Dear Inspiration Seekers,
“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was in the wrong.” (2:11). Ouch! It seems that Paul had read the Vicar’s comment to the first of these inspirations on Galatians, and pointed out to Peter that he was “being right” but “not being good”.
Paul’s rebuke to Peter was that Peter had stopped bringing the gospel message of salvation by grace/faith, and had begun to instruct the church at Antioch to follow the rules of the law also. The day that I read this, I happen to receive my monthly dose of political cartoon humor, “The Funny Times” (see the front page cartoon, which I included in my last blog, in which the RepubliCANT presidential candidates line up claiming to have received a call from God to run). Each month, my favorite section to read is the Harper’s Index, which is a listing of seemingly random statistics of humorous value. As I read these, I thought about “being right, but not doing good.” Here where my mind wandered off to…
Percentage of Americans who believe pornography is “morally wrong”: 66
Percentage who believe the death penalty is: 28.
Morality is an interesting concept. I usually hear moral statements/judgments proclaimed in the negative: “thou shalt not…” (insert your favorite sin). Legal precedents, legislation, rules of conduct, usually define what we should not do and place some sanction on “offenses”. This begs the questions of 1) why are these acts “wrong”? 2) is the inverse “right”? and 3) is doing or not doing this act “good”. Then you have this ever changing definitions/understanding of the act. For instance, in my less than extensive observation (culture experiences, only of course) of pornography and R rated movies, I see little difference in what was considered pornography in the 1960’s stuff and current movies. As a co-worker used to say, the difference is when you can see the plumbing. But, whether you can the “male” and “female” ends of the pipe fittings has little do to with the effect, neurologically or socially, on seeking out and watching sexually enticing acts. BFF (best friends forever) becomes pretty cheap, when, as a college friend used to say “you go from the warm handshake to the warm towel too quickly.” (ooh, ick). But, are the 2/3rds who profess that pornography is wrong doing good in relationships and sexual behavior. Hard to tell.
Meanwhile, only 1/3rd seem to question whether or death penalty laws and justice system might be wrong. In the summer edition of the Colonial Williamsburg magazine, they featured an article which chronicled the Virginia Company’s rules on behavior, with death by really gruesome methods as the answer to everything from murder, to stealing, to slandering your boss. It is amazing that anyone lived long enough to starve to death or get killed by the Native American’s whom the Brits were treating badly. Would the 2/3rds who appear to believe that the death penalty is “morally right” being doing good to pull the lever, if they would step up to the plate? (ooh, ick).
Percentage of mortgage-interest-deduction recipients who say they “have not used a government social program”: 60
Of federal student-loan recipients: 53
Of food stamp recipients: 25
Are we completely ignorant of how much we utilize government programs? The cry today is no-government, no-regulation, no-taxes… Government programs are tricky because of the “law of unintended consequences”. I recall a professional meeting back during the Clinton Administration. An advisor on health care was discussing the programs that the administration wanted to promote for health care (this was back in the days of Hillarycare before Obamancare, oh, lets not forget Bush Sr’s ADA signing or W’s MedD prescription drug plan, if you think that only democrats legislate on health care). I raised the question of whether the administrate was doing a data analysis on the potential unanticipated consequences of involving federal mandates for this, that, and my profession. The representative rattled off the problems of inner cities, etc. I asked what were the unintended consequences of the GI Bill. Huh? was his expression. I commended this government program for educating former service personnel, but also pointed out that education in the 50’s and 60’s was one of the reasons so many of these former city dwellers moved the suburbs, taking with them the grocery stores, business, schools, playgrounds, etc. leaving the inner cities with liquor stores, convenience stores and fast food restaurants for nutrition, hence our current obesity, diabetes, and alcoholism problems, which his proposed health care initiatives would cure. Awkward silence… next question? Is using government programs “right”? Is this “good”?
