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Friday, October 30, 2015

THE BOY IN THE BUBBLE GROWS UP

"I was tired of going to the sports field and seeing moms say, 'Great job at going up to bat.' It hit me early on that kids could see through inane compliments."

Several times in the past, this blog has covered the phenomenon of how modern young people are protected from reality, failure, and challenge.  Efforts to stop competition, trophies for merely taking part in an event, "graduating" from 5th to 6th grade, on and on the list goes.  Girls are to be protected from anything that could make them feel less than omnipotent.  Boys are to be kept from feeling poorly about themselves.
In the 90s the movement was all about self esteem and making sure young people felt good about themselves.  Every effort was made to ensure that no child ever felt less than wonderful about their abilties and selves in all situations, no matter how poorly they did.  Yes, technically that's not how you spell horse, but its their spelling and correcting them will damage their inner child.
Time has passed and now even the Huffington Post is noting that this whole movement was actually a really bad idea.  In The Atlantic, a writer noted that the self esteem movement has been destructive, and articles have been showing up lately all across the political, ideological, and social spectrum.  This was exactly the terrible idea and failure that people warned it would be and were mocked and attacked for saying so at the time.
But while the term "self esteem" and the rest of the psychobabble garbage like "inner child" has been jettisoned and now rightly criticized, the bubble is still there around the children.  Children, not allowed to fail, are still being praised for failure, protected from negative consequence, and awarded for mediocrity and merely being present.
For years, many including myself have been saying "wait til you grow up" because reality is not so coddling, protective, and flexible.  They'll grow up, people said, when they are forced to.  I've said that.
Except its not happening.
These kids are growing up, entering an increasing hostile real world environment and instead of growing up, they're throwing increasingly bigger tantrums.  During the Occupy movement, this was noted on by myself and others quite often.  These weren't adults frustrated with the abuse of power and the way the super wealthy were being bailed out, they were perpetual adolescents screaming that they had to pay back their loans.
People are stunned and repulsed by the way college campuses have become lately.  Every boy is considered a rapist, every girl a fragile princess.  Every statement that is not exactly according to the approved (ever-changing) party line is declared a "microaggression."  Every person that dares to question the top-down imposed dogma is considered a monster, drummed out of the public arena, their papers torn down, clubs closed or denied application, speeches canceled.
EMOTIONALLY UNPREPARED
One incredibly egregious example springs to mind.  Recently, Williams College held a speaking series on "Uncomfortable Learning."  One of the speakers invited was Suzanne Venker, a woman very critical of what passes for modern feminism and its extremes.  The students revolted.  This was an uncomfort too far:
it was the students who host the Uncomfortable Learning series—an unofficial, unregistered campus club—who ultimately made the decision.

