Like many others this week, I watched with some interest Miss South Carolina Teen, Caitlin Upton’s response to the question, Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?
It was one of those simultaneously humorous and painful moments as she responded:
“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, um, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future.”
I understand that Miss Upton was on MSNBC on Tuesday evening and has demonstrated a good sense of humor about this as she explained what happened. There is a tremendous amount of pressure in pageants and she was on camera. Only part of the question registered but without asking for it to be restated she embarked on an attempt at an answer. On the Tuesday morning Today show she had an opportunity at a redo:
Personally, my friends and I, we know exactly where the United States is on a map. I don’t know anyone else who doesn’t. If the statistics are correct, I believe there should be more emphasis on geography in our education so people will learn how to read maps better.”
The incident got me to thinking. The question posed claims that 20% of Americans cannot locate the United States on a world map. In her unusual answer Caitlin responds that “…some people out there in our nation don’t have maps…“. That is also probably true. As I thought about these two things I went back to the Garden of Eden and a question that God asked Adam:
Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 2:9)
God didn’t need to ask the question for His personal knowledge for He knew where Adam was. It was Adam who had lost his way when he chose to violate what God had told him. God was simply helping him to realize that. God’s people have had a history of getting lost either because they don’t have a map (God’s revelation) or do not have map reading skills (an understanding of the basic doctrines of Scripture and how to study and practice what they are learning). We have cited Barna’s polls in the past which demonstrate that 91% of Evangelicals and 49% of Evangelical pastors do not have a biblical worldview. There is simply very little training in the essential doctrines of the faith. Add to that high profile names within Evangelicalism, such as Christianity Today, who are consistently discouraging “map reading skills” called discernment and God’s people will continue to wander around lost. C.T.’s most recent article on this is “Attack Dogs of Christendom”. In his public attack author David Aikman writes:
Yet while there is no questioning the apparent sincerity of these attack-dog ministries, there is plenty of reason to challenge their approach. Lashing out in public at fellow Christians is objectionable-especially when the Christian influence on contemporary culture today is so weakened.
Is it true that Robert Schuller, the late Norman Vincent Peale, mystic Richard Foster, postmodernist Brian McLaren and Word Faith Joel Osteen should not be called to task where their teaching is in contradiction to Scripture? In other words are we really being called to simply abandon the road map because checking it to see where we are might make a Christian celebrity feel bad?
It is true that there are some in discernment who go too far and are not accountable in any real way. Some seem enamored with various conspiracies and see them everywhere. But at no point do C.T. or David Aikman reference discernment, apologetics ministries or missionaries to New Religious Movements who do their work carefully with a high degree of accountability.
One of the organization’s which does a very good job is Mormonism Research Ministry headed up by Bill McKeever. He and Eric Johnson did an excellent article “The Bridge or the Beehive? Mormon Apologetics in a Postmodern Age” in the current CRI Journal which sparked a fair amount of controversy on Heart Issues for LDS as some are arguing that exposing false doctrine or addressing sin is just wrong and what we need to do is just build relationships. Sort of sounds like the Beatles, “All You Need is Love,” or Jackie DeShannon’s dittie:
What the world needs now is love, sweet love it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love, no not just for some but for everyone.
Once we abandon the road map all we are left with is our feelings and making any kind of decisions, especially ones with eternal consequences, based on feelings is a dangerous proposition. As fallen finite human beings we need God to be asking us “Where are you” as a constant reminder that we need His word to guide us on our way. He isn’t overly concerned about hurting our feelings in the process.