You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
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List Price: $22.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Charisma House; 1 edition (August 3, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
A Culture of “Contraries”
A Native American rides proudly and defiantly into the village—seated backward on his horse. His puzzled, long-lost stepbrother looks on. “Younger Bear” climbs down from his
horse, greets his relative by saying “Good-bye!” and proceeds to bathe by throwing handfuls of dirt all over himself. He finishes by walking down to the river to dry off with water.
You may recognize this ridiculous scene from the 1970 Dustin Hoffman movie Little Big Man. In it, Hoffman’s character is told that Younger Bear has become a “Contrary”—a person with a mental disorder that causes him to approach everything precisely backward.
Unfortunately, it’s not all that uncommon. It can happen to the most unlikely people at the most inconvenient times. If it happens to afflict someone in a position of great responsibility during a time of crisis, the results can be disastrous.
For instance, pilots have to be instrument rated in order to fly during conditions when they are unable to see the ground. If they’re flying through clouds or at night, they have to depend completely on what their instruments tell them rather than relying on information sent to the command center of their brain through their senses. It’s quite a discipline, and if they fail, they may fall prey to a condition popularly known as vertigo, which affects their equilibrium and causes them to think down is up and up is down. As you can imagine, if uncorrected, their error will lead to terrible tragedy and loss.
I’ve found myself thinking about poor, confused Younger Bear often in the decade-and-change since our calendars rolled over to 2000 amid the nail-biting, frenzied days of Y2K. On more occasions than I care to count,
I’ve witnessed acts and statements of breathtaking upside-down-itude and stunning backward-ity. A recent body wash commercial featured a man riding a horse backward. It was amusing because it was absurd—but some people fail to see the humor in it because for them it’s normal. After all, sad to say, he’s just expressing his individuality and creativity; and yes, cries PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), it’s perfect, because we wouldn’t want the horse to develop an inferiority complex thinking only the rider knows where they should go!
Why does it seem so many people consistently get it wrong? Perhaps
this example will help explain.
When I visited Honolulu for the first time, I saw the beautiful waves coming into the beach from the top of a mountain, and I wanted to go experience the thrill of the surf in Hawaii. As I drove down the mountain, I couldn’t help but notice that the waves seemed larger and larger, but that didn’t deter my naivety or my enthusiasm. I pulled my little
rented vehicle into the parking area and ran out into those glorious whitecaps.
Before I got very far, one of those waves that looked so beautiful from a distance picked me up and body-slammed me to the ocean floor. I felt like I was in a washing machine set on the spin cycle. I was rolled across the bottom like a piece of driftwood, with water and sand shooting into . . . well, you understand. I literally couldn’t tell which end was up.
At one point the top of my head was parallel with the sandy ocean floor and my feet were saluting the sky. I was . . . in a word . . . upside down! I was about to despair of life when that wave, much like Jonah’s whale, deposited my scratched and bruised body and ego with great disdain back on the exquisite beach, where I was all too happy to spend the rest of my day with my feet solidly on the ground.
That was more than enough disorientation for me, but it seems that many today enjoy walking on their heads supported only by the unpredictable waves of cultural, political, and spiritual correctness.
When I saw Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid standing in the hallowed well of the Senate proclaiming that the war in Iraq was lost,despite overwhelming evidence that the Bush-Petraeus troop surge was working, I saw a man riding his horse backward—and doing so with the posture and pomp of Stonewall Jackson inspecting the troops. I hadn’t
seen a leader that eager to declare defeat since an Iraqi sergeant and his men surrendered to an unmanned drone during the first Gulf War.
I watched college campus “intellectuals” wail and rend their clothing as they accused George W. Bush of endangering their free-speech rights. Then I watched Yale students shout down an invited speaker who represented the Minutemen (a pro-border security group), even storming the podium to physically drive the speaker from the stage. Why? Because they didn’t like his message. To me, it was as insane as a group of people
rolling in dirt while bragging about their hygiene.
And when I see pampered, privileged Hollywood celebrities worshiped like gods while heroic servicemen are criticized and even demonized by fringe groups, I see a culture that has managed to convince itself that up is down and Good-bye means Hello!
There is no sign of right-side-up-ness when Chris “I felt a thrill run up my leg when Obama spoke”2 Matthews and his colleagues at MSNBC complain about ideological bias at FOX News. I scratch my head and think, “Well, Mr. Pot, say hello to Mr. Kettle.” On the other hand, I shake my head in equal disbelief when conservative clergymen make
solemn pronouncements that disasters such as Hurricane Katrina are God’s judgment on a city or nation.
Sometimes it seems as though whole segments of our society have become Contraries. And I question if we’re becoming “Younger Bear Nation”: the obvious is ignored, common sense is disparaged, good is seen as evil, and evil is hailed as good.
