Nothing found.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

Featured on -

Looking for something?


Blog Archives

Archives

The Things That Make for Peace


(Originally posted here.)

"I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war." – Psalm 120:7

"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.” – Luke 19:41-42

"All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace." – Thomas a Kempis

I recently heard praise among churchgoers for the movie, “Act of Valor”, a movie about Navy SEAL’s funded in large part by the Navy itself. (And, judging by the previews, essentially a military recruitment film.)  There is even a Bible study that coincides with the movie and is based on the SEAL code of honor.  I was unexpectedly overcome with grief when it was excitedly mentioned during a church service I attended.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the terrible contrast I had just experienced.  The sermon was on this verse from the Beatitudes in the book of Matthew:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Blessed are the peacemakers.  And yet here Christians had high praise for a code of conduct espoused by an outfit whose entire purpose is to kill ruthlessly and efficiently.  And not merely to kill, but specifically to kill whoever they are commanded to kill by the political powers in the United States without question.  The very first tenet in the SEAL code of conduct is “Loyalty to Country” which means, in practical terms, obeying the orders of your superiors who are supposed to represent “the country”, however ill-defined the term.

Not only does obedience to the first tenet render obedience to any of the rest impossible, it is unfathomable to me how a Christian could find this a suitable basis for a Bible study intended to make men into better Christians.  The first tenet of this code means, quite plainly, to forsake your own conscience, do not question the morality of your orders, do not seek to understand why you are supposed to be at war with whomever you are told to be at war with, do not investigate whether or not your targets are a genuine threat or deserving of death, but simply pull the trigger.

The Evangelical Church in America today looks very little like a body of Christ followers and more like a body of state and military followers.  American flags grace many a pulpit.  Veterans Day celebrations are common.  Prayers for the success of military ventures are not unheard of.  Calls by politicians and pundits for the use of violence in almost any country for almost any reason will almost always gain the unwavering support of the entire Evangelical community.  Anything – including torture, assassinations, and “collateral damage” – can be excused and even praised if it is done “for the country” and under the stars and stripes.

How did this happen?  Can you imagine Jesus, or Peter or John with Kevlar vests and M-16’s kicking in doors, screaming , and “double-tapping” people in the head before yelling, “All clear!”’ and high-fiving each other?  Can you imagine them dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima or Nagasaki?  Can you imagine Jesus instructing his followers to study a code of conduct that begins first and foremost with, “Be loyal to the Roman government”?

Not only did Christ and the giants of the Christian faith refuse to aggress against others, no matter how sinful or evil, they even refused to use violence in self-defense and instead chose martyrdom.  When Peter tried to defend Jesus with the sword by cutting off the ear of a soldier, Jesus rebuked him and healed the man’s ear.

Jesus did not instruct the disciples to go to the wilderness and train for a few months so they could plan a stealth nighttime assassination of the guards who crucified Him or any who opposed the Way.  He told them to forgive.  To Baptize.  To turn the other cheek.  To submit even to death for the sake of the gospel, rather than resort to violence.  That is a radical message and they lived it.

And yet the Church finds herself cheering for the military and honoring them without questioning what they are doing, who they are killing, why they are doing it, or if it’s right.  Worship of America and the myth of its righteousness have taken the place of any sense of individual moral responsibility on the part of soldiers or those who support them.

I left the church that morning with an immense weight on my soul.  I wept.  I wept because I knew exactly the sentiment expressed by most of the churchgoers that morning.  I used to share it.  I wept as I remembered my bloodlust after 9/11.  I wanted the United States military to kill people.  I wanted bombs to drop and guns to fire.  I wanted somebody to get it, good and hard.  I wanted death.  I wanted war.  I did not want peace.  I felt no love, only hate.

This impulse is perhaps the most human of all impulses.  It is also the very impulse Christ taught us to overcome and demonstrated how to do so by His own example.  Even when others hate, love.

I wept as I saw in my mind's eye the blood on the hands of nearly every Christian in this country.  How many self-proclaimed followers of Christ have cheered on “the boys in uniform” during every conflict we’ve ever had, including wars of aggression, just because they’re “our countrymen” fighting for “our side”?

