Conspiracy Theory

quaker

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

Why is all the fun stuff bad for you? Candy rots your teeth. Biscuits and gravy clog your arteries. Sitting for hours in front of a screen rots your brain cells. Booze gives you headaches. Credit cards mortgage your future. Leisure makes you broke. Running naked through the shopping mall can land you in jail. And what about fame, wealth, and power? Who wouldn’t love that stuff? Talk about your arsenic-laced carrot on a stick.

And why is it that all the stuff that’s supposed to be good for you is so lame? Come on. Only endorphin addicts really like to exercise. Even die-hard vegetarians eat vegetables more out of principle than pleasure. Who wants to save money? Where’s the fun in moderation? And seriously, who but for academic foo-foos would read Shakespeare if it wasn’t an assignment? It seems like most of the so-called virtues are more medicine than thrill-ride. No wonder we need to keep harping about these things all the time. We hate medicine.

It boils down to the difference between want and need. Why is it that most of what I really want is not what I need and what I really need not exactly what I want? And even if I do sort of want what I need—like a healthy, buff body, for example—why do I have to agonize through what I really don’t like (sweating an hour on the elliptical, avoiding fats and junk food, yada yada yada) in order to get it? Who invented these laws anyway? I’m telling you, there’s a conspiracy here.

Here’s how it works: God wants you to like him, but, except for a vague sense of appreciation for being the Guy who made trees and sex—and in cases of extreme distress like, say, an upcoming proctology exam, you’d rather he keep his distance. God knows that unless you know you are totally screwed up you’ll probably go your merry way craving the cravings of sinful man, lusting the lust of your eyes, and boasting the boasting of what you have and do. This wouldn’t be a major issue if the world was going to be around forever, but, as you may tend to forget, God has planned a roaring bonfire of the vanities for everything in the world, including your local Starbucks. It’s his funny way of eliminating competition for your affection.

But—and this is a big but—in order for you to get credit for choosing the good stuff, God requires that you override your dislike of it. The idea is that if choosing Good is easy, then it’s not much good. In order to rack up the points you have to jump through the Hoops of Virtue, which, by the way, are barbed. But to make it more interesting, God lines the yellow brick road with all the cool stuff that will kill you. So not only do you have to jump through the hoops, you have to resist the cheap entertainment along the way.

God figures that eventually you’ll either bag the hoops and go for the fun (in which case he marks you down as kindling for the upcoming inferno) or you’ll collapse from moral exhaustion (in which case he provides Gatorade). It’s a setup for sure.

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