In this “Rebellion” series, I have attempted to show a handful of ways that man has pushed back against what I believe is intended for him. This rebellion isn’t just a rebellion of ideas, but a rebellion that leads to pain, objectification, relational separation, and death. While rebellion begins in the heart and is rationalized by the mind, these immaterial ideas have both immaterial and material consequences. To show that I am not grasping at straws here, and that ideology most certainly does produce action, I want to explore each area of rebellion I highlighted as seen in the real world.
To defend their point, the authors provide a personhood argument, which I believe is on extremely thin, subjective ice. But I would have to address that elsewhere. What really concerns me is the implications of the rationale. Human rights were aptly named, for they were rights that were intrinsic to human beings. Wherever a human goes, the rights follow. But the personhood argument for killing an individual makes our human rights based on extrinsic, degreed properties (something you can have less or more of). When you do this, you can start subjugating groups of people. “Blacks are savages. We can enslave them.” “Jews are subhuman. We can kill them.” “Those with lower IQs are imbeciles. We can sterilize them.” “A ‘fetus’ is not a ‘person.’ We can ‘abort’ ‘it.’” Notice the careful crafting of dehumanizing language and subjective terms that are used for abortion. It’s a classic play. We use “fetus” to distance ourselves from the idea of humanity, though a fetus is unarguably human. We use “person” to give us a false sense of objective standard and distinction. We use “abort” as a sterilized sounding version of killing. And we use “it” to distance ourselves even more from humanity.
Now the big question is how did we arrive at such a slippery slope? It’s because there were/are no consequences for subjugating all of the aforementioned groups. When you are in a majority, and the majority’s ideology is concerned with the use and subjugation of a minority group, there is often no limit to what will be done to utilize the minority. In the early United States that meant we could use blacks as free labor. In the later United States, it meant we would push blacks out of the arenas that gave them power. In the early United States, it meant that we could sterilize the mentally deficient so they didn’t weaken our society. In the later United States, it means we can have lax mental health laws so they don’t drain our resources. In the early United States, it meant that children were an important part of capitalism by ensuring cheap labor. In the later United States, it means we can kill our children so we have less imposition and more food on the table. We haven’t just arrived at this slippery slope. No, we’ve always been at the bottom of it. Every time we try to climb up the massive, unscalable mountain of humanitarianism and morality, we continue to slide back down into our natural state of inhumanity. There was never a time when we were getting better, just moments of being less worse. As one of Catalina’s professors always said about the atrocities of this world, “That’s not inhuman. It’s what humans do.”
There are many voiceless oppressed today. There are many minority groups that are pushed down and subjugated. But no group has it as bad as our future children. They have no recourse. When we kill a human in the womb, there is no felt consequence. I don’t feel the imposition on human rights. I don’t hear a cry. I don’t feel the pain of losing someone I knew. I don’t see a face. All I feel is peace. For had I not gone through with the abortion, I would have felt hungry, tired, poor, lost, scared, angry, broken, ashamed. Those are real consequences that I can feel. The plight that many women face is horrendous, and the consequences are very real. But to determine the rightness of an action based on felt consequences alone is terrible. Human rights is more than just a nice idea – but it is an idea. When we allow the way that we feel to dictate morality, nice ideas that make us free are free to fly out the window.
Rebellion Against Justice: Modern ideas of justice seem to be based on consequentialist and behaviorist notions. There doesn’t seem to be anything like sin or objective morality that really exists, so punishment is divvied according to the consequences of an action. Furthermore, it seems to be wasting a life if we were to lock away a perfectly good individual who just made one mistake. If they can be rehabilitated, why should we be concerned with being punitive? It is because of these two notions that we get stories like those out of Germany, where a mother served 40 months for killing 4 infants over the course of a decade. Another mother received 14 years for the deaths of 8 infants. The value of 12 lives was worth 17 years of another’s life. That’s a little over one year served per life taken. Something seems wrong there. But then again, these were infants. Perhaps their lives did matter less. They didn’t have hopes and dreams to stymie. They probably didn’t have the mental capacity to process what was going on. Their lives probably did in fact have less value.
In the same vein, we find stories like this one Stateside, where a 20 year old was given three years probation for rape. The judge had apparently thought the arguments in the boy’s favor were very weighty. The action of rape he performed only took 20 minutes. All of his prior accomplishments even the score. He is just a product of his society. The crime wasn’t that bad. The boy is from a nice home and seems like a nice guy. He’s not the type of person who should go to jail. This is what becomes of justice when the punishment doesn’t take into consideration the value of the one being offended. It is also what happens when we mete out punishment based on extrinsic characteristics like someone’s overall “fixability.” But punishment is more than tweaking a machine to fix its programming. It is acknowledging that something was devalued. Our attitude and response to this devaluation are important, because they show society what is valued and how valuable it truly is. You can say you value anything with your mouth, but justice often betrays words. By not meting out appropriate punishment, the intrinsic value of humanity is undermined, and is instead determined by usefulness and function.
Rebellion Against Relationships: As with morality and justice, man’s rebellion against relationships centers around self and utility. Humanity loves to experience things. This is why man’s quest through scientism today is to attain all knowledge and eternal life. To have all power and all experience at our fingertips, with the time to enjoy it. Unfortunately for relationships, this means they are only as good as the experiences they provide. Relationships today are not about love and self-sacrifice, but about feeling in love, and feeling fulfilled.
