Monday, September 12, 2011

Ethos, ethics


Yesterday in Catholic churches, and in a large number of (dying) mainstream Protestant churches who adopted the same lectionary*, Jesus tells his disciples to forgive someone who has offended them, not seven times, "but seventy times seven times."

And it was also, of course, the tenth anniversary of the Muslim jihad attacks on the US.

I came across an opening line from a Presbyterian minister, which said with some smug satisfaction that he'd like to see how preachers handled this, especially after the last decade of post 9/11  "triumphalism and partisanship."

I had a distinct urge to find the guy and wring his neck, and while he was turning purple and choking, I'd ask him if he'd have taken the same attitude toward 12/7/1941. I tried to find his email to tell him so, but that was (blessedly for us both) unavailable.

As I said to a friend yesterday, I really have no particular problem with Catholic dogma: all the supposedly strange things like Three Persons in One God, Jesus being both divine and human and born of a virgin and rising bodily from death, the sacrament of the Mass as a real transformation of bread and wine into his body and blood, purgatory, etc. The whole thing.

But what I have a real problem with is Catholic and Christian morality. All the cheek turning and endless forgiving and being meek and humble of heart. It's even more irksome to me than that sexual morality, which I at least understand. And the captivity of Christianity to the liberal peace-and-justice culture which largely owns it makes it even worse. These holier than thou religious eggheads who likely applaud the ACLU's attempt to rid the US of all public vestiges of its Christian identity and then who want the Joint Chiefs to use the Sermon on the Mount as a policy document.

There were lots of great minds in Christian history who seemed able to navigate the dauntingly highminded ethics that Jesus proposed and still to function as men in this fallen world. But that is because, though Christian, they were in touch with reality.


*Lectionary is the annual pattern of Scripture readings prescribed for each day of the year.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just as well you couldn't email him. Probably he would have spoken truth to your power (as soon as you stop'd using your power to choke him) that the war against Japan was an old-fashion'd imperial struggle with wrong on both sides, and eventually, with Hiroshima and Nagasaki the far greater wrongs committed by the American side.

But Hitler's declaration of war on the USA you could have mention'd. No forgiveness for Nazism or for Apartheid, not even by fellow whites.
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Anonymous said...

Besides, it totally 'begs the question,' doesn't it?, to assume that 9/11 was wrong and accordingly needs forgiveness.

Don't the vast majority of Muslims believe that American foreign policy, and European imperialist foreign policy generally, is and always has been wrong -- from the Crusades on up to Israelis presence on lands ancestrally claim'd by Palestinians today.

Why shouldn't "they" believe this? WE believe this. Whereas we believe that the "spread" of Islam brought science, astronomy, medicine, and interfaith harmony to Spain and would have given these gifts to all of Europe if only Charles Martel et al hadn't interfered.

(The good elements of the Western science etc brought to Islamic populations derives from that Islamic heritage; the bad elements are from the West. WE implicitly believe and foster this feeling or thought.)

In the geo-political context, then, the hijackings and explosions by the Islamist jihadis are fundamentally just in terms of ends, although perhaps the means (killing civilians, e.g. stewardesses, service personnel in the WTC) weren't quite just.

If the airplane hijackers had kill'd only President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, plus a bunch of generals and NSA managers, they wouldn't be Islamists but righteous appliers of ordinary academic doctrine at Ivy League schools, no?
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Anonymous said...

A journalist commentator at the Guardian says, Sure, there are more Muslim members of parliament in Britain than ever before, but what does that amount to when the MSM are 17 times more likely to report on the doings of jihadi Muslims etc than on "moderate" Muslims (though obviously "moderates" aren't likely to do anything news worthy, not even e.g. declaring that Sharia is only for Muslims and not for public institutions in general; or stating officially that if Islam ever becomes the official religion of the UK, Christians, Jews, atheists, et al won't have to pay an extra tax).
Mehdi Hasan, Thursday 8 September 2011

Also:
»It is ironic, if depressing, that a doubling of the number of Muslim MPs in parliament and the appointment of a Muslim woman to the cabinet has been matched by a narrowing of the range of opinions and views expressed by ordinary British Muslims in public.«

Like what? Simply saying that one feels Palestinians should have a right to return to all lands plausibly claimable as ancestral? This is sayable publicly, obviously. Or that European and American involvement in Arabic and other Muslim lands is wrong? Everyone "leftwing" in England (and America, France, Canada, Australia, etc) says this.
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USMaleSF said...

As someone once wrote --and I paraphrase-- It is amazing to watch a whole civilization march off a cliff based solely on the question, "Who's to say?"

:)

Anonymous said...

Well, it would have been nice for Mehdi Hasan to have mention'd the or an Islamic basis in law or right for pluralistic commentary -- the sort of jurisprudence that the modern West has work'd out in Christian and secularist (e.g. Montesquieu) terms.

I'm sure there must have been such a jurisprudence in pluralistic Golden Age Spain. ...

Jews don't need such a jurisprudence since Judaism has been emphatically not a religion of conversion, and Halakha is for Jews only.

