Imagine the opening night of a church-sponsored retreat with 100 junior high students sitting on the floor. If the speaker walked to the front and proclaimed: "This weekend there are no rules. Zip. Nada," what do you think would happen?
I can answer that because I was there. I was the speaker. I saw the stunned faces of the students morph into shouts of joy and high-fives, especially when I expanded my opening statement, adding: "I'm serious about this. Your counselors and I have decided that rules are waaaaaay too confining. Rules get in the way of cutting loose and having a really good time. So, this weekend we're giving you a break from all rules."
Like Mount St. Helens, the kids erupted with cheers nothing short of deafening. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my announcement was news to the counselors. We never discussed anything about my talk—especially not the part about suspending the rules. Thankfully, the sponsor knew and trusted me.
"To be clear," I said, "there's no curfew. At mealtime, it's all you can eat. You get to sleep in if you'd like. Take a shower and brush your teeth—or don't. We don't care. Everything at the snack bar is free. And you're not required to read the Bible or attend the teaching sessions."
At this point, a number of the kids glanced at their leaders to see if this was a joke or the real deal. Thankfully, the counselors smiled and played along.
I said, "Now, keep in mind that without rules, nothing is 'right' or 'wrong,' and there's no 'good' or 'evil' because there isn't a God who cares about your choices." I let that sink in for a moment, then added, "Which means you won't be punished for what you do—or rewarded for good behavior."
I could tell they hadn't considered these implications. After a moment, I invited the students to vote if they still wanted to eliminate all rules. The overwhelming majority raised their hands in favor of a rule-free weekend. That's when I lowered the boom.
I said, "Great! Now, to be clear, without any rules, if someone snatches money from your purse or maybe steals your wallet, that's gonna be okay. If you get cheated while playing a sport, that's fine. If someone steals away your girlfriend or boyfriend, that's cool. Or, if a fight breaks out and someone kills someone else, that's no problem."
You could feel the euphoria start to leak from the room.
One guy in the front row blurted out, "Hey Mr. Bob, that ain't right!!" When I asked why he was protesting, he said, "Duh!—'cause killing is wrong!" Several students nodded in agreement. I reminded them we just voted to ditch the rules, adding, "If there's no right and wrong, why are you against murder?"
An interesting discussion followed as the group, upon further consideration, started to see the abolishment of all rules as a bad move. That's when I invited them to pick and choose which behaviors would be permitted and forbidden for the next three days.
Guess what? They filled an entire dry erase board with a hefty list of regulations—in fact, their list was far more extensive than the Ten Commandments.
Here's the kicker. I said, "Since we voted that there's no God, if you keep all of the rules listed on the whiteboard while someone else breaks them, there will be no consequences. What's more, you both end up in the same place when you die. Are you good with that outcome?"
That didn't sit too well with them. So, I suggested that we appoint someone in the room to be "god" for the weekend—to be the one who would decide the fate of those who failed to abide by the new list of rules which they themselves had identified.
When several kids nominated a guy named Eric to be "god", others pointed out Eric's flaws—including that he wasn't trustworthy, and he had been a frequent guest in the detention hall for a laundry list of infractions. Several others were nominated but were likewise disqualified. You probably can see where this discussion was headed.
Since we needed a Supreme Being to preside over the weekend and settle any disputes, I invited them to describe the person who should play the part. Once again, they filled the whiteboard with characteristics like "perfect," "just," "honorable," "loving," "merciful," "understanding," "kind," "eternal," "unchanging," "fair," "trustworthy," "all-knowing," "all-powerful," and "forgiving."
Permit me an observation. That last attribute—forgiveness—has been all but forgotten by today's High Priests in the religion of Wokedom. Just as the junior high students were given a chance to define the "god" they wanted to govern them, far too many Americans today are bowing down to the Overlords of Woke and, in turn, are experiencing the brutal reality of a life without the possibility of forgiveness, redemption, mercy or grace.
Heritage Foundation vice president, Angela Sailor, has warned that the "cancel culture is a direct assault on the construct of forgiveness. It seeks not to fix, but to destroy ... It diametrically opposes forgiveness, an age-old virtue central not only to the Christian faith but also to our nation's founding."
As the New York Post rightly points out, "No sin is ever forgiven in the brave new woke world." The Editors put their fingers on this disturbing trend, saying, "in this world the left has created, there is no path to forgiveness. There is no redemption. There is only smug dismissal. Childhood idiocy makes you a pariah for life."
Their observation is shared by ABC 30 News, who recently ran this headline: "'Woke' Social Justice Has Become a Religion With No Path to Forgiveness." The Baltimore Sun, The Week, and Heritage.org, amongst numerous others, have addressed this complete lack of forgiveness during the "Great Awokening."
All is not lost—especially if you carefully pick Whom you'll serve (Joshua 24:15). The Good News found in Scripture is that our Father in heaven longs to forgive us. The Lord Himself has said, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18 NIV).
Years ago, Bob Dylan sang, "You're gonna have to serve somebody / Well, it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord / But you're gonna have to serve somebody." I'm with Joshua on that point: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Caleb George
Bob DeMoss is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 books including collaborations with Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty, Jim Daly/Focus on the Family, Andy Stanley, and Tim LaHaye/Left Behind. His latest short story is "Hazel: The Outlaw Mummy". Visit BobDeMoss.com.