“They were feeling very uncomfortable about the amount of protest and the tenor of the protest that was going on,” said Dettloff. “Students were being very vocal about not wanting her to come here. I think it was just getting a lit bit over the top.”
Yeah, you read that right.  The club became uncomfortable with this Uncomfortable Learning speaker, so they canceled her.  I doubt a single one of them even recognized the hypocrisy and irony.  I wonder if they even could define the term "irony," where the apparent is the opposite of the actual.
In a recent First Year College Experience survey of over 1500 students, they found that 60% of incoming Freshmen felt "emotionally unprepared" for college.  These students complained that they felt stressed "most or all of the time."  Now, the difference here is not that students in the past never felt this way.  College is very stressful, at least at a good one.  The studies are challenging, the writing is difficult, and there is a very increased load of required study each day for each class as compared to previous schooling.  Students are often away from home for the first extended period in their lives, and have to learn to transition into more of a real world setting, where they do not get things for free and have to work to attain their goals.  Its always been stressful that first year, and is the following years as well, although students learn skills and habits that assist them in dealing with it.
The difference today is that students are being blocked from ever learning any skills that would remotely assist them in dealing with change, stress, and hardship.  At Psychology Today, Stanton Peel writes
...helicoptering is de rigueur for today's parents. Meanwhile, Bips indicates, "The number of students who arrive at college already medicated for unwanted emotions has increased dramatically in the past 10 years. We, as a society, don't want to feel anything unpleasant and we certainly don't want our children to suffer." And what professional is going to suggest weaning kids from [this]?
Dr Peel mentions suicides on college campuses (which are on the increase) and points out
according to the experts, coddling contributes to such horrific outcomes. As Bips puts it, "Many of today's students lack resilience and at the first sign of difficulty are unable to summon strategies to cope."
Dr Diane Dreher also at Psychology Today, agrees:
Overcontrolling parents love their children and want to protect them from what they see as an increasingly dangerous world. So they frantically package them for success, protecting their children from failure while pressuring them to excel, doing their homework, making their decisions, and micromanaging their lives. Yet these parents may be depriving their children of essential brain development, sabotaging their ability to think for themselves and develop the very cognitive skills they need to succeed in life.
...
Students raised by overcontrolling parents have difficulty dealing with the challenges of college life because they’ve been denied the opportunity to develop age-appropriate cognitive function. Insecure, confused, and emotionally fragile, they experience high anxiety and chronic stress, which further weakens their cognitive ability. As research in my lab has shown, they are deficient in optimism and hope—the ability to set goals, make plans, and follow through.
Boomers were raised by parents determined that their kids would not face the awful fears and lacks that they grew up with - the depression, WW2, and so on.  So their kids ended up too fat, comfortable, protected, and often spoiled - and they threw a tantrum that ripped the nation to pieces.  But the children of today are getting the same treatment.  My baby will never feel bad about being called fat!  My baby will not deal with the horror of not having every new toy they demanded like I was!  And whereas wanting your children not to starve and face the horrors of the depression, these parents have absolutely no rational basis for their expectations.
But its not just parents.  Teachers are in on it too, and they have more waking hours with each student per day than the parents get through their learning years.  Teachers avoid competitive efforts, reward simply showing up, are very reluctant to correct and criticize, and do their best to protect and coddle children as well.
THE CONSEQUENCES
As a result of being utterly unprepared to face real life, of being protected, controlled, and coddled, these kids are never allowed to begin to learn the skills of dealing with frustration, stress, difficulty, competition, and failure.  The result is that colleges are filled increasingly with emotionally immature students that cannot actually face any real learning or challenge.
Dr Peter Gray, also at Psychology Today writes:
  • Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.
  • There is a sense of helplessness among the faculty. Many faculty members expressed their frustration with the current situation. There were few ideas about what we could do as an institution to address the issue.
  • Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things. For many of them, failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable. External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development.
  • Faculty, particularly young faculty members, feel pressured to accede to student wishes lest they get low teacher ratings from their students. Students email about trivial things and expect prompt replies.
And the real problems are only beginning here.  Stewed in a nearly unchallenged monolithic worldview and political perspective, students are also raised with radical chic to be protesters, rejecting tradition and authority, doubting anything their parents believe and that they were raised on, praised for being habitually offended and finding fault in treatment, and ultimately end up unstable and unbalanced.
As Ace put it recently in an article about Social Justice Warriors and their infantile nonsense:
All juveniles do this -- they're literally trying to figure out who they are, and what makes them "special," and very into contrived self-definitions. All that crap about being so into this band or that one, or this music genre or that, or this type of fashion -- all that crap is people who have never done anything interesting or remarkable attempting to contrive some Medal, some Decoration they can put upon their chest to make them stand out (if only in their imaginations).

This silly crap about "graysexuals" and "aromantics" is just the latest, most rancidly stupid variation of this unfortunate tendency -- the radiant narcissism of the unfashionably plain and heroically unaccomplished.
Its part of growing up, its part of developing a distinct, self-sufficient identity.  Each of us strives to understand what sets us apart and who we are as separate from all those around us and who we've grown up with.But the culture we're in now results in people never getting past this stage.

This combination results in ridiculous nonsense such as the students of the "Uncomfortable Learning" lecture series rejecting discomfort.  They see nooses in trees, rapists in every date, and oh yes, microaggressions.  These children raised by people shielding them from any slightest discomfort or disagreement are so totally unprepared for when they take place that they throw a tantrum when it happens.
Now, when your children do this, you're supposed to teach them to learn to deal with the problem and guide their outrage to more constructive, productive directions.  They learn to handle it just like learning to handle their first physical pain.  Things that drive a child into screaming tears an adult grumbles at and goes on with their life - we're used to it, we know what it is, where it goes, how long it lasts, and have developed the ability to cope.  Children haven't gotten that yet, all they know is that it hurts in a way they've never even conceived of before.  So we teach them and help them through it, we don't protect them from ever letting it happen because we know they have to learn.
Yet when it comes to emotional challenges and upsets, this has never taken place with far too many children.  And to make matters far, far worse, colleges encourage this outraged screaming tantrum.  They find it exhilarating and wonderful.  They're rebelling against the cruelties of society, man.  Its so groovy.  Spurred on by social media support and legacy media coverage, these young people are not actually learning to deal with emotional troubles.  They're being cheered on as they throw a tantrum.
Jonathan Hait points out that this is creating a culture of victimhood, where being treated as one demands is presumed, not earned - and every lack of exact treatment is an outrage that must be punished. Its not enough to simply insist, today those who will not comply must be destroyed.
But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim.
These people are so wholly unable to face reality and so totally encouraged to not do so that they're turning into a generation of vengeful, conquering litigants and tantrum-throwers that cry "witch!" at the slightest cause.
The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.
These young people are weak, very weak, and unable to face the world which confronts them with a frustratingly common tendency to reject their demands.  And when reality will not give way to their immature insistence, they demand punishment of those they hold responsible.
These young people are not learning to deal with life as we expected.  They're learning tools to continue avoiding dealing with life, and being given every assistance to do so by radicals and leftists in our culture.  Why, college costs so much, lets force everyone else to pay for it instead.  Why, you owe a lot of money from the loans you signed up for in good faith?   Lets just forgive those loans so you don't have to pay.  That guy believes something now considered heretical?  Destroy them.  Force them out of their job.  Ruin their lives.  Drive them away from society.
THE FUTURE
And there is no reason to believe this ends at graduation.  Businesses are increasingly pressured to permit this to go on rather than require employees to grow up.  Not only are fewer and fewer truly mature, adult employees available on the market, but lawsuits, social media attacks, legacy media hit pieces, and political pressure is being laid to bear on companies.
  • Your business needs a safe space where people can go to when they feel too triggered or have faced too many microaggressions.
  • Your business must have trans-friendly bathroom policies where you pretend a mangled man is now a woman and can go into the lady's room.
  • Your business must not only not spend anything on any condemned ideas such as psychological assistance for homosexual youths, but most actively and publicly support the opposite.
  • Your business cannot promote, hire, or fire on the basis of competency and excellence, but treat employees equally and with similar positive treatment.
  • Your business must accept this person who may even refuse to do part of the work they are paid for, or are physically or mentally incapable of doing, because to do so will make them feel undignified and unhappy.
We used to ask, what will happen to these young people when they face the cruel hard world?  Well now we know.  They'll sue and pressure everyone to pretend the world isn't cruel and hard.  They'll demand and get regulations and laws to keep them from facing the hardships and challenges of life.  They will require everyone else to suffer and do extra so they will not have to.
This is our future, unless we grow up as a people.  It will happen, eventually.  Either it will occur due to a seismic shift in culture, or due to a catastrophic force compelling us to.  But either way, it will happen.  And the people who'll suffer the most are the children we're raising now to be the least able to face it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

THE MAN FROM SKIBBEREEN

Louis L'Amour is one of my favorite authors.  He had no pretensions to literature or fine writing.  He did not try to craft a "significant" book or write the "Great American Novel."  He was a storyteller and every book was like sitting around a campfire listening to an old man tell a tale of the past.  Each book reaches readers immediately and pulls them through the story that is at the same time familiar yet fascinatingly new.
That's the kind of author I want to be.  I don't want to win awards and be lauded by all the "right people," I want to be read.  Here's a portion from L'Amour's book The Man from Skibbereen that struck me very powerfully:
Far off, a few lights appeared.
Fort Laramie, a few nearby ranches.  How warm and welcoming a house light looks to a lonely night-riding man!  Someday with luck he would walk into such a house, strike a match, lift the chimney and touch the flame to the wick of his own lamp, sit down in his own house.  He would smell the fire smells, the warm cooking smells, and he would stretch out his legs under his table with a faint sigh.  He would rest then... he would dream, and he would rise from time to time to add a log or to stir the coals of his own fire.
For a time now he had been passing lighted windows, but always in the solitary houses of other men.  He slowed his horse.  He was near a house and a man was leaving the stable carrying a lantern and a milk pail.  He was walking slowly to the house with a small halo of light about his feet, a homely halo, not of heaven this, but of peace, of home.
His door would creak open, it would close behind him, and the night would be dark again, but a resting dark.  The man would sit down, relax tired muscles, and reach for a newspaper or book, or he would talk in low tones to his wife.
"Let us not lose this," Cris muttered aloud, "let us not lose this God, for there is no greater beauty, no better hour."
Just a simple scene in the middle of the action, but so evocative.  Its the kind of powerful scene someone who has always known comfort and ease couldn't even imagine, but begins to understand through L'Amour's words.
That's how to tell a story.

Monday, October 12, 2015

MULTICULTURALISM OF IDEAS

"You shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way we learn either.”
-President Barack Hussein Obama

Recently, Santa Clara University announced that it would not go back on its invitation for columnist George Will to speak at their campus.  This is remarkable because it had to be said - that a college would have to state officially that they wouldn't go back on their invitation of a speaker because of their political viewpoints.
It happens a lot these days; George Will's last speaking engagement at Scrips College was yanked because he wrote a column pointing out that college "rape culture" rhetoric is based on lies and distortions.
How did we get to a place where institutions of higher learning have to announce that they will not disinvite speakers based on their ideology and politics?
MULTICULTI
There's a principle at the heart of leftist thought - hence, most colleges and universities - that multicultuarlism is a virtue, perhaps a highest virtue.  Multiculturalism as you likely know is the idea that all cultures are noble and have great features, and that none can be truly described as superior to another, only different.  The principle is that we should celebrate alternate cultures, to understand them and esteem them.
Like most ideas today, the roots of the concept are reasonable and proper.  Long ago, a hundred years or earlier, most cultures were quite isolated and distinct from their neighbors.  Even neighborhoods, counties, and states could be very distinct culturally.  Accents arose from this tendency toward isolation, where a people could be so separate from their neighbors that they began speaking with a different dialect.
Peoples from other cultures and nations were distrusted, unknown, and even disliked.  Often, this even would take the form of distaste and condescension.  They are only foreigners, after all, you can't expect better from them.
This is the source of a great deal of what was once common bigotry and even racism.  Blacks are all thieving and lazy.  Mexicans are all lazy and ignorant.  White people can't dance and don't know how to enjoy themselves.  Chinese are inscrutable and untrustworthy.  Belgians are even worse than the Burmese.  On and on it goes, each time some entire group of people is maligned or characterized based on a presumption of shared character.
And in each case, the statements and presumptions were based on only a very cursory or slight interaction.  People who didn't spend much time with Native Americans presumed certain tendencies (dirty, drunken, etc).  People who spend little time with French presume certain behavior (smelly, cowardly, etc).
Something happened in the 40s that changed that to a remarkable degree.  In World War 2, drafts and conscriptions forced people from all sorts of ethnic walks together.  Jews, served by Italians, who served by African Americans, who served by Scots, and so on.
As a result, those men fighting a common enemy, suffering common miseries, banded together and those racial and national distinctions evaporated.  That corporal MacGregor you thought was stingy and miserly turned out to be just like you.  That private Abramowitz fellow you thought was greedy and dominated by his mother turned out to be just like you.
And the seeds of multiculturalism were set.  People came to realize that folks are folks, and that what differences they have can be great.  Italians have great food and strong family ties.  English have terrific fortitude and education.  Jews have an amazing sense of humor are often quite intelligent, and on and on.  Instead of presuming the bad or weird, people learned the good and noble.
Naturally, some of this still exists and is part of all cultures.  Not every nation has grown this open and understanding, and some bigotries still persist.  But the general trend has been away from this, in most areas.
THE SOUP
This blending of cultural identities and learning the good and familiar among different groups was very healthy for the United States, and helped build the country we now enjoy.  Now we can go to the store and buy kim chi next to refried beans and matzo balls.  Now we can buy a serape while we head to the Greek restaurant listening to soul music in our Japanese import.  This blend of nationalities and cultures is uniquely American.
And it came about because people interacted with the ones they disliked, didn't understand, and even feared.  The breakdown of stupid prejudice, silly bigotry, and bizarre stereotypes occurred because of the way people worked and got to know each other.  Familiarity and experience tore down the barriers and blended people more completely.
Now, where multiculturalism goes astray is where it assumes nothing is better than anything else, that we're all equal, so that the cannibalistic tribe of constantly warring stone-age culture in some far flung island is the cultural equal of Hellenistic Greece or Modern New York City.  And that's abjectly ridiculous.
Further, it assumes that having many cultures together - distinct and unmixed - is superior to having one culture, blended and combined, so that it fights against any assimilation or coming together to be unum rather than pluribus.
And, naturally, there are exceptions.  Its always okay to bash men, particularly white men.  Its always okay to mock American culture.  Its always acceptable to make fun of Christians and especially conservatives.
MULTI-IDEOLOGY
Which brings us to an area where those barriers still exist, and contrary to ethnic ones, are growing stronger and more culturally enforced.  Where as a people we've learned to not be so prejudiced and presumptuous about other cultures, multiculturalism draws a broad, spiked, mine-laden line between ideologies.
You can see this in the college disinvites.  It happens again and again and again, and even when conservative speakers aren't refused access to colleges, they're shouted down and overwhelmed by screaming, angry protesters who cannot bear the thought of someone having an idea that varies in any way with their rigid ideology.