Christian sectarians such as the Amish are emphatic that the Gospel, as they understand it, has no bearing on the state, civil law, economics, etc.

Hindus and Buddhists "convert" only well outside any concern for Western legal and political institutions.
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Anonymous said...

P.S. Re demanding both the removal of Christian doctrine from American public institutions and condemning America for failing to obey the Sermon on the Mount in military, political and economic things, I daresay the Beatitudes don't tell first of all against "Caesar." Jesus could assume as a matter of course that his interlocutors would assume as a matter of course that "Caesar" was not expected to heed His Kerygma or to "the Law and the Prophets."

The difficulty for His interlocutors was that they WERE expected to obey the Law and the Prophets. His revision or I know not what of the Law and the Prophets was for His interlocutors.

In any case, the heirs of Christianity's mix of the Law and the Prophets and the Kerygma of Jesus are neither MIT and IBM and Wall Street, nor Washington D.C., nor the Pentagon. Jesus would assume as a matter of course that His Kerygma is not for the military-industrial-congressional complex. Surely, this goes without saying. Gene-splicing, usury and capitalism, and armaments exports aren't even the "opposite" of the Beatitudes.

The opposite of the Beatitudes is the dualism of the Pharisees and co.

That is, the Kerygma applies first of all to the "angels" you speak of -- the Catholic and mainline Protestant clerics (mostly their lay spokespersons and journalists). They live by usury (their pension plans) and with investments in companies that own or are own'd by the military-industrial complex.

They "resist evil" in all sorts of rhetorical ways, including the rhetoric that preaches up non-violence (without any of them actually getting smack'd in the noggin by a policeman's truncheon).

They revile men (e.g. GWB, Cheney, Benedict 16, Creationists, Fundamentalists, Republicans) but don't want to be reviled even as "liberals" (cp Matthew 5:10-12).

In conclusion, basically those who stand condemn'd by the Sermon on the Mount are the angels or spokespersons who claim to speak with the authority of Jesus.

The scientific research establishment, the military, the IDF, et al aren't pure in heart really aren't in Jesus' concern at all. He didn't preach truth to power, except to religious power, idealism power, etc.

Not really that their wrath falls upon the elite institutions in America, whose personnel are really of the same class (the educated, at elite universities). They mostly vilify lower-middle-class white Christians (gradutes from un-elite universities, as recent research reveals) who don't vote Democrat, are into home schooling, believe in creationism, refuse to celebrate LGBT marriage etc -- and who don't determine the policy decisions of the American system.

So, sure, one can use Jesus' kerygma to remove Christian vestiges from American civilization in order to empty it out in preparation to handing it over to incoming neo-Muslims. But why not use Jesus' Kerygma to drive the influence of these cleric rhetoricians out of America's conscience?

The first targets of Jesus' anti-hypocrisy kerygma are surely hypocrites who claim to inherit its validity and accordingly may exploit it to resist "evil" and speak dualism to power.
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Anonymous said...

The "conservative" Christians in America and elsewhere no doubt also could fall by Judgment of the Beatitudes.

Their case is more difficult because they in fact implicitly hold that the Beatitudes should not be apply'd in any way that harms the oikoumene even though Satan has penultimate control over the oikoumene as the Temptations reveal.

Thus if it would be harmful for farmers to give no thought for the morrow and not plant crops for us to eat, then they ought to hold off on obeying Jesus.

Jesus may in fact not be pleased with this arrangements, any more than by the old-style dispensationalists who held that one need abide the Beatitudes only in the presence of Jesus, since in ordinary conditions they are impossible or ruinous. But these 'conservatives' do maintain the distinction between living by the Beatitudes and living by the world.

Jesus' Kerygma had almost no direct influence, but it has been very powerful as a principle to be exploited in civilization-building. (My guess is, His Kerygma will totally vanish, even underground, once Christian civilization collapses. With no one left to exploit it, it will receive no attention at all. For instance, the Quran: Jesus' kerygma is definitely not to be transfer'd to the God on the Cross.)

Quite different are the liberals or however they wish to be named (they refuse all namings: they name but won't be named). For them, everyone who claims the label Christian should be driven to the wall by the criteria of the Beatitudes, so that those driven to the wall (e.g. GWB, Cheney) can't do other than to confess total invalidity and worthiness of condemnation.

The liberals, who care not in the least for maintaining the institutions of American civilization, would not doubt consent to formally admit to a similar condemnation-worthiness. They don't believe in a Judgement Day, any more than Jews believe in and are offended by American Fundamentalist Christians' "anti-semitic" Judgement Day. They obviously don't care whether the UCC or even the RCC has any future. So if these institutions collapse from admitting their odiousness to God and indeed any decent person, that's nothing to cause them to hesitate.

We mustn't suppose that they care about "democracy" in the way as institutionalized in the Western democracies. They were all fellow-travellers for democratic Communism and democratic liberation theology collectivization programmes. "Democracy" is 100% compatible with repression and punishment of freedom of speech. Presumably democracy's also 100% compatible with neo-Islamic rule -- no doubt a subterranean democracy, for instance in the Arab Spring countries.
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