« Walking Backward into the Future | Main | Faith »

February 03, 2006


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Joe Kennedy

It's funny that I had a professor or two at Auburn who would consider Abraham Lincoln as one of the most tyrannical presidents America has ever had. They would cite his violations of the constitution and his destruction of states' rights as a violation of this term we call liberty. I just think that it's funny how polar those two positions are- that some quote him on liberty, and others call him tyrannical.

I was talking to my friend last night about a lot of stuff. In the conversation, I explained that we all (everybody) feel a sense of entitlement to something. It's just a matter of how we express that entitlement, and to what we express that entitlement. Everybody on Earth feels entitled to something, though. In America we feel entitled to protection (financial, physical, whatever). In Western thought, we feel entitled to respect as human beings. Now, I know this is a very pessimistic thought, but it seems to me that we aren't entitled to anything. We have been given certain things- life, Earth, grace, respect- by God and to some extent by other people, but we are not entitled to it. A sense of entitlement is, at its root, arrogance. This understanding changes our worldview completely, from a worldview of entitlement to a worldview of gratitude. What an amazing and radical change in worldview that is, which leads to a very positive outlook on life.

But we shouldn't be surprised or upset, necessarily, when people do not respect us. We aren't entitled to it. And when we get it, all the better, I say.


Your professor's comments don't surprise me, though I suppose they "should". He is probably a good OLD SOUTHern boy. And to them, Lincoln would not be any kind of a hero. But if you study Lincoln, you'll find he actually hated war and was determined to avoid it if at all possible. All he wanted was to keep slavery out of any new states brought into the the US fold. He agonized over the deaths of soldiers on both sides, and I would hardly call him tyranical. In fact, as I did a quick fact check on Answers.com, http://www.answers.com/Abraham%20Lincoln , it seemed to me his presidency is much like Bush's, beset with difficulties and criticism from all sides, yet driven, and defined, by his resolve to follow his convictions no matter the personal (political) cost. I see him as a person like Esther -- "... for such a time as this..."

But back to the real discussion :) ---- I agree that pretty much everyone feels an "entitlement" to something. And we live our lives, vote, argue, fight and work hard to make sure we receive whatever those things are. I thought about this last night as I watched an interview of Angelina Jolie on Nightline. She stated that "all children have a right to [education]" (among other things). And I wondered, is it really a right?? Yes, I would agree that to give every child an education is the RIGHT thing to do, but is it a right in itself? Is education a right?

I confess, I don't know the answer. And I don't know if I agree with you that we have no rights (entitlements), or that a sense of "entitlement", a sense that I have a right to something, makes me arrogant.

I believe I have a right to be treated with decency by others. I think that's a healthy care and concern for me. And I think I also have the right to choose to not reveal my heart, the tender and private places of my soul, to those who choose to treat me with disrespect or disregard. I can't make them treat me with respect, so in that sense I don't have a "right" to demand it, but I do have the right to expect it and to deny access to my soul to those who don't give it.

I don't see that as arrogant. I see that as deeply God-honoring. It says that I believe God's creation is to be respected and treated with care and love and concern; that I believe God's positive pronouncement over me as his creation ("he was that it was good" --- I know there are more verses I can quote here, but its Friday evening and I've lost all my brain cells....).

I worry sometimes that we in Christian life, and in ministry life in particular, work so hard to strip ourselves OF ourselves that we lose sight of just how wonderful and beatiful and valuable we are in God's eyes. We work so hard to die to self that we end up dishonoring God by devaluing the "self" part of us that He so delights in, and denying ourselves rights that God himself put in place for us to partake and enjoy.

Does this make sense?

PS -- forgive the spelling errors, if any.... again its Friday and there's no spell check on these crazy comment editor-thingies....

Joe Kennedy

Hey I'm glad you posted thoughts on that stuff I said. Maybe to call it arrogance was a little overboard. In fact, I'm sure it was. I think some of that entitlement is arrogance, and in some ways greed. I take a huge offense at any "gimme gimme gimme" mentality. It just irks me. And it's not that I want to withhold from anybody necessarily, but I do think we shouldn't expect nearly as much as we do. Again, the focus of what I was saying had less to do with our "rights" and more to do with our state of gratitude for what we have.

As for the Old South comment... easy cougar, I'm from the South (although I don't sound like it). He was from Maryland, although he worked for GM in Detroit and later in Georgia before becoming an economics professor. The key to his background: he later ran for governor of Alabama on the Libertarian ticket. (And was a member of some Good Ole Boy Deep South thing, which was weird to me.) Funny they'd let him in- he was Greek-American. Sophocleus was his name. Really, it was.