As I look around, I see people who favor accommodation for the workplace demands of Muslims but yet, in the next breath, insist that Christians leave their convictions at home. Need a foot bath installed in the break room? No problem! Just don’t leave an open Bible on your desk during your lunch break—that is, not if you expect to keep your job. After all, jobs are all too scarce these days, aren’t they?
University officials roll out the red carpet to Holocaust-denying thugs but treat a former Harvard president—who dared wonder aloud whether men and women are wired differently—like . . . well, like a Holocaust-
Our culture aggressively markets products and lifestyles to children as though they were adults (consider sexually charged fast-food ads) while marketing to adults as though they were children (desperately in need of more “toys”). More people watch “fake” news shows on television than watch any of the big network newscasts.
Do these examples sound like the makings of an epidemic of upsidedown thinking? I believe so.
Of course, these are just the random observations from a country preacher’s perspective. Yet lest you think it’s just me being an alarmist, I can assure you there is little comfort to be found in the scientific opinion surveys.
For example, one survey for the 2008 election showed that 13 percent of Americans were prepared to cast a vote for a comedian who was pretending to run for president. Meanwhile, psychologists have identified a new compulsion called Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS), and one study indicates that 36 percent of Americans may have it. I had an unusual opportunity to see this up close at the Grammy Awards ceremony in 2010. A lady sitting near me was extending her condolences to Lady Gaga for not winning the Album of the Year award. The pop diva pouted like a preschooler and said, “I already won two Grammys anyway.” Another poll indicated that more than a third of Americans suspect their own government of being complicit in the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001.6 (Whether there was a corresponding spike in the sale of tinfoil hats was not reported in the poll.)
In George Orwell’s 1984, you find an entire society brainwashed into accepting absurdities such as:
• War Is Peace
• Freedom Is Slavery
• Ignorance Is Strength
Orwell’s novel is just that—a story. However, what we are seeing today is real. To my left, a significant slice of our nation has bought into such bizarre ideas as: “Pop stars are wise.” “Al Gore is our savior.” “FOX News is the devil.” Such beliefs prove once and for all that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
To be fair, I see another segment on the far edges to my right; this group has become convinced that “Jews are sneaky,” “FEMA is a sinister Illuminati plot,” and “Katie Couric sleeps hanging upside down from an attic rafter.”
Upside-down thinking happens on both sides—and it’s nothing new. As I read history, I discover that we are not the first culture to lose track of the general direction of up on a large scale.
Take the French Revolution, when a so-called Enlightenment produced bloodthirsty mobs with pitchforks and torches. The hundreds who died daily at the guillotines probably enjoyed all the enlightenment they could bear. For a movement supposedly built on the worship of reason, the French Revolution sure produced a lot of nuttiness—not to mention headless bodies.
Centuries earlier, the Roman Empire prided itself on its wisdom, refinement, and civilization. Eventually, however, the wheels started coming off the chariot of cultural sanity, producing emperors who had all the reasoning power of Charles Manson—but with only half his moral fiber. As for refinement, the general public’s idea of a grand day of entertainment consisted of watching people fight, bleed, and die in gladiator games.
The prophet Isaiah knew a raging case of Younger Bear Syndrome when he saw it. Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, he looked at his neighbors and wrote: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
That is as fine a description of upside-down thinking as you’ll find. “Woe” is right. And “Whoa!” too. Old Isaiah was doing his best to flag down his fellow citizens who had all piled into a wagon and merrily sent it hurtling toward the nearest cliff.
On the pages that follow I hope to follow Isaiah’s example. In order to do that I am going to have to call foolishness what it is.
Wherever nonsense-on-stilts parades itself around our popular culture like an out-of-control Shriner on the Fourth of July, I must point to it with all the indignation that is proper to its outrage.
But I’ll do more. Where we’ve lost our way, I’ll direct us to a reliable compass that always points true north. Where we’re culturally dizzy and disoriented, I’ll point up. Where we’re happily careening toward a precipice like Thelma and Louise, I’ll wave my arms and shout like the old-school preacher I am.
You see, there’s absurdity, and then there’s madness—and our culture is descending into a unique form of madness. But it may not be too late. Perhaps I can show us a way out in the next few pages. Come on. Let’s see if we can march through the crazy storm of our time to locate some good old-fashioned reality—and with some common sense-ability, stop living on our heads and actually try walking on our feet again.
I really liked this book and am recommending it to my friends. I've already loaned out my copy and have a waiting list. This book is about the issues we, as believers, need to be aware of, but frequently aren't, because we have a hard time making sense of the conflicting information we hear and see. This book lays out the issues in such a way that we can clearly understand what the issue is and what the implications are to our world. I would recommend it to any and every Christian who is concerned about our world.