What are “the things that make for peace”?  The belief that right and wrong trump nationality and patriotism.  The belief that killing is only ever permissible as a last resort and in self-defense.  An understanding that Congressional or Presidential approval of an action does not make it moral.  That obeying orders is not a virtue unless the orders are virtuous, in which case they should be obeyed because they are right, not because they are orders.  That voluntarily agreeing to kill whomever you are told to kill is not honorable.  That love is better than vengeance.

Before you support any military action, conduct a brief mental experiment: imagine not the US Military, but you as an individual embarking on the mission in question.  In the end it is only individuals who can act and bear moral responsibility for their actions.  Imagine standing before God and saying, “I was only following orders”.

How many churches cheered for war against Iraq?  Yet can you imagine a pastor standing before his church and saying, “For the next six months we are all going to train in explosives and guns, and we are taking a church trip to Iraq to kill bad people and make the world a safer place.”  Who would support it?  In moral terms, it is no different to support taking money from taxpayers to pay soldiers to do the same.  In fact, the latter is in some ways more nefarious and less honest.

Most would argue that there is a difference between unjust violence and just violence – indeed there is.  Some argue there is a difference between just war and unjust war – perhaps there is.  But never in my years of observing church support for state military action have I witnessed a single discussion of whether the action was just or right.  There have been a few discussions of whether it was “Constitutional”, but never whether it was moral.  The morality of war is assumed by the mere fact that the war is waged by the United States Government.

Until the Church in America stops blindly supporting violence done in the name of patriotism, our hands are bloody and our witness is tainted.  We say we are for peace, but we want war.  We say we pray to the Prince of Peace, but we ask him to bless the violence committed by soldiers.  We say “the law is written on our hearts” yet we ignore our hearts and only follow the laws of governments and call what they call right "good", and what they call wrong "bad".

In our ignorance, we support violence.  We can cry out, “Father forgive us, for we know not what we do.”  But after our eyes are opened and we begin to examine the morality of acts of violence, we will be held accountable for what we know.  I pray we will be willing to oppose violence, even when doing so makes us “unpatriotic” or “un-American”; even when doing so may lead to our own persecution.

“He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God himself” — C. S. Lewis.

Why Corporations Don’t Support Freedom


There is a common assumption that advocacy of free-market ideas is funded in large part by big corporations.  As much as I wish the many great organizations and projects that are educating in liberty received financial support from large corporations, almost none of them do, and when they do it is in very small amounts when compared to the other things such firms support.

But why?  Businesses are constantly hampered and harassed by government regulation, taxation, and the uncertainty of the legal landscape one day to the next.  Don't they stand to gain from laissez faire?  Well, yes, businesses stand to gain tremendously from market freedom.  Entrepreneurs, owners, employees, consumers, and every other market participant stands to gain.  Businesses of all sizes stand to gain, provided they can produce what consumers demand.

Aye, there's the rub.

You see, while business stands to gain from free exchange, nobody knows which specific businesses will be most successful in a competitive environment.  Consumers are a tough bunch to please.  It takes a lot of work, and there's a lot of uncertainty.  The creative destruction of the market is a little daunting to a businessperson who dwells on it for long.  It's easier, for those who can afford it, to cozy up to the state and ensure that it's restrictions and interventions hurt you a little less than they harm your competitors.  If you have resources enough and play your cards right, you might even be able to get policies that make you more profitable or put your competitors out of business entirely.

The result?  Bigger businesses tend to support state intervention, because they have the lawyers and money and can hire the guns of government.  It is entirely possible that some of these very businesses would fare better under economic freedom, but they don't know for sure, so they go the somewhat safer route of state cronyism.  Smaller businesses typically aren't organized enough and lack the resources to manipulate policy in their favor.  Worse still, the unimaginable number of new ventures that would have been created were it not for government impediments have no voice at all; we don't even know who would have created them.

In short, freedom is good for business, but scary to businesses.

Never Have a Magnum Opus


In yesterday's post, I said,

"I’ve also found that viewing a post as the beginning of my own understanding of the topic, rather than my final word or magnum opus, is intellectually enriching and produces a wealth of new ideas down the road.  But more on that later…"

Now is the later.

My son spends hours every day producing artwork.  Sometimes he will go for several days on a single theme: a new super hero or comic book he's created.  He is lost in the world he creates as he produced dozens and dozens of drawings, each with elaborate back stories.  Inevitably, whatever theme he's on comes to a sudden and unexpected (for me, anyway) halt.  He gets a new idea, abandons his previous project, and moves right on to the next.

