Why It Pays to Be a Free Agent

Don't lend your name to every trendy cause

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go—to the point of exhaustion— and give your neighbor no rest! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.” – Proverbs 6: 1-5 (NIV)

In a recent post, I touched on the link between latter-day activism and the psychological/emotional needs of Identity, Stimulation, and Security. In that post, I explained that popular causes attract the bored and and the aggrieved — as well as the true believers — and I argued that activism meets the psychological needs by creating a tribal identity, stimulation through anticipation and action, and security in belonging. I also explained that this is neither good nor bad in itself — the worthiness comes from the rightness of the cause. This is somewhat tricky, since we human beings seem to be rationalizers, rather than the rational actors we imagine that we are.

Sole, soul, sole patrol, turf, step, paso, pasos, ground, grounded, based

You may have to put your foot down…

The plumbline

In construction, the straightness of a wall has significant influence on the structural integrity of the building. Leaning or crooked walls don’t bear as much weight and their failure can cause a calamity. This is why builders use a plumbline — an external reference that does not care about the builder’s feelings. The wall is either plumb (straight), or it isn’t. When we are lending our name, our money, and our time to any cause, we should take care to evaluate its aims and claims against an outside standard — as objective as possible.

Not everything that feels good is good

You know this, but not every stranger that stops to help you in a big city is seeking your well-being. Causes are like that too. People with agendas do not ever seem to tire of enlisting people of good reputation to add the latter’s halo effect to the former’s cause. The church also has to be on guard against being co-opted by political parties — left or right — since Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world. If even the church isn’t immune, you need to be on guard as well. I recommend being a reluctant joiner — at least until you can make an informed decision regarding how involved you want to be. Then you should beware of being used.

Over the years I’ve become much more skeptical and selective about what or whom I’ll endorse. That’s what getting burned a few (dozen) times will teach you.

The Who sang about it.

Here’s a trip to the poetry (OK, lyrics) corner.

“We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss”

— The Who — Won’t Get Fooled Again

And here’s the track for your listening pleasure:

If you’re active on behalf of a cause, may I suggest you measure it according to the plumbline of scripture. Does the Bible speak to the cause and the methods the group uses? Does it endorse or condemn those methods?

I also recommend asking yourself what the realization of the cause’s stated goals would look like. If you’re engaged in eliminating child poverty in your city, for example, how will you define success? How will you measure it? If you’re active in politics, how would the full implementation of your preferred policies affect your family? your neighborhood? your city? Are the effects positive? What are the harms? What would come next?

Please understand that I am for passion and for getting involved. The world needs the energy and creativity of passionate people — the world needs you to play the man. Part of the reason I write this blog is because I see conditions causing people to suffer, and I want to change those conditions. Again, all I’m advocating is making sure that any issue to which you lend your time, your money, and or your good name is a noble and worthy one.

So how about you? – How are you planning to live without being co-opted by an ism? Add your comments below.

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

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