Lesson 49- Nice vs Righteousness
Before I begins todays program, I would like to correct a misstatement that I made in my last program. I said, Thus, the left hemisphere of our brain, which seems to correspond to Freuds Superego and the Medieval philosophers Will, is the source of logic and science and therefore corresponds to the Logos, which St. John says in John I was found in every human being. What I should have said is that it was the Medieval philosophers concept of the Intellect, not the Will, which corresponds to the left lobe of our brain that is the source of logic and science. Thus it is our Intellect which also corresponds to the Logos which St. John says is found in every human being.
As I was ending my last program, I had just finished describing what a former atheist, who is now a minister, said about his near death experience in which he claimed that he was attacked by creatures who began to bite him and tried to devour him alive. As I said, I cannot vouch for the reality of what he experienced. All I can say is that his experience is part of the human record and whatever happened to him must have seemed very real because it completely transformed his life, taking him from a state of atheism to that of being a minister of the Gospel.
How should the rest of us react to his account? Well, its a gamble. We either choose to believe in what he said and take whatever steps we think are necessary to make sure this doesnt happen to us and our love ones, or we write if off either as the ravings of a mad man or the results of hallucinations produced by either the drugs in his system or the closing down of his bodily functions. Either way, we are gambling because we dont know for sure which interpretation is the right one.
We are in the same position of a famous medieval genius by the name of Blas Pascal who explained that the final thing that convinced him to convert to Christianity was what has become known as Pascals Wager. He said that as a rational being the choice before him was to believe the atheistic position that there was no God or life after death and therefore choose to live his life anyway he pleased or to believe the Churchs position that there was a God and life after death and that everyone would be held accountable for his actions.
Being the genius that he was, he reasoned that if he followed the atheistic position and discovered that they were wrong and Church was right then he had risked his eternal salvation. On the other hand, if he followed the Churchs position and it turned out they were wrong and the atheists were right, the only affect on his life was that he had chosen to live a moral life instead of a dissolute one. Therefore, there was too much to lose if the Church was right and very little or nothing to lose if the atheist were right. Since both options were an act of faith, he decided to accept the one in which he had to most to gain and the least to lose.
The same thing applies to us concerning this mans account of life after death. We can either bet that hes hallucinating or lying or that he, like thousands of others, experienced a continuation of life after death on the spiritual plane. Like Pascal, we have to consider the odds and the consequences. In other words, nobody is given absolute certainty in this life and everybody, both atheist and theist, are forced to make a faith leap and hope that they have made the right decision.
As long as we know this, we at least have a chance to make a choice. Its the people who dont even ponder the fact that they have a choice or what the choices are that are in a bad position. They just plod along in life drifting aimlessly towards a possible eternal catastrophe without any conscious awareness of what life might be about. And when they reach the end, having filled their lives with frivolous issues like whether some character in Sex in the City is going to marry Mr. Big or whether the Eagles are going make it to the Super bowl, they depart this life without ever having seriously considered what it was all about. And, if at deaths door, the question should suddenly occur to them they may find that they dont have enough information in their spiritual databank to give any rational consideration to the question. They are like the foolish virgin who failed to put oil in their lamps in preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom and while they were out trying to find oil as he approached, they missed him and found themselves locked out of the Wedding Feast.
However, there is a group that is in even a worst position than these. In fact, we might say that they are in the worst position possible. These are the people who think that their lamps are already filled only to discover that it is fill with water rather than oil. These are the people who have been led to believe that salvation is about being nice.
We live at a time where nice has replaced morality. I dont know when it began but it probably began with the decline of nuns in Catholic schools. If they were sometimes too stern and rigid, those who replaced them were sometimes too nice and flexible. They taught our children to be nice rather than to be moral and the two are not always compatible.
Sometimes the nuns, who represented one extreme, turned us into legalistic calculators who were concerned with issues like whether we could eat Campbells Vegetable Soup on Friday because it might have beef stock in it. We saw God as the Great Bookkeeper in the Sky that was keeping records on our mortal and venial sins. And, since we were often unable to balance our moral books we planned to wipe the books clean with a Perfect Act of Contrition at the moment of death. It never occurred to us that a Perfect Act of Contrition, which is based on love, had to come from our hearts and that heart changes cant be instantaneously manufactured when the underlying motivation is to save our butts. How could we possibly hide our dishonest motivation from a God who was a reader of all hearts? However, even though it distorted our image of God by portraying Him as a tyrannical judge rather than a loving father, it at least gave us a sense of sin and of the consequences attached to it.
