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Friday, March 22, 2013

The Volatile Fuel of Entitlement

Lincoln Steffens in 1894
Occupation: Muckraker
Have you ever found yourself under the authority of someone who wasn’t entitled to that authority? Summarize the situation and your reactions. (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1154).

I have become less and less enamored of the concept of entitlement. Barack Obama won the last election for president of the United States. If I could speak with him personally, I would plead with him not to become intoxicated with a sense of entitlement. He of course holds the position legitimately – he won the last election. My hope is that he will see his position in the light of legitimacy rather than entitlement. Legitimacy is earned every day through fulfillment of trust and requires ongoing vigilance and service. Entitlement unfortunately seems to suggest that ongoing commitment is unnecessary and that ownership is absolute. The fact of the matter is that ownership of any type is never absolute—and this includes the sacred roles of parenthood, property ownership…and president. The United States Constitution includes a Bill of Rights. When this is viewed as a bill of entitlements rather than a bill of responsibilities we get overwhelmingly shameful and stupid notions such as that everyone is unconditionally entitled to arm themselves with military assault weapons. Entitlements are viewed as unlimited. Nothing on God’s green earth is or should be unlimited. Entitlement in this sense is fundamentally delusional. When I became a member of my family through birth, I found love aplenty. But nothing sabotages loving relationships more quickly than self-righteous assumptions of entitlement acted out in spasms of childish petulance…or the corrupting volatility of adult egotism.

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