Regular readers of this column have come to know the Wagner animals pretty well and are aware that, to put it mildly, our pets are not usually the brightest bulbs in the box. Others have dogs who run for help to save little Timmy from drowning in the well; our dogs bark at their own food bowl as if it is an intruder threatening their domain.
Our latest (and late) unintelligent pet/member of the family was Lilo the goldfish. My daughter brought Lilo home from school, along with a spacious tank for her (or him? How does one really know with a fish, unless it refuses to ever ask for directions?) to live in. Lilo thus took up residence on our kitchen counter, pretty much dominating the space and forcing me to change my sandwich- making station to the stovetop.
But though she had plenty of space, consistently clean water, abundant food, a fishy castle, underwater palm trees, making her a veritable Kardashian of the Pisces world, Lilo was restless. I noted that whenever the overhead lid and filter were removed for cleaning, she would attempt to jump out of her tank, as if things would be better for her on the outside.
And then one night, someone left the top just a bit askew. When I walked into the kitchen in the morning, the first thing I noticed was the fish lying on the counter. I immediately grabbed her by the tail and tossed her back into the tank. There would be no mouth-to-gill resuscitation going on; if a fish ever comes near my mouth I can assure you that tartar sauce will be involved.
Lilo began to float aimlessly in the current of the filter. And then, of all things, she turned upside down and began to attempt to swim. Her eyes were rolling around oddly, her motion was erratic, and I knew that we likely had not gotten to her in time. She tried to recover for the next day, and then sadly sloughed off her mortal coil and went to that great fish tank in the sky.
All because she did not like having boundaries, boundaries that were designed for her benefit.
I thought of Lilo again this morning as I scrolled Twitter for a few moments. I got wide-eyed as I noticed a tweet that Greg Gutfeld of Fox News had commented on with his usual inimitable humor, from a user named Aella, who was questioning why bestiality has historically been taboo. She very much seemed to indicate that it perhaps should not be. (She did follow up with a tweet stating she thinks "bestiality is gross," but that her personal disgust "does not stop me from asking questions about the origin of cultural taboos.")
This to me came on the heels of a news story from the Grand Haven Tribune of Jan. 8, 2020, in which a 45-year-old man convicted of possession of child pornography defended himself by claiming that he is actually an 8-year-old girl.
Longstanding moral barriers and even scientific realities are daily being torn down, or if they cannot be entirely torn down, people are simply jumping over them to their own detriment and the detriment of all of our society.
There has always since the fall of man been a "nobody can tell me what to do" streak in humanity. It is simply in our rebellious, sinful nature to chafe at authority. But without the sensible and loving barriers that our Creator has put in place, we eventually find ourselves getting exactly what we want, which ends up being the last thing we need.
In Deuteronomy 30:15-16 God said, "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it."
Both God's commandments and the scientific realities he established were always for the benefit of his people. We seem to think that God just wants to restrict us, when what he really wants is the very best for us. And the funny thing about breaking down barriers that we personally do not like is that in so doing we remove any right to tell others not to break down other barriers that we are glad are in place.
Even when we fall back on the old maxim "as long as it doesn't hurt others" as our guideline, we then must answer the question, "Says who?" If everyone gets to "determine their own reality" and live by their own desires, then who says "as long as it doesn't hurt others" should be a barrier for any of us? And who gets to define hurt? And what if someone decides he is "hurt" by that guideline?
Pandora's box suddenly seems like much more than a dark bit of mythology.
I miss Lilo; we all do. But her stubbornness was her own undoing. I just hope our entire society does not jump the tank with her.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2know firstname.lastname@example.org.