Extreme position, says Hegel, tend to create a counter reaction in the opposite direction. And counter reactions have a tendency to go too far and, in turn, create a counter reaction back in the other direction. Thus, like a high wire tight ropewalker with a balancing pole, society is constantly trying to balance itself between two opposing extremes. The moment that it fails to make the adjustment, it will, like the tight ropewalker, lose its balance and fall off.
This theme was developed in the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, which I highly recommend to all my listeners. The movie opens as dawn breaks over a small Russian village in the Ukraine. As the camera scans the rooftops of the village, we hear a fiddler playing the strains of a Jewish tune somewhere in the distance. Then the camera comes to rest on the figure of a fiddler, who is precariously standing on a peaked roof. He is a symbol for life and the message is that life can play some pretty tunes so long as it can prevent itself from falling off the roof by keeping its balance. Reptavia, the Jewish peasant farmer, who is the main character in the story, tells us at the beginning of the movie that the way the small group of Jewish people in this mainly Christian village has kept its balance and survived is through traditions, many of whose origins were unknown to those who practiced them. He then proceeds to explain the various traditional roles that each member of his community fulfills for the mutual survival of the group. The rest of the movie is about how change threatens to upset the balance of life and how the community fights to restore its equilibrium.
Sounds pretty much like what we are experiencing now, doesnt it? Its that eternal clash between conservative and liberal forces which I mentioned in my previous talks and how moderate forces were needed to keep either side from pulling us so far in either direction that we lose our balance.
Thus, if the nuns were responsible for pulling us too far in the direction of God the Avenging Scorekeeper, those who replaced them are now responsible for pulling us too far in the direction of God the All Accepting Nice Guy who doesnt give a damn about what we do. And, as always, the Truth is in the center.
The Love and Mercy, which are part of His nature, are constantly reaching out to us to draw us away from evil, but the Justice part of His nature is obligated to give us the consequences which flow from whatever we choose. That is why the Scriptures say that we will reap what we sowed. In other words, the Logos or Logic of God, who is Jesus the Word, is obligated by His very nature to lead us to whatever conclusions that flow from our premises. That is the nature of Logic. Logic itself cannot lead us to the Truth unless the premises upon which we operate are true.
For example, logicians make the distinction between what is true and what is logically valid because it is possible for a statement to be logically valid and yet be untrue. For example, if I say that
All dogs bark .. and follow that with the statement that Sam is a dog then it logically follows that Sam barks. There is no other possible logical conclusion.
Is it true? We cant say. The most that we can say is that it is logically valid. In order for it to be true the major premise of All dogs bark has to be true and the minor premise of Sam is a dog also has to be true. But suppose all dogs dont bark or suppose that Sam is the name of a cat. In either case, the conclusion would be false. Thus, when we say that something is logically valid, we are simply saying that if the other two statements are true, then the conclusion has to be true.
Thus logic can lead us to the Truth only when our premises are true. In all other cases, Logic is compelled to lead us to whatever conclusions flow from our premises. In other words, Logic must always cause us to reap what we sow.
If, for example, we say the purpose of sex is to produce pleasure and then add to this pedophilia and homosexuality produces pleasure for those involved then it logically follows that pedophilia and homosexuality are logically consistent with the purpose of sex. In fact, logic says that any conceivable sexual act which produces pleasure in both agents would be logically consistent with the purpose of sex. In other words, Whatever turns you on, baby!
If on the other hand we say, The purpose of sex is the reproduction, care and rearing of children and then follow it with sex with children or members of the same sex is not directed at the reproduction, care, and rearing of children then it follows that both are logically inconsistent with the purpose of sex. In fact, the only type of sex which would be logically consistent with this premise would be marriage between heterosexuals. That is unless you want to turn the natural order on its head by circumventing natural reproduction and replacing it with artificial insemination. But even here, when certain people choose this option it falls under the principle that extreme or unusual cases make bad laws. In other words, you dont modify existing norms to accommodate actions that happen infrequently. Ill have more to say about this when I discuss the logical rationale for change.
Do you see how important premises are to conclusions? And that is why it is the job of conservative forces to fight to preserve existing premises because new premises always lead to new conclusions, many of which were not considered by those who sought to change the premise.
Now justice is based on logic because it requires that all premises be equally applied to everyone, every time. If for example, the premise is: All rapists should be jailed and this is followed by My son is a rapist then it logically follows that My son should be jailed. To do otherwise would be logically inconsistent with the premise and therefore unjust.