Its not only on college campuses, they're just the most obvious and easily identifiable ones.  You see this across our culture: you said something conservative?  UNFRIEND.  You think that way?  BLOCK.  You're a 'progressive?'  I can't be friends with you any longer.  You linked that?  I don't want to be with you any longer.  I've lost acquaintances over nothing worse than disagreeing with them on a topic such as public employee unions or women's pay.
And the result of this dividing line is the same kind of slanderous bigotry as with races and nationalities. You know what those conservatives are all like.  They want to bring back slavery, they want to chain women to a sink, they are all this way and think that way, and want those things.  You know what leftists are like, they want to kill all babies and destroy America.  Communist, satanic, evil.
Ann Coulter has made a career out of this kind of bomb-flinging generalization.  See what this leftist said/did?  All of them are like that.  Its exactly the same nonsense as people saying "all Southerners are fat bigots who want slaves" or "all Northerners are wimpy leftist twits"  Its the same type of bigotry, and its not limited to one group or another.
This is true on all sides.  Christians presuming non-Christians are corrupt, sinful, and immoral.  Atheists presuming Christians are retarded inbred losers.  Conservatives thinking all leftists are America-hating communist subversives who want to take away their guns while requiring them to be homosexual.  Leftists thinking Conservatives are all anti science Bible-worshiping morons who want to oppress women and minorities while taking away all their rights.
And it all boils down to one thing:
I don't know this group so they must be worse than me in every way.
Deliberately isolating yourself from people you disagree with, deliberately blocking off all difference of opinion will tend to result in you becoming not just ignorant of your political and ideological foes and rivals, but human nature will tend to lead to you dehumanizing them as well.  We will go from "they're wrong" to "they're bad people" in a hurry.  And worse, we'll tend to assume  the worst could be and even must be true about these bad people.
Read an article that confirms your biases against some group and We're much less likely to scrutinize or doubt it than one that contradicts it.  Our first reaction will tend to be "that's probaby true" rather than "that doesn't sound likely."  And why check if your enemy is as bad as you thought or not?  Its more fun to scream at the picture of Emmanuel Goldstein with all your friends.
This has always been a tendency of people, but modern technology makes it so easy.  Its very simple to find only friends and online connections that think like you.  Its easy to block off and avoid different ideas.  The process is self-rewarding and self-enforcing.  Kick your enemy in the teeth and your side yells "yay!" while the opposition hits the block and unfriend button.  Sooner or later, everyone agrees with you!
With the modern division becoming stronger and stronger, its easy to find "conservative" or "progressive" versions of all kinds of things.  Watch Boondocks and Daily Show, not Fox News!  Listen to Rush Limbaugh, not Stephen Colbert!  Fund your project with this site, not that one.  Get your fried chicken at this fast food joint, not that one!
So we are able to isolate ourselves faster and easier than ever.  We learn a list of people that are bad (always a moving target, but easy to list from the top of yourself) and good (again variable but easy to think of) and avoid the one while leaning toward the other.  Bad actor, good actor.  Bad singer, good singer.  We define morality and wisdom in terms of what appeals to or agrees with our ideology, rather than seeking and learning from a variety of sources.
And the result is that our culture is becoming increasingly divided and separate.  We're a people who are less and less united and connected.  There is no longer a common, shared US culture at large, its becoming two almost warring cultures.  And a nation cannot continue this way.
The place that this should least happen and be most avoided is the university and college campus, but that is the very location that this movement is being led from.  Absolutely no conservative ideas, not from faculty, not from students, not from guests, not from materials or curriculum ever.  That's the slogan of far too many of these bodies.
And they're producing students who agree with and embrace this concept far too readily.  Bombarded constantly with one viewpoint from peers, entertainment, teachers, and culture at large, young people are utterly unable and unprepared to even muster a defense in all but exceptionally rare cases.
And whereas once, when you left college, the real world would tend to shape, temper, and even reverse that trend, today it is too easy to just keep things going as they are comfortable to young people.  So you don't get the tendency of young people to become less radicalized and leftist as they enter the workplace, particularly as "triggering" and "microagression" fears move into the working world.
What's needed is a meeting of minds, not separation.  What's needed is an openness to other ideas and influences, not a hate-packed condemnation and shunning of it.  Because it turns out almost all people have pretty good reasons and bases for what they think and believe.  Its too easy to presume people are idiots for disagreeing with you, but that's not very often the case.  Its too easy to assign evil to the motives of those who think differently but that's almost never what happens.
And until we move away from this tendency - one I feel strongly and surrender to, far too often - to isolate ourselves from different ideas, things are only going to get more heated, more divided, and more angry.
If history has taught us anything, its that this never ends in amity and friendship, but almost always in blood and misery.

