Sinking Sand

'Namibia' by Dan Grinwis (unsplash.com)Photo by Dan Grinwis

Thought for the Week

I was an atheist, and insufferably superior about it. I considered myself more rational, more progressive than my naïve religious friends. But there was one thing I couldn’t explain: The Wallaces. They were the unofficial den parents of our high school theatre group, and their home, in contrast to those of my other friends, exuded peace. “I don’t get it,” I told my friend Marc, “their lives are based on a delusion [they were committed Christ-followers], and yet they’re the most together people I know. How can a fake foundation support such a strong house?”

It can’t.

Eight years later, I began rebuilding my life on that same foundation. But before I got there, I test drove others worldviews, including French phosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory that natives untouched by our standards of civility (“noble savages”) are innately happy and healthy.

Unlike Rousseau, however, I took a class in anthropology.

The first two field studies I read supported my worldview. The next three blew it to bits. One was a study of a tribe of “unspoiled” Amazonians whose natural way of living centered upon lying, thievery, and physical abuse—the more stolen goods a man owned and the more battered his wives and children were, the more he was admired. Life for most of them was a brief and brutal one built on sinking sand.

The values we live by matter. If they’re true, we flourish, if they’re false, we suffer. Charles Nordhoff, an agnostic 19th century journalist, visited communal societies all over North America. His conclusion? Cultures built on the traditional values of faith and selflessness were peaceful, happy, and flourishing. But literally every community based on experimental theories like Rousseau’s “natural man” idea had either collapsed or was quickly disppearing into the sand it was built upon.

Despair is the most virulent epidemic. Long before COVID 19, suicide rates had doubled, and among children and young teens, tripled. Because once trust in traditional values, civil behavior, and faith are removed, societies quickly spiral downward. Sociologists may blame the internet, but that’s shooting the messenger.

It’s the message itself that matters.

Truth isn’t window dressing. It’s a foundation. Without it, the entire building collapses. The Wallaces had built their house on a Rock, and by their example taught me to do so as well.

So, please, if you love those whose lives are built on sand, show them the alternative…

By building your house on a Rock.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Sinking Sand

  1. Abe Austin says:

    Very profound insights, Mitch.

    I think it’s very hard for us to accept that we can improve our technology, our medicine, and our science, but can’t improve on God. There will always be progressives who are sure they can come up with a better philosophy and value system than one that came forward thousands of years ago, even when the research suggests otherwise.

    It’s not wrong to iterate on our own creations, but we’ll never be able to improve on perfection.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I’m so thankful God made Mitch Teemley!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. pkadams says:

    It’s becoming increasingly more socially unacceptable for young people to have any kind of religious beliefs. If you’re a Christian, you’re oppressing and hating . Not many kids today are emotionally strong enough to go against the mob. Churches really need to be a more welcoming place for the post-youth group age group. Mentors are badly needed!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Gail Perry says:

    I’m with Joy on this (and many other things). Thank God for the voice of Mitch Teemley!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just had a chat about Rousseau and dog training. It’s a bit comical, but dogs often make better friends then people. Just the same, the first thing we do is try to train the “noble savage” out of them so they don’t pee on the floor, jump on guests, and steal food off the table. They make marvelous companions when they are “civilized” just a tiny bit. Why in the world we then proceed to believe that all the innate flaws of people are caused by civilization and trauma, is beyond me! People are just naturally “good”? Where does that notion even come from? Probably an unwillingness to see ourselves as we really are.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Anonymous says:

    All you’re really saying in this post is that living by Christian values brings peace and harmony to a community (a good thing of course), but it offers no evidence that the apparent bearer of those Christian values, viz., Jesus Christ, was a true prophet or that his God (and therefore the God of all Christians) really exists and deserves obedience and worship for all this beneficence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      That’s true, Mich. This essence of this post is in the phrase “The values we live by matter. If they’re true, we flourish, if they’re false, we suffer.” Which I would argue is true whether one knows and credits the source of those values or not. Non-believers H.G. Wells and G.B. Shaw believed this. So did William James, who concluded by way of his “philosphy of truth” Pragmatism that Jesus was the real deal. I write often (elsewhere) about my beliefs, and this blog includes two links to some of those posts.

