Monday, February 20, 2012

We are the disobedient?

There's an online art shop I found a few months ago called Fresh Words Market. It's where I found our wonderful "Time for Another Adventure" print, and it's also where I found the print above. It puzzled me. While none of the art sold by Fresh Words would, in my opinion, count as intellectual, I've often found it to be at least somewhat witty and thoughtful in a bumper sticker sort of way. That might sound like damning with faint praise, but they're bumper stickers I'd think about putting on my own car (or my computer) or at least smile at if I saw them on someone else's car. This whole disobedience thing I don't get though. That particular collection of prints contains others such as "Robin Hood was Right" and is inspired by the 99% movement, but honestly I have to wonder if anyone even thought about these before slapping them up on a poster.

In case you didn't see the whole message, that poster says "It is through disobedience that progress has been made." Really? When? According to whom? Imagine for a moment a teacher reading her class a book in which the central character learns freedom and creativity through disobedience (you probably don't have to imagine very hard because I'm sure those books exist in fair measure). Now imagine said teacher closing the book and announcing it's time to put the story rugs away and get ready for recess. What are those kids supposed to do? What have they been trained to do? Can the teacher fault any of them if they decide to break the bonds of coerced labor and head directly for the monkey bars? Suppose she makes the fatal mistake of trying to reason with them. If she loses then she's lost her authority. If she wins she's won through force of rhetoric and/or personality and set up a precedent for her students to follow the most persuasive leaders instead of the most principled. I say this because I can't think of a single way that, absent of an appeal to some authoritarian first principles, a teacher could convince a child to do anything without overawing them.

I saw this play out in the book To Sir, With Love. The teacher who worked such miracles in his classroom really did work wonders with his class, but as you read through it you start to find where the seams fray and the principles at play start to unravel. There are times in the book where he appeals to student's duty to respect their parents without once having a good foundation other than customary usage. To share one instance in particular, a girl's mother was worried her daughter might fall into promiscuous habits. However, when it came out that the mother herself had once let a man spend the night with her, it was treated as of little consequence to whether her daughter might behave in a similar manner. There was no authority for the standard which the older adults where trying to impose on this younger girl and no reason why she should respect a value (in this case chastity) which did not apply to those adults who were supposed to be guiding her. Obedience and disobedience become matters of personality and not principle.

Nevertheless, for Christian this sort of sentiment should appall us because it's precisely opposite of how Christendom advances. In the very beginning we see Noah saving his family by obedience, Moses freeing Israel through obedience, and of course Christ Jesus bringing salvation to the world through obedience. As Jesus said "I come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it." There's a difference between smashing idols and breaking the 10 Commandments. The first thing we are authorized to do (even if it's not cool), but the last thing we are not authorized to do (even if it is cool). So a Christian might be against things like crooks on Wall Street or in Washington DC or downtown USA, but we are against these things because we are for obedience to Christ. This is why we teach our kids, our students, and ourselves to be obedient - because obedience ("honor your father and mother," "love your neighbor as yourself," "do not steal," "worship the Lord your God") is how the world actually advances.

Under the description of this poster it says "Inspirational artwork, fit for adult or child space." The question I have to ask is this. Would you hang this in your child's room? If so can you tell me why you're so little interested in your child's welfare?

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