Becoming an "Insulationist"

What it really means to live out our faith in the world.
by Tarek Saab | Source: www.SaabStories.net

In the sport of rowing, "Catching a Crab" is the primal fear of every novice rower. The first time I caught a big one, I was a thirteen-year-old high school freshman seated in the bow of an eight-man shell. I swung forward with the momentum of the other seven rowers, sliced my blade into the choppy water, depressed my legs through the pull, and prepared for the "release and feather" to round off the cyclical motion. Only this time the rhythm broke down because my oar failed to release cleanly from the water. As the other seven oarsmen issued a resounding 'click' with the snap of their wrists, I continued to wrangle with the blade and the waves.

Not only did my now immobile oar prevent me from sliding forward for the next stroke, the momentum of the shell (sometimes reaching speeds of 20-30 km/h) created the opposite motion. As the other rowers slid to the stern, their momentum caused my oar to dig into my ribs. If you catch a small crab, you can fight through it and keep pace, but the physics of a big crab will force instinct to kick in. A rower must lean back and let the oar swing past his body, or it will launch him into the water. I managed to swing the oar past my face in an act of self-preservation, but I drew the ire of the crew with my giant momentum-killer.

This rowing anecdote is an example of the power of momentum and the difficulty of thwarting that force.

American society, like rowers, embraces constant motion. We are a directionless people moving at unprecedented speeds. We work hard – business work, yard work, class work, housework, and homework. We play even harder – television, movies, music, sports, the Internet, video games. Even productive recreations like exercise, Little League, and dance rehearsals have become priorities of unnatural importance for both parents and children.

But in this constant motion we are losing track of what really matters. Our focus in life is changing. We are gluttons for distraction, receptacles of entertainment.During the time it takes to watch our nightly sitcoms, the world grows increasingly darker. Like a frog in slowly boiling water, we fail to notice the gravity of our predicament. The motion is comfortable.

Harmless? Hardly. Morality hasn’t just suffered as a result of our apathy; it is nearly extinguished. Momentum has accelerated our society’s journey down the highway to hell. Abortion. Divorce. Pornography. Drug abuse. Immodesty. Vulgarity. Did I mention abortion? How on God’s green earth has this genocide been allowed to flourish in a Christian society?

Some turn a blind eye. Others feel hopeless and powerless. Most are addicted to the culture in some form or another, and like any other addict they focus less on the problem and more on their next fix.

The solution is a simple one: we need to begin controlling what we can control. We need to make major personal changes.

To be clear, I am not “Puritanical.” Nor do I advocate isolationism. I call it “insulationism,” and if insulationism isn’t a word, allow me to add it to the lexicon. An insulationist creates a moral barrier around himself. He proactively fights immorality in the world, while also refusing to endorse the entertainment that promotes it. An insulationist protects himself and his family by making Christ his King. St. Augustine teaches us, "Wrong is wrong even if everybody is doing it, and right is right even if nobody is doing it."

Several years ago, I decided to do the right thing. I tossed out the TV. It is a hindrance to family life, prayer life, academic life, and even social life. It creates hypocrites of good, honest people.

I quit going to the beach because I refuse to subject myself to nudity. When did it become acceptable to reclassify underwear as swimwear? Worse still, what rational parent thinks the bikini phenomenon has contributed positively to female dignity? Immodesty is the gateway to promiscuity, and the resulting destruction to femininity has been incalculable.

I stopped watching movies with foul language, gratuitous nudity, or sexual-themed potty humor. The laughs are not worth the filth that comes with it; in the same way the taste of a devil dog will never justify eating the chemical-filled concentrate out of which it is made.

Most difficult of all, I radically changed my music listening habits. That which is pleasing to the ear can be destructive to the soul. This is especially true when it comes to the lyrics and anapestic beat of most modern music. So, out with Eminem, Tupac, and Metallica. I don’t need them.

If making these changes makes me appear crazy, so be it. I have reached the point in my life where I feel far more comfortable outside of "the boat" than in it. We are taught to “be in the world but not of the world.” No matter how much we preach a gospel of truth, do good works, or support our favorite charities, if we cannot break away from our own superficial addictions, then we are still very much children “of the world.”

I have given up the distractions I once thought I could never live without, and I am happier for it. When it comes to the momentum of our culture, catching a monster crab might just be what we all need.



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