Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dangerous Fences - The Other Side of the Fence

There is an interesting article from Dave Doran, on his blog. In it, he talked about building fences, and it reminded me of a series of posts on my old blog called "Dangerous Fences" that was one of the all-time most read series of articles. It is a parable about a family and their experience with fences, and I will post the series over the next few days:

Dangerous Fences - The Other Side of the Fence
There was an open place in our yard, with an unobstructed path to a dangerous spot, so I built a fence to prevent my kids from going there. It wasn't long before one child discovered that the fence didn't extend into the trees, and they went around to play on the other side. What is a good father to do? I built another fence.

This one extended further and was set back a little more from the danger, just in case one of my kids might go around again. Can you believe it? The pull from the other side of the fence was so strong, that one of my kids tested the fence until they discovered they could go through a small opening in one side. I had no choice, I built another fence, longer and stronger than the last. My children must be kept safe.

The fence wasn't all I was going to do this time; my children needed to be cautioned about going beyond the fence. It was there for their own protection. So I explained that when I was younger, I went to the other side of the fence and got hurt, and I didn't want them to be hurt as well. They needed a healthy fear of what is on the other side of the fence. The only problem was my trouble-making neighbor.

He let his kids play on the other side of their fence, within sight of my own children. When my kids began to notice and questioned why I built the fence, I explained that the other father was unwise to allow his children to play so near to the danger. They would get hurt sooner or later.

Well...the other day, the thing I feared the most actually happened. One of my children crept around the fence to play with the neighbors, and my child was hurt. So what was a father to do? I built another fence and again explained how playing on the other side of the fence was dangerous. At least now they had an example of the danger, and to remind them even more, I put up a sign, with a picture of their brother, hurt on the other side of the fence.

It wasn't long before one of the neighbor's kids were hurt as well, and I was sure to point it out to my children. "That is why we have all these fences," I said, "They are good and right." Only unwise parents allow their children to play on the other side of the fence, and only unwise children go around, through, or over the fences that their parents have built.

You know...that wasn't the end of the matter.

I discovered one afternoon, that one of my children was talking through the fence to one of the neighbors. Their friendship was tempting my kids to try to find a way over, around, or through the fence. What else could I do? I was forced to build a barrier to keep the neighbor's kids away from my yard. My children had to be kept safe. At least they could play with the neighbors on the other side of us; they had the same fences that we have. Their children were safe.

Our problem was first noticeable when my neighbor said that he didn't agree with the barrier we had erected. After all, he had a neighbor that didn't have the right fences either. However, one by one, his kids were enticed over the fence into danger. Some even got hurt, but even worse than that, they began undermining my neighbor's fences so that other children could get through. After I noticed my kids playing on the other side of the fence, I knew there was no other choice. I built another fence and another barrier between us and them. My kids must be safe.

I was in the back yard a few days later and I discovered that the family behind us had the same experiences. They were so very like-minded that we got together and built another fence. This one extended around both of our houses, so we made certain that our families were both safe together. It was so wonderful to see the kids playing with their friends in the back yard, and the front yard was so close to the danger, they were better off back there anyway. An added benefit was that our united approach to fences gave our families the opportunity to meet together to reinforce the dangers inherent on the other side of the fence. We were careful to point out how much better it was in our yard and how unwise it was for the other neighbors to have so few fences.

We didn't know it at the time, but the kids usually went to the front yard to play when we weren't looking. However, as wise parents, we expected that they would test the fences (kids always do), and this is why we built those fences so far from the danger. At least now that they have grown older, they are still safe, even if they go over, around, or through the fence. As long as we are careful to encourage them back, they will be kept away from the danger on the other side of the fence.

Of course, you might not understand all the fences and barriers in our yard, but at least our kids are safe...

Next: Second Generation Fence Building


Michael said...

I like this. And I get how a parable works. So I'm not grousing at your parable, so much as the mind-set in Fundamentalism that is revealed by it. The problem with Doran's article is that the fence-builders are the leadership of the movement, and that means treating the "underlings" in the movement as though they are children. Galatians emphasizes that through the Spirit of God we are treated as adult children of God, no longer as children, virtual slaves. When you restrict a child, it's good. When you restrict an adult, it's slavery. In Fundamentalism, they're not all fences. Some of them are chains.

I teach our adult believers, and then I leave them alone. When they go to meetings or churches I don't approve of, I wait. Invariably, they come back and say "Wow, that was a real mess over there..." That's why teaching them beats chaining them every time.

Thomas Pryde said...

Thanks for the comment, Michael... the fence builders can be any form of authority, whether that is in the home or in the church.

It is true that many in the Fundamentalist world have this kind of view, but in our travels, we have also noted that many evangelicals take the same kind of tack. They simply have fewer fences (rules).

The number of rules doesn't define the legalistic tendency, it is the reliance on rules as a means for sanctification.