Thursday, August 2, 2012

Free Will

Hundreds of writers have imagined a better world. One with less crime. One with less poverty. No war. No random strangers who enter movie theaters to gun down innocent strangers. Where everyone enjoys peace and posterity and a reasonably long life. Where everyone gets along and serves their community and handles infrequent conflicts with grace and logic and understanding.

These writers write a genre called DYSTOPIA.


One thing that all dystopias have in common is that, to achieve their dream of peace, the government which sought to create a utopia found they had to restrict free will in some manner.

The most extreme dystopias will use brain implants or drugs to control strong (destructive, doncha know) emotions. Others try to convince the populace that all the rules about who they're supposed to marry, how they're supposed to think, and what they'll be when they grow up are GOOD and RIGHT and THE ONLY WAY TO LIVE.

There are degrees of control, but no dystopia can survive without some loss of free will. Even with free will restricted, people are forever breaking out of these perfect societies, rebelling against them, trying to take them down. Hardly anyone looks at these books and thinks "Oh, yeah. Now that's how I'd like to live."

We value our free will above almost any other gift, blessing, or right. We value our ability to make our own mistakes, to claim credit for our own successes, and to rule our own lives--even if we do it very, very badly. We chafe whenever the government gets too up in our lives, telling us we can't do this or to stop doing that, when it wasn't even hurting anyone!

But.

We don't value free will in others. We don't want someone else to use their free will in a way that impacts our lives in a negative way. We don't like it when other people make mistakes. If we could, most of us would create a don't-mess-with-me bubble around our lives so that no one else could make anything bad happen.

And when that doesn't work, when someone has the audacity to use their free will to run rough-shod over our perfect world, some people wonder why a benevolent God doesn't step in and restrict that horrible man's free will. Doesn't stop the mess before it starts.

Writers and readers already know the answer.

In life, as in fiction, trials come to create a change in the protagonist. To test us and to try us. To make sure we're not some stagnant boring hero with a soft spine and a rubber resolve. To give us a honed edge.

Those qualities we value in fictional heroes are also important in life--and we don't get them when our lives are perfect.

So don't wonder where God was when a madman disrupted a movie in Aurora. With all respect and sorrow for those whose lives were torn apart that day, He was there. Letting free will take its course and standing by to help us pick up the pieces.

I don't wax religious much here, and I know not everyone shares my faith, and that's okay . . . but it has to be said: God's greatest wish for us is for us to learn how to live in His utopia someday. One where everyone chooses to be good and nice and decent to each other. Where no one is forced--not even by Him--to act in a certain way.

That will never happen if we're too weak to learn how to choose good for ourselves, even when everything goes wrong.

God has read all the dystopia books and He doesn't want that for us, either. Can there be any doubt about that?

12 comments:

  1. Many people don't understand that God gives us the choice ti go good or do evil. Some want to get mad at God and question why He doesn't intervene and stop mean acts. They ask the question: "Why did God allow bad things to happen?" The answer is simple. God didn't allow it, man choose to do evil. God gave man the freedom to choose and it's sad when they choose evil.
    Great post. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Well said. Just because He has the power to force us all to be nice doesn't mean he's responsible for the bad things we do. Or for all the good things we do.

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  2. Well said, Robin! I think the beauty of dystopian literature is that it actually encourages us to act MORE human by showing us what happens when people DON'T. Increased love/empathy is also, I think, one of the few good things that come from events like the movie theater shooting in Colorado.

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  3. I had no idea God purchased books. I wonder what he'd have to say on "Fifty Shades of Grey".

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    1. Silly Michael. God doesn't have to purchase books when He knows every word we write, as we write it. Poor guy.

      And I'm sure He thought 50 Shades was a "good effort," if not exactly to his taste. I rather doubt He'd recommend it.... :P

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  4. Amen Robin! I totally agree. There is no joy without sorrow. No good choices without the bad. GO FREE WILL. We can learn a lot from fiction!

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  5. I read this verse in my devotional today and thought it appropriate to your post. "Be merciful to me, O God, in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by." Psalm 57:1

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    1. Love that verse.

      Sadly, if God shelters us ALL the time, we don't learn stuff. Good to know He's at least always there to help shore us up when the storms come . . . and after they pass.

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  6. Without knowing the bad, you cannot understand the good.

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    1. Seriously. If we were happy all the time, how could we possibly know we were happy? Would we even have a word for happy? Why would we need it when it would really mean "just like always"?

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