Monday, October 05, 2015

ROOM 101 BY R.C. Sproul, jr

"I love you, Big Brother"

This is an article from the magazine Tabletalk which Ligonier ministries puts out every month.  The article is from an issue on persecution and looking into the future at the church in the west, and R.C. Sproul jr's article was so powerful and important that I wanted to post it here, although you can read it at Ligonier as well.
There is a simple enough test to see if someone has actually read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. All you have to do is utter the words “Room 101” and look to see if the person shudders. Those who have merely heard of the book, or of that particular allusion may recognize it, but will not react viscerally to it. If you read through the account of Winston’s fateful trip to Room 101, its mere mention hits you in the gut.
Throughout Orwell’s novel, we are given a picture of a brutal future, ruled by the virtually omnipresent Big Brother. Every step is prescribed, every action watched, even every thought monitored. Our “hero,” however, out of an inchoate love for the fair Julia, becomes a rebel with a cause—to serve with his beloved against Big Brother in hopes of bringing him down. The two are caught in their revelries and placed under arrest. It turns out their purported contact with the underground was just another agent of Big Brother.
Orwell doesn’t dive right into Room 101. Rather, he leads us there slowly. Winston’s anguish begins first with hunger as he is jailed and given nothing to eat. What follows next is days, perhaps weeks, of interrogation and extreme torture. Over time, Winston confesses to all he has done and not done. He even confesses that the Party is the arbiter of all truth, indeed that 2+2=5. He is broken, beaten, a shell of his former self. All that he has left is peace in knowing that in all his confessing, in all his repenting, he never turned on Julia. There was still a hidden corner of his heart that Big Brother could not penetrate and make his own.
Which is just why Winston was brought to Room 101. There is nothing particularly unique in this room. Rather, each prisoner brought to Room 101 faces his own deepest fear. For Winston, it is rats. There are just two rats, and they are safely caged. The cage, however, has an odd design. It is a special apparatus that could be, indeed would be, strapped around Winston’s head with the door to each cage opening right at his eyes. The rats, having been starved, would escape through Winston. As the cage is brought closer, he does not merely scream in fright and beg for safety but pleads that someone else be given the cage, anyone else—even Julia. “Do it to Julia!” he screams, now fully and finally broken.
Which brings me to my deepest fear—my Room 101 betrayal. Persecution comes in as many sizes and shapes as there are Rooms 101. Some experience the comparatively petty persecution of mild social ostracism, others face death, and still others torture. What history teaches us, however, is that whatever form persecution takes, it is often our brothers who lead us there. That is, those believers who crave acceptance and safety are the first ones to throw their brothers under the bus. By doing so, they prove their loyalty to the regime and their distance from the family.
Consider two examples, one ancient, the other current. The Roman Empire did not have a careful and sophisticated taxonomy of the people they conquered. To them, the Jews were the Jews. The key reason the Pharisees hated Jesus so much was less that He was popular while they were not, less that He exposed their folly, and more that He was a danger. As the people looked to Jesus to throw off the yoke of Rome, the Pharisees understood that Roman reprisals for such a rebellion wouldn’t be nuanced. They would all be killed. So, they handed Jesus over to Pilate, insisting, “He’s not one of us.”
In our day, the danger is social ostracism, especially regarding the issue of sexual morality. With each passing day, the biblical sexual ethic is looked upon more and more as not merely quaint and old fashioned but oppressive, bigoted, and immoral. Which is why certain wings of the church have been, and will be, so quick to jump on the bandwagon. Which is why every week or so we read about another megachurch pastor coming out in favor of homosexual marriage. Which is why adultery and fornication and the fruit thereof—abortion—are dead issues in our pulpits. “We’re not like them. Hate those bigots down the street from us. We’re loving and accepting. Turn your bile on them, but give us a pass.”
What then do we do? Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is, remember, in the same sermon that Jesus calls us to seek His kingdom that He tells us we are blessed when we are persecuted for His name’s sake. The question is, will we believe it? Will we accept His shame as our honor, or will we honor them to our shame? Will we remember that love toward the world is hatred toward God (James 4:4)? Will we be the betrayers, or will we have the blessing of being the betrayed?