The rebellion against relationships shows up most significantly in the most meaningful sort of relationship – marriage. Far fewer get married today than ever before. On top of this, the divorce rate is still pretty high (though it isn’t climbing like many purport), and the combination of these two phenomenon is that we have many more broken homes and single mother homes. Whether you are a fan of marriage or not, two parent homes statistically provide the best structure for children. Anecdotally, it was rare that any behaviorally difficult students that Catalina or I taught were from stable homes, as they were almost always from broken homes or single parent homes. Education literature would back up our anecdotes.
When we throw off the centrality of personal relationships with others, we lose out not only on joy, but on family and societal cohesion. But relationships are impossible without self-sacrifice. When feeling fulfilled and feeling in love is your parameter for keeping your vows and remaining committed, you were never in a personal relationship. Personal relationships involve other people.
Rebellion Against Form: Modern man has placed an utter emphasis on beauty. Either he emphasizes the extreme importance of physical beauty, or he pushes back strongly against physical beauty and denies its existence. Either way, physical beauty is the pivot point around which our culture seems to revolve. Either appearance is everything to you and you talk about it all the time, or appearance is so obviously not important that you find yourself always talking about how unimportant this non-existent standard is. Both groups end up giving prominence to physical beauty, either in its worship or through their obsession that stems from insecurity. Both groups buy into the power of beauty.
But beauty is skin deep. There are people who are ugly in their physical form – or at least in parts of their physical form. But beauty is also more than skin deep. This is evidenced very well in the documentary “My Kid Could Paint That.” Beauty goes beyond an image and extends into one’s story. Unfortunately, the emphasis on physical beauty and the value it brings plays out significantly in our culture. One obvious area is in eating disorders. As it stands, 1/25 have either bulimia or anorexia in the United States. What is particularly startling is how young some of these individuals are. I could not find any data to compare this rate with past rates to see if they have risen, but either way, this is a significant number. Our emphasis on beauty directly affects health, it affects self-image, and it affects objectification of others. Worshiping physical beauty causes us to overlook other forms of beauty, and can prevent us from enjoying true physical beauty as well.
Rebellion Against Purpose: Finally, modern man has thrown off notions that we have a purpose that originates from our creation, and rather stems from within ourselves. However, we cannot create our own purpose. All we can do is cause other things to serve us as we purpose them to do so. This makes modern man a pure consumer. Even when modern man “serves” others, that service is really done to fulfill themselves. Their “altruism” was self-serving.
When our purpose dissipates and everything else becomes our purpose, it leads to mankind becoming pure consumers. Thus we see the rise of the “I live in my parent’s basement” t-shirts. I see them all the time at school. While going to med school and making a lot of money is great, if you can get what you want without doing anything, then why not? Many today are content with being pure consumers. They put in their hours at work and then consume. Millennials hop from job to job and hate obligation. It’s all about them and their experiences and their freedom. This is why the most successful companies to harness Millennial power are those that give them the freedom to goof off and do what they enjoy. The best way to get modern man to produce for others is to get them to produce for themselves first. While some pushback against rigid structure is needed, I feel like Millennials exemplify this overall point well.
Concluding Analogy: A child lives with his single mother. She is largely absent because she has to work several jobs to pay the bills. He has little structure and little authoritative input in his life, and his only experience with authorities are run-ins. He lives a life that seems best to him, and focuses around self. It doesn’t take long before he is old enough to start experimenting sexually. He’ll take what he can get at first, but soon his taste – fed by friends and media – has him focusing on the hottest girls he can find. He ends up getting a girl pregnant. He knows what the word means, but the concept is very aloof. His girlfriend doesn’t even look like she’s changed at all. How can there be a life inside of her? At about 14 weeks he starts to notice his girlfriend’s weight gain. There is definitely something foreign inside her. He tells her to get an abortion, and she does. Out of sight and out of mind, he forgets completely about the abortion and moves on. The boy and the girlfriend break up. He sleeps around for a while, contracts an STD at some point, then keeps sleeping around. He never tells any of those he’s sleeping with that he has an STD. Those he sleeps with sleep around themselves, so they’ll never know where they got it from. Why should he ruin his chances for pleasure when these girls would inevitably get an STD from someone else anyway? The boy becomes a man, and as some of his friends start getting married and the expectations of the older women is commitment, he proposes to the woman who just happens to be in his life at this moment of “maturation.” The marriage doesn’t last long. After his wife gets pregnant and they have their first kid, her body has changed and his lifestyle is cramped. He didn’t sign up for ugly and he didn’t sign up for imposition. The man bolts, back to living free and for himself – minus a few hundred dollars a month for child support. His ex is lucky the government makes him do that, because he’d never do it willingly. A few years later, the man is walking down the street and is stopped by a street corner evangelist. The crazy evangelist is asking him all kinds of questions: “Are you a good person?” The man knows he’s not perfect, but he tells the evangelist he’s pretty good. “If you died right now, where would you go?” Well, the man had never killed anyone or anything crazy like that. He supposed he’d go to heaven. He’d at least have a good shot. He was just as good as most other people he knew.
And that is the picture of an individual plagued by rebellion in all of the areas I have highlighted. The degree of rebellion in each area may vary with the individual, but it is a rebellion that we are all born into, and one from which we all need saving. This rebellion leads to inconsistency, pain, misery, and hopelessness. It is why we as Christians feel so strongly about morality and ideas. There are serious consequences to them both. Unfortunately, most are blind to their rebellion. The present is too alluring, and the future so distant. They settle for pain that is temporarily abated by the immediate gratification of pleasure because they cannot imagine waiting for a perfect hope to perfectly and eternally resolve all their despair. It is this concept of self-centeredness and rebellion that I believe lead C.S. Lewis highlights so well in “The Great Divorce.” Lewis says, “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man 'wishes' to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved."