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The Time A Gun Was Pointed At My Head, And Why "Keep Your Morals To Yourself" Is Dangerous
March 12, 2014 Jason Wisdom

The Time A Gun Was Pointed At My Head, And Why "Keep Your Morals To Yourself" Is Dangerous

Posted in Forum Post

Picture You probably know what it’s like to be so exhausted that you find everything funny. It’s the place just before you start finding everything annoying. A time when things that would never be funny suddenly seem hilarious. These moments were commonplace during my time in a touring band. The following story is about how one of those times resulted in a gun being pointed at my head.

On this particular occasion, we were stuck in terrible rush-hour traffic outside of Baltimore, Maryland. I was driving. The band that we were touring with was in the van ahead of us. The highway was a parking lot. Our guitar player, Daniel, who is not a very large individual, climbed into his sleeping bag and squirmed his way over the front-most bench seat of the van and began grunting and flailing around. We all thought it was hysterical. But that wasn’t the end of it. I had an even better idea. I suggested that Seth, our other guitarist, should carry Daniel, still wrapped in the sleeping bag, up to the van belonging to the other band, open the door, and throw Daniel in. After all, if it was hilarious for us, how much funnier would it be for a group that was totally not expecting it? We were all agreed. It was the perfect traffic jam entertainment plan. Seth stepped out the van, picked Daniel up on his shoulder, and then. . . traffic started moving. Unconsciously, I took my foot off of the brake pedal. The van lurched forward. Seth lost his grip on Daniel momentarily, which made getting back into the van more difficult. Fortunately, he was able to shove Daniel back into the van and jump in.

Traffic was barely crawling, but a few cars managed to pass us on the right hand side. The people driving those vehicles craned their necks and looked in our direction with very concerned expressions on their faces. “Guys, that probably didn’t look very good,” I said. But I had no idea why it looked so bad. After a few miles, I noticed a pair of state troopers parked on the left shoulder. It was pretty obvious that we were about to get pulled over. They flashed their lights as we went by, and we slowly merged off of the road. I figured they would write us a ticket for playing around on the highway, but I had no idea just how serious it was about to get.

The other guys in the band tell me that what I said next sounded so casual that they didn’t believe me at first. “They’ve got their guns out,” I said. In the mirrors, I could see the troopers rapidly approaching our van. They were not messing around. All of a sudden, they were banging on the side of the van and screaming, “Get out of the car! Where’s the girl!?” When I stepped down out of the driver’s seat, there was a gun pointed directly at my face. The trooper screamed at me, “Get on the ground or I will blow your head off!” I face-planted in the tall grass beside the highway in an instant. I have never been that scared, or moved that fast in my entire life. I could hear the other officers shouting, “Where’s the girl?”

It turns out that a couple of those concerned passers by had called the police and reported that we had kidnapped a girl–she was wrapped in a blanket and trying to escape. When the troopers didn’t find the girl,  they gave us a chance to explain. Fortunately, despite all of the dramatics, they were really nice guys. They actually thought it was pretty funny–stupid, but funny.

Now, let me ask you: why was all of that drama necessary? Why did those people call the police? Why did the state troopers pull their guns out and threaten to blow my head off? Answer: because they thought that someone’s life was in danger. Or to put it another way: because there was at least the possibility that someone’s life was in danger. They did not know for certain. They did not even have any good evidence. They just had reason to think it was possible. The troopers were acting based on something that a person driving by thought might be happening. So, did they respond appropriately? Of course! If there was even possible that someone’s life was in danger, they ought to have come out with all guns blazing (literally) like they did.

Penn Jillette, the famous magician/comedian and outspoken atheist, tells the story of a time when a man gave him a very moving gift after a show. You can watch the video here. Jillette says that the man waited around patiently after the performance, said some nice things, and then handed him a small Bible. He says that the man made it clear that he was “proselytizing.” His desire was to see the atheist comedian come to faith in Christ. Jillette says that he respected the man for it and that he has absolutely no respect for people who do not proselytize. He asks, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize… to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” He goes on to say he remains convinced that there is no God. However, he praises the man over and over for his goodness. Why does he call the man good? Because Jillette understands how horrific the world would be if this man thought his life (or soul) was in danger and just “keep it to himself.” The man was good because he said something (even if he was wrong). Jillette says that it is possible to get along with people like that even when there is a such a deep disagreement. I agree with him on both accounts.

And that is why I am convinced that oft heard phrases like, “keep your morals to yourself,” have very dangerous implications. Ideas have consequences. Do you really want to live in a society where people remain silent when they even think that another person’s life is in danger? And that is to say nothing of those who are totally convinced of it. Should a man who believes that another person’s life is in danger keep it to himself? Suppose he is wrong. Okay, fine. Then we need to deal with the evidence. But advocating for a society in which people keep moral concerns (whether they are right or wrong) internal is a terrible idea–particularly when it involves the potential loss of life. What is more, the majority of those who say things like “keep your morals to yourself” are actually breaking their own rule, since they are essentially saying “my morals are better than yours.” We can disagree about the facts, but at the end of the day, if someone even thinks (for any reason) that another person’s life is in danger; I for one do not, DO NOT, want that person to keep quiet. For more articles and videos visit becauseitstrue.com

Comments (4)

  1. Todd 4 years ago

    Then again, in my experience most people don’t agree with Penn Jillette on this. They find overt proselytizing repugnant, making them even less able to hear the message. For these people, proselytizing has the opposite effect of what is intended. It drives them away. Even if I were a Christian exclusivist, which I’m not, I would be very cautious about proselytizing. I would have to present something to people that attracts their interest, or at least curiosity, making them want to know more.

    1. Jason Wisdom Author

      Todd, I agree with you there. I only intended to use the Jillete example to drive home my point that it is dangerous, if not immoral to say “keep your morals to yourself.” And I also think that the term “proselytizing” is rather arcane, and the average person who is equipped to share the Christian faith does not generally have to go about it by waiting around and handing Bibles to strangers. But again, the point of this article wasn’t to argue for the virtues of proselytizing, but to establish that “keep your morals to yourself” has dangerous implications.

    2. Jason Wisdom Author

      I would also want to say that we must always be considerate of the circumstances. It would be immoral for the personal physician of a man who is dangerously obese if he did not inform him of the problem, possible consequences, and a potential plan of action. His family and closest friends are under at least some similar obligation. However, those people are also in a place to know if his condition is related to other issues, so that they can be appropriately sensitive. It may be that approaching him directly about it causes him to shut down. But it would be very insensitive of some random guy on the street to approach him and say something. At the end of the day, I think Christians err when we assume that because people in the 1st century (who had none of our communication technology) went around confronting people in the streets, that we must do the same. We must be a great deal more tactful, especially given the cultural circumstances of our day.

  2. Todd 4 years ago

    Jason, I certainly agree that keeping one’s morals to oneself, in the sense of not acting on them in high-stakes situations, can be dangerous. I did, however, think that the reason why you followed up with the Penn Jillette anecdote was to draw a parallel between one’s life being in danger and one’s soul being in danger, and thus indirectly to argue for the virtues of proselytizing. But I think we agree, in light of your followup comment, that as cultural conditions change, so does proselytizing. It includes being tactful, but goes way beyond it. One huge difference between our situation and the 1st century is that most people in the developed world *think they already know* everything they need to know about Christianity. They are not remotely curious about learning more, or discovering whether what they think they know is wrong. Indeed, it’s a general human foible that none of us are terribly interested in learning whether things we think we know are wrong. For many, many people, myself included unfortunately, this is a low priority. And this creates a large problem for anyone who even thinks about proselytizing.

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