Percentage of the $46 billion allocated by TARP to help homeowners refinance that has bee used for that purpose: 4.3
Years it will take lenders in New York State, working at their current rate, to foreclose on all houses currently in default: 61
Those candidates who are running against “Obama’s bailout and stimulus programs” should be asking where the 95.7% of this money has gone. They claim that these programs do not work. Is this because the money allocated never got spent, or did the other 95% get pocketed by various agencies and bureaucrats administering the program. This index does not answer the question. This makes me think of various foreign aid and charitable groups working in impoverished areas of the world. They appear to have “good” agendas, but from what I read, much of the money ends up paying off government and law enforcement officials in order to deliver a scant percentage of resources for those whom these same government and law enforcement officials neglect. Our housing and foreclosure crises can hardly be solved if money from programs to reorganize some of the debt is held up or redirected to other uses.
Percentage change in the likelihood that a US college-educated couple will divorce if housing prices fall by 10 percent: +29
Our marriage/divorce statistics are pretty sketchy to begin with, but those involved in generating the housing crisis (from banks with credit default swap trades, to telephone solicitors to refinance, to real estate agents bidding up the price of house, to house owners buying on speculation that they could flip the property and double their money in a year), all believing that they were “right” because laws permitted this may not be doing much “good” as far as family life is concerned.
So Paul challenges the church as Galatia to avoid Peter’s mistake. Follow the gospel. Be free from the law’s requirement to assess right and wrong, and take on the greater challenge to be free to asses what might be good to do with one’s talents and resources.
Until next time, Inspiration Seekers
So, you’re using “RepubliCANT” now! Love It! Maybe if enough of us pick up on it, those fools in Washington, on BOTH sides of the aisle, will get the message.
I’m particularly intrigued with your analysis of morality, death penalty, and pornography. Its like the far christian (this is an oxymoron, if there ever was one) right, believes in life at conception, but more than happy to murder them in a state execution after they are born. Also, more than happy to talk to the mother, whether unmarried, raped, victim of incest, teen, or in no situation to support a family, about the wonderful advantages of life, and then after birth, willing to scream about having to support all those “deadbeat” moms on welfare, and loudly proclaim that to cut the deficit, we need to cut welfare, food stamps, education (How else are these kids to get out of the cycle of poverty?), and even quietly talk of reinstating debtor prisons.
To me, it is incredably hypocritical to be against “pornography” (I know it when I see it) by 60%, but its ok for the state to kill inmates, again, most of which are on death row because of cycle of poverty.
Somehow, the program cut me off, and would’nt let me continue.
As I’ve written, no way that 234 executions in Texas in the last ten years were ALL guilty. So which is worse, the occasional view of the ‘Plumbing” or standing by while fellow humans are put to death by society. We have our priorities turned all around.
This likely makes me sound like a raging liberal; far from it. But hypocracy, in all its forms, is silly at best, dangerous at worst.
And when the 10 RepubliCANT candidates all proclaim themselves to be Christian, or Christian like, and they claim that this is a Christian nation, I can do nothing but shudder. Two questions I would love to ask them: 1) What happened to your belief in the constitution, and seperation of church and state? 2) What of the 90% of the world that are not christian…are they not human? Not equal? Not deserving of a good life? Not allowed to believe in their own God? Even believe in a religion that might be thousands of years older than theirs?
BTW: I only can receive your e-mails and blogs on one computer at home. Thus on weekends when I am in the mountains, I don’t see them. Thats why there is a delay. You are a good writer and getting better with each post. I Enjoy your work.
I gladly give you (and your friend) credit for the RepubliCANT concept. It is worth spreading (along with the DemoCANTs). By the way, I heard on the news that someone at the Occupy Chicago event has a sign, something to the effect “I will believe that corporations are citizens as soon as Texas executes one”. Enjoy quiet weekends in the mountains, free of electronic distractions! I can do my blogging looking at at the vista from our dining room everyday. The joy of full time residence in the country.
