EXCLUSIVE: Integrity, Prepositions, God and Tying Our Shoes
By Donald Wehmeyer
Why is it impossible for a liberal to tie their shoes, operate a fly swatter, bake a cake or otherwise function on planet earth? Answer, prepositions. Prepositions create our epistemology. Prepositions can create a reasonable awareness of the world around us or a self-deceiving fantasy.
Prepositions are little words but they can make the difference between a true and false statement. Prepositions are directional, positional and relational. Observe what happens when prepositions are added to the word ‘freedom’. Do we pursue freedom for something or freedom from something? Conservatives want freedom for improving their skills, knowledge and virtue. Liberals want freedom from the limits placed on their lives by social conventions, natural law or God. Similarly conservatives insist true progress is made within the laws of God and nature while liberals argue progress can only be made without these confines. These prepositions: for, from, within and without are an accurate diagnostic tool by which we can distinguish between liberal and conservative views. Conservatives, freedom for and within constraints. Liberals, freedom from and without constraints.
Playing the piano offers us a test case to show how to use this diagnostic tool. As one sits before a piano there is a choice to be made; will one work within the laws of harmony that Pythagoras discovered or declare one’s freedom from such restrictions? Looking at the prepositions related to laws and restrictions, which is the conservative choice and which is the liberal choice? Who will be able to play the piano?
Having seen how the prepositions identify conservatives and liberals we can now ask, which set of propositions allow people to live consistently by their ideas of freedom? A person who consistently follows their guiding principles is said to be a person of integrity.
Integrity is a big word. Like science, history or justice it sings of many things. It is a song of preservation and protection, a melody of honest weights and measures, a symphony of strength, respect, and confidence towards the future.
Integrity is stable but not passive. It is the effort to do things properly, to speak the truth, to fulfill one’s promises, and admit that one was wrong when new fact are discovered or results measured.
Marine General Charles C. Krulak at a leadership and ethics conference gave the following facts to his audience in 2000.
During the time of the 12 Caesars, the Roman army would conduct morning inspections. As the inspecting Centurion would come in front of each legionnaire, the soldier would strike with his right fist the armor breastplate that covered his heart. The armor had to be strongest there in order to protect the heart from the sword thrusts and from arrow strikes.
As the soldier struck his armor, he would shout “integritas”, (in-teg-ri-tas) which in Latin means material wholeness, completeness, and entirety. The inspecting Centurion would listen closely for this affirmation and also for the ring that well-kept armor would give off. Satisfied that the armor was sound and that the soldier beneath it was protected, he would then move on to the next man.
Integrity and integral are related. Integrity is integral to our character, it affects the whole of us.
Integrity is a demonstration of loyalty and courage. A person of integrity is motivated by loyalty to a principle and courage to live by clear standards. The opposite of integrity is treachery motivated by selfishness and cowardliness.
Integrity is different for people and things. Horses and stumps have complete integrity, they are what they are with no pretense. However a person of integrity must be able to clearly articulate the standards which they are upholding. If one cannot say why they are upholding a given standard then we see not integrity but empty headed stubbornness. A person who can articulate the standards which they uphold is pro-active. They can spot the poison weed in the pasture and root it out. Not so the person who is blown to a fro on every current of opinion, such a person literally stands for nothing.
Integrity is like a strong oak tree, by nature takes a long time to grow but once it is mature, it provides a solid landmark, a place where many can rest in the shade and lean their backs against the trunk. A person of integrity fills a room with their calm equanimity.
Can integrity be taught? It can be to the one who has learned to give respect; once we learn to respect something integrity is not far behind. Psalm 15 illustrates integrity and respect for God, for the poor, for principles and for the truth.
1 LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor…
A liberal reading this ancient poem will not see a description of integrity, they will see a list of restrictive conventions. Integrity is scorned because it reeks of restraint. Freedom, they will remind us, must be unbound. For the liberal integrity with its reasonable, measured and consistent respect for the law is bug to be squashed, a door to be battered down, a chain to be rendered, and a quality to be mocked.
Liberal rhetoric replaces integrity with empty promises. The liberal rhetorical technique is to offer an idyllic future as an inevitable fact. This idyllic dream creates excitement, forms crowds in the street and builds political parties that proclaim:
We want freedom from restraint; we want freedom from difficult tests in school, we want freedom from hunger, we want freedom from shame, we want freedom from prissiness, we want freedom from manliness, we want freedom from crime and freedom from crime fighters, we want freedom from poverty, we want freedom from the consequences of our actions, we want freedom from work, we want freedom from illnesses, we want freedom from losing any competition, we want freedom from anything and everything that bothers us.
And yet this idea of freedom from all annoyances is a balloon of hot air. Epistemology shows up and pops the balloon. Epistemology explains reality to the liberal saying, “The prepositions you have chosen to describe the freedom don’t work; they are dysfunctional. There is no freedom from social conventions, freedom from social conventions is either chaos, tyranny or new conventions. Freedom from cause and effect does not exist.”
Then, after a short pause to let that fact sink in, epistemology adds, “It is a stone cold fact that it is impossible for a liberal to tie their shoes, operate a fly swatter, bake a cake or otherwise function on planet earth. Everything we do must be done within the natural law that God has made. Freedom from nature and God is death.”
Thus epistemology lays bare the lack of integrity liberals must live with. The liberal is an impossible quandary. On the one hand liberal doctrine insists that a better future awaits those who are free from social conventions and natural law. On the other hand is the reality that shoes can only be tied within conventions and natural law. Liberal bravado declares loudly on every public stage there shall be freedom from law and convention but behind the curtain the bravado dissolves and the liberal begrudgingly become a conservative for the length of time it takes to tie their shoes or swat a fly. Pesky prepositions sink the liberal ship.
We conclude with this suggestion. When you talk with someone look at their feet. If they have shoes on they may be a conservative with the integrity that comes from working within the laws of nature and God, if so they are grateful to tie the laces of their shoes. Or the feet may belong to a liberal who publicly advocates for freedom from all shoe laces yet, each day before leaving their house, they bow to conservatism and are woeful to tie the laces on their shoes.
Don and Martha have worked with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico since Don graduated from seminary in the early 80s. Their ministry has focused on three areas: theological education, church planting, and retreat-workshop leadership. In theological education Don continues to teach at San Pablo Theological Seminary.
Don and Martha are also the founders of the Gethsemane Retreat Center. The center is used by Christians from all traditions for spiritual formation, marriage enrichment, and it also serves as a base for frequent short-term mission teams from the U.S.
Don and Martha are totally committed to building the capacity of Mexican partners to share and show the love of Jesus as they teach leaders, equip members and build relationships between congregations in the U.S. and Mexico.
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