Friday, July 13, 2007

Free Will

Free will essentially is the ability to make decisions and act on them. In philosophy it can come in libertarian or compatibalist versions (don't worry, I'll resist all philosophical inclinations and spare you from that discussion). Or it could be the offer of a yellow pages lawyer (ok, one bad joke is one too many.)

But the reason that free will comes to mind is because the stark portrayal of it a daily basis in this neighborhood. Across the street every day people use their free will to purchase crack, around the corner others are using their free will to hire prostitutes, while each day the kids around here that I hang out with are exercising their free will and staying away from options A and B.

But what I find so fascinating about their use of this gift is that it is truly free for them. These neighborhood kids are acting aside from influences that act on many suburban teenagers. Very clearly these kids choose to come here, to come hang out, to come to our educational hours, go to New Orleans with us, to attend Bible studies and our youth night, and to accept Christ. The choosing process is led by the teens (and the Holy Spirit for that last one). None of their parents are forcing them to come and a few of them even have parents who discourage them from coming. Some walk over two miles to be here if they can't get a ride. Choices abound.

Now there's a flip side to offering free will to them, but that's essential, lest free will become semi-free will. For example, we have one guy who occasionally comes by, but always makes sure to slip out when the Bible study portion of the evening starts and then he predictably returns for snack time (Fact: everyone loves Cheetos), and that's cool too. The moment we begin making decisions (ie: forcing that guy to stay) for these kids is the moment tyranny takes over and we deny the mission our lives carry (remember: making decisions for someone is significantly different from encouraging good choices).

Free will is a pretty cool thing and its especially powerful and exciting to watch when exercised positively apart from ritual and upbringing and in opposition to the environment that surrounds it.