"Swimming prohibited!" Summer is officially over and our benevolent public servants have put up hundreds of signs, warning those approaching Jones Beach last week that our privilege to enjoy the waters of the Atlantic Ocean is suspended until further notice.
Fortunately for us the sandy coastline is miles long and the park rangers are few and far between, either unable or unmotivated to enforce rigorously the prohibition. Perhaps the recession has left the state with less money to patrol the beach or perhaps we should be thankful for the thick fog that day, but no one came to order us out of the water. Yet I was not completely off the hook. My daughter Kristin can read. We teach her to obey rules and respect authorities. She asked about the sign. Suddenly swimming was not so much fun anymore. I had to find a good way to explain why the sign is wrong, that it should read "No life guards, swim at your own risk, have a nice day," just like so many signs in motel pools along the way from New York to Carbondale, Ill., where we go to spend every Christmas.
While I was driving back home, I remembered a book I used to read to Kristin when she was a toddler, a book that she now reads to her little brother Noel. In that story, a baby bird hatches while mama bird is away. The little guy leaves the nest to look for her, asking everyone and everything along the way: "Are you my mother?"
Like that little chick we come into this world needing parental care. Once we are strong, educated, and mature, we leave the family nest to chase our own dreams. Some of us, being too proud to submit to God, opt out of a covenant relationship with their Creator for the illusion of full autonomy. Others willingly submit to the tyranny of Big Brother. They are "wise in their own hearts, and shrewd in their own sight" (Isaiah 5:21). In fact, they are like the hatchling from the story, ready to accept an airplane as their mom.
It is when we allow our secular government to go so far beyond the few things it was established to do, that politicians and bureaucrats come up with all sorts of plots on how to confiscate our freedoms, abridge our rights, and oppress us "for our own good": telling me not to swim in the ocean, going after my neighbor for smoking in the park, and cracking down on the local restaurant for serving fatty foods. It would be laughable if it weren't so expensive and so debilitating. Enough.