put up, what colors to paint them, and what plants can be placed in front of the fences. This makes the development orderly and beautiful. But doesn’t this take basic rights from the individuals who live there? Yet people see the wisdom of giving up some personal freedoms in order to receive something they value in return.

Our right to buy and discard things creates massive landfills that pollute land and water. Our right to go to work for industry also pollutes the environment and causes many to develop health problems. Our right to drive cars that pollute the air causes some people to live indoors because they can’t breath. How does the old saying go? One hand giveth the other taketh away.

We are not free to do whatever we want in the world. I am not free to kill someone just because I feel like it. I am not free to take someone else’s rights away from them.

There must be limits placed on our actions. In order for a fair and just system to exist on our world, some of our personal freedoms must be limited. Our purpose for living is not to impose our selfish wishes onto others and therefore deprive them of important freedoms. We were not placed here on this earth to grab all we can and leave nothing left for others. We were created to care for and love other people as well as ourselves. No one can live in a vacuum. We need each other, and therefore we must learn to limit our actions.

God Bless You,

Pastor Bill

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.