It seems that labels do more to divide than unite. Arab-Israelie, Jew-Gentile, American-alien, deadbeat-wealthy, conservative-liberal, gay-straight, Christian-Muslim, Democan’t-Republican’t, socialist-capitalist…. Instead of perceiving people as fellow human beings, we categorize them, making it easier to demonize their ideologies. We forget that they are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters.
It see so clearly the contradictions in other peoples lives, but I struggle to recognize the discontinuity in my own life. Perhaps this is why Jesus pointed out that I see more clearly when I remove the obstructions from my own eyes.
Perhaps if congress operated on the premise, “let he who is without hypocrisy cast the first vote”, our politicians would think deeper about their decisions, rather than relying on lobbyist to craft their political platforms.
I think part of the phenomenon of labeling groups is the “us vs them” concept. This fits well with the law, in that we are right and they are wrong. With self-reflection, we might realize when “we” are “wrong”, and both correct our behavior and gain empathy of “them”. Furthermore, we might acknowledge when “they” are right, and begin to identify common interests. What I find sad about current antagonism within Christianity (e.g. Catholic vs Episcopal vs Methodist vs Baptist vs Pentocostal, et al) and between major religions (e.g. Judaism vs Christianity vs Muslim, et al) is that for the most part, each longs for purity of spirit, but each adheres to a different style of righteousness. Rather than finding the common bonds, we get caught up in clothing, birth control, which day the sabbath is on, etc. Guess, I’m sounding rather Unitarian now (oh, no another label…)
I can write and publish from the other computer, but can’t see your blogs, because they go to another e-mail than my master one.
LOVE the Texas/Corporation sign! I think that OWS, in spite of several false starts and a few whackos who have attached themselves to it, is on a roll and indicitive of the growing disenchantment we feel towards DC and large corporations.
We have a deck overlooking the valley and distant city, what a great place to sit and contemplate or write with a hot coffee in the morning or “Adult Beverage” in the afternoon.
Statistics are interesting & enlightening, often confusing, and have the potential to be manipulated to tell whatever story or conclusion is desired. Harper’s survey showed that 66% of American’s believe the pornography is “morally wrong”. It’s interesting that in spite of this statistic, the production and distribution of pornography is estimated to be the 7 largest industry in the United States. By manipulating statistics and connecting seemingly unrelated data, I could imply that the occupy wall street crowd is protesting against pornography.
In a survey of 100,000 college students at 200 colleges:
45% said they make no effort to hide their sexual behaviors from others,
44% said others had been hurt emotionally by their sexual behavior,
64% of men said they spend some time every week online for sexual purposes, and 13% said they spend more than five hours a week.
Either Harper’s isn’t surveying college students, or you can believe that something is morally wrong and still participate.
Image how empty our jails would be if people followed the moral codes they profess. “Follow the money” will probably bring you closer to reality that “follow the statistics”.
It seems that Paul is saying “don’t be a poser”. Be real and authentic with one another instead of putting up a false front for everyone to see. So Peter lives one life with the Jewish followers of Christ in Jerusalem, but assimilates into the cultural norms of the Christ-followers in Antioch when he is there. At least until others from the church in Jerusalem arrive. Paul rebukes a life of duplicity.
When I live by the law and try and cover it with God, I am simply adding Jesus to what I already have, rather than being transformed. Jesus is just an app on my iPhone life to be accessed when needed. Paul say that Jesus is life.
Speaking of the Jesus app, I came across some comments on another blog about Bible apps for Smart Phones. From what I could gather, they came in two forms. One was an index/concordance. Guess that gives someone a way to check out those references the minister is making, rather than become immersed in the sermon. The other is sort of like the “Daily Bread” verse and thought of the day. This lead to an amusing anecdote in which someone’s phone went off during the sermon. It was the Bible app with a verse and thought, thus distracting her from listening to the sermon. I wonder is there is an app to interpret speaking in tongues… hmm. Better stop before I’m chewing my shoe.