Being Mortal

I recently finished an excellent book written by a physician, Dr. Atul Gawande, titled Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. The book deals with the modern medical establishment and how people are treated as they face diminished physical capacity through the aging process. Image result for being mortalHaving recently been in a front row seat on this journey with my mother as she faced the assault of Parkinson’s Disease – I am very sensitive to this topic and see it as one worth exploring more deeply no matter where a person is on the spectrum of physical strength.

A key point that Dr. Gawande brings up frequently in the book is that human beings don’t merely want to be ‘kept safe’ – instead they want to have enough freedom, independence, autonomy, or authority to enable them to have meaning and purpose in their lives. An aging person who is fed, clothed, sheltered, assisted, and kept safe may produce less headaches and stresses for their adult children – but they may also sense that their purpose for staying alive has been taken away from them. The quality of life is radically diminished if a person does not feel as if their life matters or has a purpose to it. Here is a key quote from the book that speaks to this issue:

In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life maybe empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.

― Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

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I like the last three sentences above. We know this is true from our own experience and the experiences of others we know: pleasure-filled lives can be empty, and difficult lives can be full of meaning and purpose. As we journey through the book of Acts, we are learning what it means to be on a “mission from God.” We know that it’s not enough for people to just exist – people long to thrive. Part of thriving means knowing that your life is being used for a larger purpose – a purpose that is larger than you are.Image result for aging

The lives of the first followers of Jesus are an inspiration to those of us who are recipients of their legacy. Those first believers knew that their lives had a purpose and a meaning that was much larger than they were. Many of them were willing to die for their faith in Jesus – because they knew that life in Christ was something worth living for, and something worth dying for.   We live in a culture where lots of people are focused on making a living but who are not sure how to make a life. They are longing for something more – a purpose and meaning that is larger than mere self-fulfillment. Jesus sends you, and me, and followers all around the world on a mission to bring his good news to others in the power of his Spirit.

The life of being a disciple of Jesus is not ‘safe’ – and it is not easy. Yet it is a life of abundant meaning and purpose. As our bodies age and our physical strength slowly diminishes, we are assured that we have a “mansion in glory not made with human hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Image result for purposeThough Dr. Atul Gawande writes beautifully about ways that we can improve the lives of people who are physically diminished – he is not able to offer the very best key to purpose in life. Dr. Gawande is clear that the answer to this situation takes more than medicine and surgery. That’s where you and I come in. How will God use you to bring the very best gift to the people in your circle of influence. Let’s continue to worship and pray and serve and reach out together in Christ and celebrate the lives that he is changing every day through our church and through other faithful churches around the world.

The Hijacking of Liberalism in Higher Education

I have many friends who consider themselves ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ — and I think that classic liberalism has some good things to offer as we continue to develop a vision for our nation.  However I am disturbed to see classic liberalism disappearing and being hijacked by an extreme form of leftism — and there is nothing liberal or progressive about this new trend.  If you call yourself a liberal, then I hope you are as disturbed as I am about the way your movement has been taken over by a very different ideology.

The United States was originally envisioned as a Image result for the land of the freeplace where people would have the freedom to express their ideas in respectful ways with each other.  Freedom of religion, speech, assembly, the press, bearing arms, were all written into the Bill of Rights in order to reassure citizens that their basic rights would be protected.  Yet now we see a movement in the academic world and in the popular culture to silence all dissent on various controversial topics including sexuality, family structure, global warming, politics, economics, race relations, religion, and morality.  Those who disagree with leftist ideology are routinely vilified, assaulted, and silenced by various institutions, mobs, media chains, civic organizations, and corporations.

Related imageIn the first few months of 2017 we have witnessed angry mobs shutting down dozens of public forums and speeches scheduled at various college campuses.  The administrations and law enforcement agencies have generally caved to the pressure of the angry mobs.  In a country nicknamed “the land of the free,” we have witnessed free speech being silenced by bullies, thugs, and spoiled students who are apparently too fragile to be exposed to alternative expressions of thought.

One of my first experiences of the closing of the American mind in the modern university setting came when I was a graduate student at Princeton Theological Seminary.  It was during a meeting of the Image result for hate speechAssociated Student Council at the seminary when the council voted to not allow for a campus organization named Presbyterian Pro-Life Fellowship.   The student council decided that this group was not permitted to organize on campus and would not be recognized since it was a politically biased group.  The odd thing about this is that the student council of the seminary had two years earlier voted to give full recognition to Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (PLGC).  The council saw no problem with officially approving this group as a campus organization.  They did not notice anything inconsistent about their decision even though it was pointed out to the council that the PLGC group was clearly a group dedicated to a particular bias and a particular moral/political/legal point of view (i.e. the legitimization of homosexual marriage).  The pro-life group was silenced and marginalized, the pro-gay group was welcomed and affirmed.

That was 30 years ago.   In the intervening 30 year period, the opposition to free speech and diversity of thought on university campuses has become overwhelming.  Hostility toward people who don’t embrace leftist ideology has become commonplace.

American universities which were designed to be places of exploring diversity of thought are now institutions of zealous indoctrination without a single opposing voice being welcomed at the table.   Finding a single conservative thinker in a department of Psychology, Literature, History, Political Science, or Religion,  is like finding a penguin in the Mojave Desert — not many exist, and any that you might find are endangered.

In a recent conversation I had with a person who serves as an academic dean at a large public university how many conservative republicans or Evangelical Christians are on the faculty of his university in the departments of literature, history, psychology, or political science, he said that he could not think of a single example.  He admitted it was lopsided but said the problem is that they do not receive applicants for these positions who are conservative in their viewpoints.  I suspect  the Department of Diversity at his university is not working very hard to remedy that situation.

The modern university has a very skewed Image result for celebrate diversity approach to diversity.  Diversity for these academic leaders is an environment dominated by administrators, instructors, organizations, and  students with different ethnicities, ages, nationalities,  and “multiple genders” who all think, speak, and vote in  exactly the same way — embracing the same worldview.   They all embrace secularism, moral relativism, feminism,  and all the other ‘isms’ that align with leftist ideology.     It’s dishonest and naïve to claim that a modern university ‘celebrates diversity’ — instead they insist on sameness in all of their areas of influence.  The party line on campus is that you must think like a leftist or you will be marginalized, vilified, and silenced.

Image result for university free speech riotsI am not sure that this quote from Noam Chomsky can be substantiated — but if a staunch leftist like Chomsky affirms free speech for his opponents, where are the liberals or progressives who will step forward to turn the tide in a different direction.

I found it refreshing to discover at least one classic liberal who woke up to the realization that liberalism has been hijacked.  His name is  Dave Rubin.    He used to gladly embrace the label “progressive” but now he’s not a progressive.  He has left the left.  He’s an openly gay man who is married.  Why did he leave the progressive movement? You can watch this 4 minute video (link below) to understand what he (and I) are so concerned about regarding the future of liberalism and the progressive movement in our country.  I hope and pray that on topics of religion, politics, science, economics, and all other pursuits,  American universities  can come back to a place of truly honoring diversity, free speech, and free thinking.

Why I Left the Left – David Rubin

Watch the video and let me know what you think.