Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Neighborhood Sidewalk Logic Lesson


My family and I live in a interesting setting when it comes to our housing.  Back in 2003, we literally landed in a townhouse community where the neighborhood has ever reflected a transitionary nature.  How does it change?  Families in renting or leasing scenarios either change residences due to not being able to pay the rent, been evicted because of negligence or not following housing authority rules, or they find better housing.  If they stay, like it seems we are doing at least for another year, they are seeking stability and consistency for the time that they are there until they leave for a "new adventure."  This seems to be what we are here for OR at least we have not had a leading to leave as of yet.

All this being said, lately we have seen our neighborhood changing into more of a latchkey kid environment.  One often wonders if the parents even discipline or disciple their kids by the way some of them show a disrespect for property and authority.  Yes the neighborhood is multiethnic, but that does not matter.  It is the worldview of the secular city and the entitlement mentality that are the driving competitive factors.  So here we are, in a townhouse that we are gradually outgrowing space-wise, in a neighborhood that has its interesting dynamics.   

As interesting as things can be some times, we seek to make an impact and have a witness in our neighborhood.  Having been here for almost ten years, we are seeing some fruit from this, despite those who try to inflict the aforementioned mentality upon their neighbors.  When this affects us, interesting conversations ensue with the neighborhood "rug rats" (NRR - not a negative term).  But of course the parents of these kids have different responses to our influence, and we have not heard the positives or the negatives as of yet.   

I present to you  this backdrop because with the changing of families, particularly with latch-key kids, our family is learning more and more each day what it means to be an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).  The following scenario/dialogue in an example of this.

Part of our dilemma is that the kids next door, three doors down, and across the street think that the whole strip of land in front of our building block is their playground.  Often times we are telling the kids that we do not want them in our front yard, because it will start looking like the rest of strip. That is looking like a football scrimmage field with no grass and all dirt.  Whether they understand that "keep out of our yard" or not, it never fails to see bicycle tracks in the front.  The other day was an interesting conversation with one of the kids.

You see that I had found one of the kids on a bike in our yard.  Picture this, you see a "neighborhood rugrat" (NRR - please understand that this is not to have a negative connotation) out in your yard, and you ask them nicely to get out of your yard and they reply, "It's not my bike!"  The following conversation is which followed, picking up with . . . 

NRR:  It's not my bike!

Me:  What does the fact that it is not your bike have do with your being in my yard?

NRR: (Looks surprised)  Uh, um…

Me: (Gently)  Do you know what logic is?  

NRR:  I don't know what logic is.

Me:  Logic is the study and practice of correct thinking. (I like what one writer states, "Logic is the science of thinking the way God thinks - the way Jesus taught us to think.")  Do you mind if I ask you a few questions to show what I mean?

NRR:  Sure.

Me:  First question.  Can you have a statement that is both true and false at the same time?
NRR:  Umm, uh…No
Me:  AMEN!  That is the right answer!  Great job!

Me:  Next question, Do you have ears?
NRR:  Yes.
Me:  Does an elephant have ears? 
NRR: Yes.
Me:  Does that mean you are an elephant?
NRR:  Noooooo!
Me:  Correct.  You understand the problem with that right?
NRR:  Yes (smiling)

Me:  Next question.  Can you tell me what the definition of a bachelor is?  (The response to this shows the culture in which we are set and the education source of many of our kids today)
NRR:  A man who is not married and is dating several girls at the same time.
Me:  (Trying not to burst out laughing to cover my shock and yell "Holy Oprah Winfrey!")  Let's just say that it is a man who has never been married.  Okay?  
NRR:  Sure.
Me:   What is a bachelorette?
NRR:  A girl who has never been married.
Me:  Good girl!  That is correct!

Me: Now, again, what does the fact that you are riding someone else's bicycle have to do with you're being in my yard?
NRR:  Nothin'
Me:  You're in my yard right?  
NRR:  Yes.
Me:  Is it the bike's fault?
NRR:  Nope. 

Me:  Soooo, you understand what I am talking about now.
NRR:  Yes, sir.

Folks, these kids don't get this at home.  It is bad enough that they don't teach logic in schools these days.  (Bless me, what do they teach them in these schools these days!) The conversation is and always stayed friendly.  And yet it was on a level to where my young conversant understands the communique.  Cordial, simple, and casual; but truthful at the same time.

That is how we are supposed to be.  It would be so easy to light into the poor girl and have her parents come after us with some false accusation of being a racist or something to that nature.  But we have to lovingly communicate truth in these situations because many of the kids in similar settings are not going to get it from anywhere else.  

What I did through the questions was teach her three laws of logic through three illustrations that impacted equally the both of us.   The first was the law of non contradiction.   You know that law that smacks relativism right between the eyes?  The law of non contradiction tells us that you cannot have a truth claim that is both true and false at the same time, no matter how hard you try.

The second was the law of the excluded middle.  That is where you have similarities between two things or people, but not all things in common.  To explain this, one can have two premises to an argument that are true in every way, but the conclusion is false.  

The third one was the law of identity.   Simply stated, there are things that are true by their very definition.  A bachelor or a bachelorette.  A square or a circle. (I dare someone to try and tell me that there is such a thing as a square circle!)   

We walked through these questions, very gently and guess what?  Nobody got hurt with biting words or emotions.  Nobody's head was hurting because of some logical thinking.

In conclusion to this short little snippet, it can be done.  Allow me to emphatically state that it must be done.  We have to lovingly confront and in our confrontation communicate truth in right thinking which is rooted in the gospel message that God sent His Son to die for sinful man, and that God saves sinners.  That should be the goal.  That should be the mission for those of us who consider ourselves as ambassadors for Christ.  

"Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).

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