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Turn off your cell phone and read this

A Word to the Wise
By: Tom Rupp
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Did you read that Hugh Jackman recently was on stage in a theater show and a cell phone went off in the audience? He remained in character and acknowledged the rude ringing, and then continued on with his show. One time I was in church and someone’s phone went off. That was bad enough, but then they answered it and began talking, and not in a whisper. “Hello…yes, I’m in church…it’s almost finished.” They were elderly, but that is no excuse. One of the things up front in our cultural consciousness these days is the display of rude behavior in public (see Kanye West, Serena Williams and Joe Wilson). It is a negative byproduct of the cult of individualism that has distorted one of the bedrocks of American society. You know, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Like so many complicated ideas, people have taken one aspect of democracy and run off with it to the neglect of other related aspects. Individualism is balanced by group norms that are just as important. I heard a story of a man wildly swinging his fists in the air in the name of freedom. A bystander remarked, “Your freedom ends where my nose begins.” Americans tend to have a strong sense of self. They tend to have a weaker sense of group. “It’s a free country, I can do what I want,” they assert. To which I reply, “Yes on the first one, no to the second.” Freedom, politically as well as religiously, is not so much the freedom to do what I want as it is the freedom to do as I ought. When freedom and immorality are put into the same mix you will encounter trouble. Our political system has checks and balances, a Constitution and laws, to temper the temptation to be unfettered and irresponsibly do whatever one wants to do to the disregard of others. It’s the same with Christianity. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” Paul says in Galatians 5:1. Then in 6:1, 2, he entreats us to use our freedom to consider others. (See also 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14). I never bring a phone to church. Never. Last Sunday as the pastor asked us to stand for closing prayer, another rude or thoughtless person’s phone went off. I looked around, properly judgmental. The noise was coming from my own pocket. I was the culprit! Never say never. Tom Rupp is a Bible Teacher at Capital Bible College. He can be reached at truppfolsom@yahoo.com or through his blog at thomaswrupp.blogspot.com.