As a father, of course I find his creations delightful and I have a strong urge to capture them as whole works and preserve them.  He asked me once to help him turn his book of 30 different wizards and sorceresses ("Wizopedia") into a website.  I was excited to help and began digitizing his drawings and typing in his dictated details on each character...for the first two characters.  Then he got bored and abandoned it for new ideas.

At first, I saw this flightiness as a weakness in him.  Perhaps it is to a certain extent and he'll need to learn to see some things through to completion.  But the more I think on it, the more I see it as a strength, and the more I want to develop the same tendency in myself.  My son is not concerned about an artistic legacy at this point.  He's not concerned about a shiny, neat and clean completed work to present to the world so he can bask in his accomplishment.  He's not trying to create his magnum opus.  He creates for the sheer joy of it, and when he doesn't feel that joy in a particular project, he moves to where he does.

When I think about the most interesting people, who've created the most interesting art or analysis, so many of them produced things until the very moment they passed.  Some of the greatest academic minds produce interesting ideas into their 80's and even 90's.  Contrariwise, there's something sad about a person who produced a magnum opus, and then spent the remaining years living on that legacy, protecting it from being misinterpreted, and making sure the world was aware of its brilliance.  It seems perhaps the best thing to do after creating is to let your creation out into the world and, in a sense, walk away from it and start creating something new.

When I think about my life, I try to imagine it as an upward trajectory through time, rather than a great peak followed by a slow decline in my twilight years.  I want my greatest ideas, moments, experiences and creations to be those at the end of my life.  It seems natural that this should be the case, at least until the physical body's aging prohibits it, as we accumulate more knowledge and perspective through time.  That is, if we don't stagnate.

Rather than a single epic project, it seems a more interesting and challenging goal to see one's entire life as a great work.  Let your whole catalog of creations, from beginning to end, be your magnum opus.  Never peak until you die.

Grow Up Slowly


About a year ago, I had lunch with a very successful couple.  The husband had made a great deal of money early in life on a business start-up in a big city.  After running the firm for a time, he sold most of his shares and the family moved to a picturesque rural dwelling.  He spends but a few hours a week involved with his business, and the rest of his time is spent pursuing his passion for music and a great many other things.  His wife is busy pursuing her passions in art and other cultural affairs.

I asked what prompted such a dramatic change at this early phase in life, especially when they could have easily continued with managing the business, or started another.  They said, in complete agreement, "We moved out here because we wanted our kids to grow up slowly."

I told my wife about the conversation, and those words have stuck with us ever since.  Hardly a day goes by when I don't think of it.  We haven't fully internalized it, but I know it was important for us to hear and consider while raising our own children.  It's easy to get stressed when they don't walk right at the average age for walking, or don't read or ride a bike or swim as early as your friend's kids.  It's easy to try to cram their heads full of practical and theoretical knowledge and get them up to speed quickly.  You imagine what you would be if you had been more learned early on.  Or you simply want them to gain independence quicker so you won't be as limited as a parent.

These are not necessarily bad desires, but this business about letting them grow up slowly just resonates on a deep level.  There is something beautiful about the naivety of kids; about watching them try things they're not prepared for; about how unaware they are of just how real the world can be.  When they learn organically, on their own time, it's amazing to see.  Feeling free to sit back and soak it in as a parent is truly wonderful.

Even as I am trying to learn how to let my kids grow up slowly, I'm beginning to understand the benefits of slow growth for myself.  While reading the fascinating book, How They SucceededI came across some interesting words by Alexander Graham Bell.  The author and interviewer asked, "[I]s not hard study often necessary to success?"  Bell replied,

"No; decidedly not. You cannot force ideas. Successful ideas are the result of slow growth. Ideas do not reach perfection in a day, no matter how much study is put upon them. It is perseverance in the pursuit of studies that is really wanted."

I'm the first to say that just getting things done is the key to success.  Does an action bias contradict Bell's words?  I'm not sure that it does.  Perhaps in the realm of action, haste is a great virtue, but in the realm of thought, slow growth is preferred: act fast, think slow.  Not the best slogan, but there's something to it.