      Liked by 2 people

    • C.A. Post says:

      Anyone looking for evidence needs to assess what evidence he would consider believable. Too many put this out as a straw man when their worldview a priori does not allow for any evidence to show that Jesus is God. The historical, psychological, ethical, literary and sociological evidence is there for anyone with a brain to examine.

      Liked by 1 person

    • AJ Hauser says:

      If you boil it down to that base concept (which I don’t think is entirely fair, but let’s run with it) do you agree that Christianity makes good sense from a utilitarian standpoint? Are communities that are aware of these teachings better off than societies void of them – like those “unspoiled”, mentioned above?

      This is a genuine question.

      Whenever I have these discussions with atheist or agnostic friends, there are always (at minimum) two parts to this discussion.

      Utility: does the presence of Christian teaching benefit the community in practical ways – whether God exists of not.

      (Whether or not morality itself can exist without God is a whole other can of worms…)

      Theology: does God exist or not.

      I went back to re-read the post, and it seems to me that the author’s opinion is clear. Selfless values provide the most solid foundation. The Wallace family provided an example of that with the way that they lived. You’ve injected additional theological ideas with your comment as a distraction, but that wasn’t the point of this piece.

      That said, I would LOVE to see you both discuss those things more, as it appears to be very important to both of you.

      Respect, fellas!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mich says:

    That comment above (“All you’re really saying…”) came from me — I don’t know how ‘anonymous’ got into the picture!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. C.A. Post says:

    “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” C.S. Lewis

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It is my belief having a sturdy, strong foundation is a pre-requisite for success in any area of life, not just housing! I think it is an apt analogy to use here. I’ve always favored that type of life philosophy, and I like your closing sentence of building a house on a rock. Enjoyed this post, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. murisopsis says:

    Living a Christian life by example is one of the strongest witnesses….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mitchteemley says:

    Indeed, I believe it is the strongest.

    Like

  12. A very insightful and timely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Chaya Sheela says:

    I love this thought provoking post.
    “Cultures built on the traditional values of faith and selflessness were peaceful, happy, and flourishing. ” Therein lies the truth. What matters most to me is the set of strong values, selfless service for the larger good, conducting myself with empathy, not compromising my principles and beliefs and respect other people’s religious beliefs.
    I strongly believe that most religions teach the same set of good values therefore, no religion is superior or inferior. The destination in all religions is the same. The road each religion takes to the destination may be different. So, the choice of a religion is personal therefore should be accepted and respected.
    Beautifully written, Mitch.
    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Eric Mathews says:

    Great challenge with your last sentence. I had to read this to my daughter, who’s about to go back to college.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. revruss1220 says:

    AMEN! I have fallen a bit behind on my required daily “Mitch reading,” but I am very glad I caught up with this one. Truth!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I want to be like the Wallaces. I want my life to inspire others to seek out Jesus. It’s your everyday life that can influence people the most.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Debi Walter says:

    Mitch,
    I love that you can share a post like this and invite all to share how they are processing it without the drama of hateful disagreement. Every comment is worth reading to understand how people view those who have their lives built on The Rock. Like the Wallace’s we have lived as faithful to God as we know to do. The only way it is possible is by the Holy Spirit who gives us power to do what we couldn’t do in our own strength. The purpose isn’t to make us or our marriage look good for us, but to draw attention to The Way, The Truth and The Life. This is what compelled us to keep making hard choices in how to live and love well in this climate so rapidly shifting and changing.
    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Alan Searle says:

    Good one. You will know them by their fruit. It’s not complicated

    Liked by 1 person

  19. joannie6535 says:

    You got me singing this morning….. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand….all other ground is sinking sand.”

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: Staying grounded during a time of upheaval – Uncoffined

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