Okay, okay... this cougar is sheathing her claws, for now... :)

Naw, I know you're from The South, but I also can tell that you do not hold certain Old South ideals -- that, or you've hid them well. :) Interesting that your professor was originally from "The North" and still felt that way about Lincoln. But it does kinda prove out what I'd read earlier that Lincoln wasn't well-liked by most of his contemporaries -- and, it appears, by their descendants as well. :)

I'm totally with you on the "gimme-gimme-gimme" mentality. Its one of the things that has frustrated me since Katrina. I want to feel sympathy for the people of New Orleans. And for the most part I do. But those who seem to feel the government owes them a house and a job, and money in the meantime really piss me off. I can understand those who want help, but those who expect to be taken care of... no. Definitely proof of your theory of lack of gratitude.

On a different note... do we expect too much from God sometimes? Are there Christian entitlements we've bought into? Its something I've pondered lately. What am I expecting from my "service" to God, or my relationship with him, or my "surrender of my will" that I think I "deserve" or have a right to expect, that perhaps in reality I don't (have a right to, that is)? You know, like how we're always told, "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse..." and God will richly bless you. Do I, perhaps, have a wrong expectation of what that "blessing" is, what it looks like?

Its like that Singleness sermon from the Village Church you turned me on to. Man, both parts are good!! You need to listen to part 2, btw, if you haven't already. Good stuff. I'm working on a post about it, but it's taking me time to write it in a way that does it justice.

Anway, Paul makes a point that often singles "surrender" and "become content" with their singleness with the ulterior motive that God will bring their spouse to them once they do that (as married people often tell us, 'you have to be content in your singleness; that's when God will bring the person... or that's when you'll find the person...blah, blah, blah...) How many things in life do I surrender, expecting a blessing in return, instead of surrendering because it is the right thing to do?

Joe Kennedy

Exactly. It's kinda like something Erwin said in his Barbarian talk- 1. about death being an upgrade, and 2. about God's willingness to let us die (thinking of JtB).

On a somewhat similar note (I think you and Kiki would really get along well), check out what Kiki and I were discussing over... this way:


(You definitely need to read Back to Jerusalem if you haven't already.)


Ugh. I've felt like John the Baptist for nearly four years now. Is this really what our lives are supposed to look like????

I checked out and left a comment (well, several actually) on Kiki's blog. I like her already. Thanks for the introduction.

Joe Kennedy

Yeah. I feel that way here in Mobile. That's why I try to stay on the road a lot. And why I have great friends like Amy Nicholson who listen to me talk about my loneliness here, and the spiritual oppression (lack of any spirituality or community) here. Oh how I miss that community, my band of brothers.

Ugh, now I'm going to bed. It's almost 3 AM.


Entitlement... should... want... all wrested from their origins and pulled out of shape. Our souls die for want of God and we, resisting God's wild love, make up these stories about entitlement and rights in an attempt to find a new suit that will fit. The big house, the big ministry, the big name in lights are easy to get.

God is even easier to get, but he is wild. The big house is predictable: make a bunch of money, go buy the house. You can do it. It only takes time. God isn't predictable. Give your life to Jesus and you'll see love, but it probably won't look the way you expect it to. So, churches replace "love" with "should" and try to make the whole process of following Jesus predictable. 40 steps, 7 principles (why is it never 6, nor 8?), etc.

We aren't entitled to anything. That strikes fear into well-trained Western hearts: how are we going to live? Where will I get respect? We don't have rights to everything in the world, but what we have is a Gift. It takes time to learn to trust that Gift, but he's willing to take the time to teach us, to build a bridge step by step from the deadly "I need everything" mindset to "All I need is You, Lord" way of seeing things. Teachers try to replace this process with their shoulds and principles, but the Holy Spirit has it all under control. He has been this way before.

Arrogance? Rights? Don't worry. The Holy Spirit knows us intimately, knows what we need and will bring us there come hell or high water. What you think you need isn't what you really need, just as what I think I know of God isn't really God. All I can do is make sure that each step is true, that each characteristic of God I learn is true, rather than something passed on by tradition.

What is a Christian's life supposed to look like? What do you suppose John the Baptist's reward was for living as he did, on locusts and wearing hair shirts? He saw something that kept him in that position. The sign of God's love in my life isn't the physical success, and I don't look forward to buying a house. I've always looked at some undefinable other thing as the reason for living, and now I'm suspecting that the real reason for living is simply God's presence. This is frightening... but I've been scared for so long now that I'm pretty well inured to it. I don't know what the reward is. I know that the rewards the world offers aren't worth the effort. I'm confident, though--and this, along with my apartment in Santa Monica and a job I can stand, is a gift from God--that God knows what he's doing and that the Holy Spirit will continue to hold me so that I can stand the whole process. What started in desperation is taking on other characteristics that (and speak this softly so I don't get scared again) are beginning to look like the precursor of love. Yeow! Lemme outta here!

"Too late," the Holy Spirit says. "You're mine. Get used to it." There's no pride in that... but there is the promise of life.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog Rings