The things we need to get out of the way - certain credentials, experiences, legwork, etc. - just need to be hammered through.  But the really important stuff - our life philosophy, an entrepreneurial venture, a new paradigm, a book - needs to grow slowly with our experience and knowledge.  It needs persistent mental activity, but not forced completion.

Since blogging every day, I have found occasions where I have nothing for the next day's post.  There are two ways to remedy the problem.  The first is to quickly scan the news feeds, inbox, or bookshelf, come up with something, and type it.  The second is to search for ideas that have been incubating for a long while, often subconsciously.  A drive, walk, or talk with a deep-thinking friend can help me discover nascent ideas I didn't even realize were under the surface.  Those tend to be better than the posts I think up and crank out on the spot.  I've also found that viewing a post as the beginning of my own understanding of the topic, rather than my final word or magnum opus, is intellectually enriching and produces a wealth of new ideas down the road.  But more on that later...

Bell concludes on the topic,

"Man is the result of slow growth; that is why he occupies the position he does in animal life. What does a pup amount to that has gained its growth in a fevv days or weeks, beside a man who only attains it in as many years. A horse is often a grandfather before a boy has attained his full maturity. The most successful men in the end are those whose success is the result of steady accretion. That intellectuality is more vigorous that has attained its strength gradually. It is the man who carefully advances step by step, with his mind becoming wider and wider, and progressively better able to grasp any theme or situation, persevering in what he knows to be practical, and concentrating his thought upon it, who is bound to succeed in the greatest degree."

Rewrite the Present


Humans tend to have a "good ol' days" bias.  We imagine the past as better than it was.  Over time, events and experiences in our own life that were dull or painful can become funny or wonderful as we recreate them in our memory.  Epochs long before our time are romanticized, like the idea of the noble savage or the simple pleasure of pastoral life.

This bias can be problematic.  We often critique the perceived failures and excesses of the present in comparison to a past that never was and is not possible.  Some hate the fact that most of us buy food from people we don't know, grown by still others we've never met.  They hate it because they think it alienates us from what we eat in some way.  They imagine some past where they would be joyously working a small field to harvest beautiful ready to eat produce that they planted months before with their own hands, far from the grit and concrete of the city and all that shipping and packaging.  They don't think clearly enough to see the constant festering blisters; the rotten, insect-ridden, small, and unreliable crops; the body odor of their family members sleeping in drafty homes with little privacy, and the unavailability of a varied diet, just to name a few oft forgotten realities.

In this case, a rosy bias towards the past makes us less able to effectively deal with real or perceived problems in the present.  The romance is employed to prove the need for the use of force to stop human progress.  It's a version of the Nirvana Fallacy.

We could attempt, through mental discipline, to eradicate this tendency in ourselves.  We could look hard and deep at the real past, internalize how rough it was, smash the romantic memories and become hardened realists.  I think this is a bad solution.

The past is no longer a thing that exists.  It is a bundle of ideas we carry in our brains.  It is valuable only to the extent it enhances our present.  A realistic assessment of the trials and travails before can sometimes make the present better and provide valuable knowledge.  Just as often, it offers no value, but only makes us sad. An idealized and romantic past can bring a lot of joy and laughter that enhance our present.  The fact that we recreate the material facts of the past and store mostly the positive is probably a wonderful thing.  Recall the times you felt tremendous sadness, guilt or fear: Imagine carrying a realistic memory of all those compounded experiences around with you all the time.

More problematic than recreating the past is a failure to recreate the present.  The way you perceive life determines the quality of it.  If I think fondly on my childhood because I'm filtering it for the good, why not work on implementing a similar filter for the present?  It's never possible to be perfectly accurate in our perceptions of the world; we will always have limits and bias in our worldview.  Why not cultivate that bias towards things that bring peace, freedom, and joy?  It's a little more than making lemonade out of lemons.  It's a conscious effort to learn from our brain's natural filtering of the past and trying to implement it in the present.  It's a discipline.  An optimistic outlook is no less accurate than a pessimistic outlook, but it is more fun.

A good place to start cultivating an optimistic (yet realistic) worldview is at Tough Minded Optimism.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

Featured on -

Occasional Email Updates

[mc4wp_form id="3197"]

Looking for something?


Blog Archives

Archives