Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lying High

There isn't much else to say about the sheer arrogance and stupidity of the "Balloon Boy" incident we were all witness to last week. My only comment is that the whole story legitimized an idea that a Biola University philosophy professor mentioned in a lecture I attended in 2004. J.P. Moreland later formalized his thoughts in his book: The Lost Virtue of Happiness (a book I highly recommend, by the way), and it is this ...

The Christian Worldview rests on a foundation that consists of the objective reality of truth and ethics. The idea is that things like truth and ethics are not just the "constructions" of individuals or the culture they inhabit. They are real things. We don't "make them up" or arrive at them by consensus or public opinion. We discover them. They are part of the fabric of the universe. They define the way the world actually is.

This leads us to conclude that there is something outside of us -- something to which we are inherently obligated. This is the way things are whether we choose to believe it or not. The mere existence of things like these implies that they must have their source in a personal, transcendent Cause -- something like what we might call ... God.

When you value truth and ethics, it follows that you not only believe in something bigger than yourself, but that you aspire to live your life in accordance with those values. Jesus called this "eternal life" and promised that is was something we could find only in him. Moreland describes this kind of life as "a life of virtue and character" that the ancients labeled the achievement of such a state "happiness."

To them, happiness was not an intense, giddy feeling that depended on external circumstances. Instead, it is ...
"... a life well-lived, a life of virtue and character, a life that manifests wisdom, kindness, and goodness."
Those who most consistently achieve that aspiration -- and do so in the face of hardship or even danger -- are the people we admire most. Those who are most successful at fulfilling this type of life and the ultimate representative of such a worldview is someone we might call a hero.

Conversely, those who do not acknowledge or accept transcendent reality act accordingly. They do not see themselves as being bound by objective truth or morality. They revel in their human autonomy and mock any belief system that puts restrictions on their rights and privileges. Adherents to such a worldview make their own rules, establish their own values and strive to achieve a level of success that is centered solely on themselves. They are, by definition, self-absorbed narcissists.

Sadly, this is the type of life our culture encourages us to seek. And those who are most successful at achieving it -- the epitome, if you will, of such a worldview -- is someone who has reached the status of celebrity.

Do we honor heroism or celebrity?

Our culture has made its choice. We see it at the grocery store check out line. We see it in "entertainment news." We see it in "reality" television shows. We see it in the self-infatuated celebrations of athletes in the end zone. We see it in the news every day ... and we see where it can take us -- to a quixotic quest for value that is as fleeting and directionless as the Heene's deflated, backyard balloon.

There is a lesson here and it is this: You can inhale the helium of celebrity if you choose. The reward it offers is a voice that is notable to all who hear it ... but it doesn't last very long.

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