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