Rule #6: Eliminate Excessive Choices

torah-scrollAs I continue my march through Joel Harper’s “Ten Rules that Fit People Follow,” examining each rule in the light of biblical teaching, I find myself arrived at rule #6. (You can read my musings on rule #5 and before here.) The sixth rule is “Eliminate excessive choices,” which is described as follows:

Chocolate croissant or steel cut oats? Grilled salmon or a quesadilla? When you have to make these types of dietary decisions all day long, you may end up exhausting your willpower. Planning your meals in advance, however—even just one meal per day—can make it easier (and less stressful) to eat healthy.

My initial reaction to this rule is that it is nonsense. Do people who plan their meals in advance actually eliminate any choices? I’d argue that as a ‘no.’ They move the choices to a different time, but they don’t eliminate anything.

On the other hand, I think there is something to be said for actual elimination of choices. Think of what Jesus said to the rich young ruler: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” This young man went away from Jesus sad. Why? He couldn’t let go of his wealth. Wealth, you see, indicates choice.

When I receive a pay check, I send a text that initiates a gift for 10% of that check to my church. Do I have to give that tithe on the first day I receive the payment? No, but by doing so, I eliminate the choice and thus the temptation not to give it. In fact, if my pay came in consistently, I’d set the thing up to go automatically twice a month.

In reality, I think that this rule should be “Surrender your will to God’s will.” Was there ever a better example of that than when Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be arrested, tortured, tried, tortured again, and then murdered? If I could demonstrate that level of surrender, then I could easily choose the oats over the croissant.

The problem, I think, with Harper’s rule is that his elimination of choice is an illusion. If I eat the grilled salmon, I can easily enough opt to eat the quesadilla later in the evening or allow my wife to talk me into ice cream.

This so-called elimination of choices is actually just an exercise in reinforcing will power, but humans have shown for millennia that we’re not particularly good at will power. Surrender, on the other hand, takes will power off the table.


Yet Another Choice

A few days ago, I wrote an entry in which I suggested that the forces of “choice” aren’t quite as dedicated to civil liberties as they’d like us to believe. Now I find another example in the pages of a manifesto recently produced by the International Planned Parenthood Federation. This document calls for mandatory sex education for everyone aged 10-24 worldwide. Mandatory–that’s a great word for the freedom-loving folk at Planned Parenthood.

Of course, the organization knows best what sort of sex education should be provided to this fourteen-year swath of humanity: their sort of sex education, full of abortion-as-a-right, safe-sex, and a host of contraceptive choices (many of which, not coincidentally, provide Planned Parenthood with is revenue stream).

When I was twenty-four, I had two children and zero diseases. While I wouldn’t say that I had sex completely figured out by that time, it was clearly working for me. All of this despite having zero formal sex education. Planned Parenthood probably sees me as an abject failure.

What troubles me most about their proclamation is its attitude toward religious belief.

Young people’s sexuality is still contentious for many religious institutions. Fundamentalist and other religious groups — Catholic Church and madrasas (Islamic schools) for example — have imposed tremendous barriers that prevent young people, particularly, from obtaining information and services related to sex and reproduction. Currently, many religious teachings deny the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex and limited guidelines for sexual education often focus on abstinence before marriage (though evidence shows this strategy has been ineffective in many settings). The reality is, young people are sexual beings and many of them are religious we well. There is a need for pragmatism, to address life as it is and not as it might be in an ideal world.

In reality, of course, sexuality is contentious to the Planned Parenthood crowd as well. The difference is that they are contending for a different view of sexuality. Although Planned Parenthood would proudly wave a pro-choice flag, they apparently do not believe in a parent’s right to choose how to educate their children. They do not believe in the right of a religious community to choose traditional sexual morality or to pass that morality on to its young. They believe in choice so long as it is their choice, the right choice.

Planned Parenthood is simply another in a long line of would-be authoritarian surrogates. They do not really want to free the world from tyranny. They see traditionalists as the wrong tyrants and want to nominate themselves as the right tyrants. I’m pro-choice on this question, and I choose no tyrants at all.

Choices, Choices

Yesterday, during the Super Bowl, I watched the incredibly controversial, potentially civil-liberties-shaking Tim Tebow ad for Focus on the Family. This thirty-second spot, which had caused so much hand-wringing by the chattering classes on the left, committed the horrible sin of suggesting that people might visit the Focus on the Family website. Nobody complained that urged us to go to their website for a continuation of their sexist and tacky strip-show/bad-acting festival, but the very idea that people might take the message that Tim Tebow’s mom loves him and then peruse some message from FOTF has those critics shaking in their boots.

Just before the game, Penny and I hit the local grocery store. There, I saw the current cover of People magazine, where more hand-wringing is going on. As it turns out, the most fecund of Americans, the Duggers, are experiencing health problems with their nineteenth child. “How many children is too many?” the magazine asks.

Both of these stories put the lie to the falsehood of “choice.” The educated elite trumpet their notion of choice, yet they don’t extend that privilege to others. What they really mean is that we should all have the choice to hear the messages that they find appropriate. What they really mean is that women should have the right kill their children but not to choose to have an unlimited number of children.

I wish these types would be honest. Their message of choice is really one that says they know better. They know what Focus on the Family is really thinking and trying to accomplish. They know who should be allowed to procreate. They just know.