Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Long Answer

[Crossposted from Street Prophets]

In this thread within this diary I had these questions asked:

A friend of mine is a geophyisist...she was called a stupid heathen by a Christian, in that same arrogant, pinched mouth way. Why? Because she is not Christian. So many times Christians really think they are loving and fair...when they are judgmental and exclusive. Why?
to which I could only answer
Because they are human
to which a certain prophetic werewolf said:
Nonsense. It's because many of them DO feel superior, as opposed to humble, grateful, non-judgemental and LOVING - yah know, like Jesus tells us to be!
My comment which has become my post is:

Again, that is because they are human and what Jesus "told us to be" is contrary to our basic human nature - you know, those things Paul mentioned that we all do:
God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful
He wasnt talking about "some" people here: the language was socio-historical. He was talking about all people here: he was talking about our sin nature - our "human" nature as opposed to what we actually know is right: our deep conscience which I think is God's voice inside us to counter this crap.

So, we end up with a serious internal tension, as Paul did:

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
The Four Witnesses looked at the ways we know the "law of God in the inner man" or our Synderesis, or deep conscience. Also, it talked about the ways our Conscientia, or surface conscience, can be corrupted to ignore, or miss, what our deep conscience (God) is telling us:
  1. insufficient experience: we do not know enough to reach sound conclusions;
  2. insufficient skill: we haven't learned the art of reasoning well;
  3. sloth: we are too lazy to reason;
  4. corrupt custom: it hasn't occurred to us to reason;
  5. passion: we are distracted by strong feeling from reasoning carefully;
  6. fear: we are afraid to reason because we might find out we are wrong;
  7. wishful thinking: we include in our reasoning what we are willing to notice;
  8. depraved ideology: we interpret known principles crookedly; and
  9. malice: we refuse to reason because we are determined to do what we want.
We all do this stuff when it suits us on issues it suits us to do this on: you included brother. Which is why Paul said
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
and Jesus said this:
You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
This really leaves us no room for hatred, or a "root of bitterness" against our enemy and those who hate.

This also brings us back in a loop to C.S. Lewis's discussion in "Forgiveness" on what it means to "love our neighbor (or enemy) as ourselves": specificially looking at how we love ourselves - and our willingness to love ourselves while hating our own sin.

I said in a previous chapter that chastity was the most unpopular of the Christian virtues . . . I believe there is one even more unpopular . . . 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' Because in Christian morals 'thy neighbour' includes 'thy enemy,' and so we come up against this terrible duty of forgiving our enemies . . . And there, right in the middle of it, I find 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us' . . . What are we to do? . . . I think there are two things we can do to make it easier. When you start mathematics you do not begin with the calculus; you begin with simple addition . . . One might start with forgiving one's husband or wife, or parents or children, or the nearest N.C.O., for something they have done or said in the last week. That will probably keep us busy for the moment. And secondly, we might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself?

Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently 'Love your neighbour' does not mean 'feel fond of him' or 'find him attractive'. I ought to have seen that before, because, of course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying. Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In fact it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my, enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life - namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.

Ultimately, who really cares why people hate: we are to be "salt and light" in a flavorless decaying and dark world.

[Note: someone called me on 'flavorless' - correctly. I think "salt" is used as a preservative in the Bible and not a spice]

2 comments:

  1. Yes, we need to remember that we can all fall into the Pharisee camp with our pride. Pride comes before the fall. And yes, we need to remember that without Jesus were are but dust and to dust we shall return.

    Salt was used as both a preservative and a flavoring. What a great message there!

    ReplyDelete

How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly