I still remember the tune and the first few words.
“And you and me are free to be you and me.”
As a first-grader, I had no idea the song came from a pink-sleeved album of the same name, produced by an actress named Marlo Thomas, who posited a world where boys and girls were not different at all, where they could be whatever they wanted, however they wanted.
All I knew back then was that “Free to Be” was something of an anthem among my young public school teachers, who delighted to teach us kids to break free from traditional values and indulge our dreams.
That was 40 years ago.
What I do know now is where the philosophies behind “Free to Be” have taken us. And it’s not all good.
First … a concession: The “Free to Be” movement hatched by Thomas, her feminist friend Gloria Steinem, and her new magazine, Ms., rightly encouraged girls that it was OK for them to pursue careers, even careers traditionally held by men. And it rightly encouraged boys that it was OK if they sometimes shed a tear, or didn’t exactly fit the caricature of American manhood.
But the album, as well as the book and TV series that followed, steeped a generation of American kids in a destructive self-focus whose stains are now fully evident.
You see, my generation is the product of the “Free to Be” philosophy. And it saddens me to see where the educational ideals of the late 1960s and early 1970s have gotten us.
We are, in general, a “me” focused people, insisting without embarrassment that we ought to be what we want, have what we want, and get to those goals however we want.
In short, we’ve put ourselves – not God – at the center of our world.
Back in the early ’70s, many of us took a wrong turn. And we’re now way down the wrong road, the road of self-preoccupation.
Take a look at the scenery:
Today, almost one in three children in America grows up in a fatherless family. Many dads are failing in their primary responsibility to love, provide for, and shepherd their children. It seems many in my generation believe they’re free not to embrace their responsibilities.
Nationally, and in many individual households, we’re in debt up to our eyebrows, because we’ve believed the lie that we’re free to get what we want, when we want it.
But the ugliest view from the road of self-focus is also, not coincidently, marking its 40th anniversary this year: the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
As “Free to Be” was becoming a national phenomenon, Steinem’s magazine was advocating a new style of “gender-neutral parenting” and women’s “reproductive rights.” The campaign coincided with the court’s decision to legalize abortion in America.
Since then, more than 50 million children have been killed via legal abortion. Can we honestly applaud that we are “Free to Be … ” when it leads to such carnage?
Proverbs 14:12 offers a chilling diagnosis of our present course: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
The Scriptures also help us chart a better course. By faith, we can live for God and others, trusting that God’s designs for family, possessions and life itself are not only right, but also best.
“As for God, his way is perfect … ,” says Psalm 18:30. “He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”
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