Now if Jesus is the Logos or Logic of God who, in the scriptures once said, The Father judges no one because it is my job to judge then it means that all us, according to the laws of Gods justice, must receive the logical consequences which flow from the premises upon which we based our lives. If we say that we should not forgive people who offend us then it logically follow that we should not be forgiven when we offend them. If we say, One should not give mercy to those who ask for it, then it logically follows that we should not receive mercy when we ask for it. What do we think it means when Jesus says, Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy and As you measure, so shall it be measured unto you.
In both statements, we are listening to how the Logic of God thinks and, it shouldnt surprise us because that is exactly how the logical left lobe in our own brains thinks. Later, I will develop this further when I get into the characteristics of the left and right lobes of our brain.
What all of this suggests is that we have to be very careful about the premises upon which we base our lives because they will come back to haunt us in this life, and, if the Church is right, in the hereafter because it suggests that what Jesus is going to ask us about at the time of our judgment is what are our premises. Did we believe that sex was about pleasure or reproduction? Did we believe in mercy or vengeance? Did we believe in Gods purposes or our purposes? And, then, might I suggest, that He will separate us according to our premises. Or, as the words in the Battle Hymn of the Republic say, He will sift out the hearts of men before his judgment seat.
Those whose hearts believe that the purpose of sex is pleasure will spend eternity with all those who believe the same thing. Those who believe that its purpose was for the reproduction, care, and rearing of children will spend eternity with those of like-mind. Those who believe in doing to others before they do it to you will spend eternity with others who share the same premise and those who believe that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you will share eternity with those who lived by the same principle. Its all about justice and logic. There is nothing vindictive about it and no one will have any complaint because they will simply be receiving what they always thought was fair, right, and normal.
But what about nice people who hold faulty premises, and the world is full of them? Can nice people end up in hell? Again, as I said, it all depends upon their premises and the people with whom they share them. Heaven and hell might simply be the consequences that occur when any group acts out their premises. In other words, their premises produce a lifestyle and all lifestyles produce consequences.
As I said, we have confused nice with righteousness. Nice is about feelings; righteousness is about fact. Nice is attractive to the right lobe of our brain while righteousness, which means that things are done in the right way, is attractive to the left lobe. Thus we have a conflict between our emotions and our knowledge when nice is mixed with evil.
Our problem is that we dont understand evil and why God is so vehemently opposed to it. In the past, we view God as a jealous and self-centered being who vindictively punished anyone who violated His Will. Therefore, hell was the place that he sent offenders of his laws and rules. Why He was so uptight about how we behaved was not always clear to us. Then, as I said, the pendulum swung the other way, and we came to see Him as a kind, loving being who unconditionally accepted what ever we did and the concept of hell seemed to be inconsistent with this view. Therefore, eat, drink, and be merry because His bark is bigger than his bite. In fact, He doesnt bark or bite.
Yet, the Bible says that fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. In other words, only a fool would treat God in a cavalier way as though He was some impotent person who could be cajoled and manipulated like some spineless parent who was unable to control his child.
So what are we to do with these two conflicting views of God? Is He a tyrannical Father beating and threatening his children all the time or is He a permissive parent giving in to their every whim? No, He is neither. He, like the Truth, is the midpoint between these two extremes. He is a generous and loving Father who is concerned with the well being of his children. And therefore, He disciplines them and tries to lead them down the path of Wisdom. That is why the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.
To emphasize my point, I would like to play for you one of my favorite religious songs. Its called Daddys Hands.
*** Playing the song "Daddys Hands" ***
That was Daddy Hands sung by Holly Dunn. Now you might be saying, thats not a religious song. I beg to differ because if religion tells me that God is my Father then the more I understand what a father is the better I understand God. I have trouble listening to that song because tears begin to well up in my eyes as I remember when I had to be very hard with one of my children whom I loved very much. There was a time when I had to accept that she thought she hated me but I had to do what I had to do because I loved her. She was going down a path that could have destroyed her and if, rejection was the price I had to pay to save her then so be it. Better that I should feel unloved than that she should destroy herself. Today, I think she understands that there was always love in daddys hands because I sense that the love between us is mutual.
So God, our Father, is trying to keep us out of hell which is simply the conditions that result when we create chaotic conditions by missing the mark. The reason is that evil, in the long term, will not work. In the final analysis, it is stupid behavior that violates Wisdom because when it becomes a premise and is applied across the board, it undermines the existence of life. In fact, we could say that evil, which is LIVE spelled backwards, is anti-life
We see sex as a pleasure producing mechanism; God sees it as a life producing one. We see eating as a taste producing experience; God sees it as a life sustaining one. We see lying as a method for getting our own way; God sees it as a way of undermining the trust and communication that is necessary for social relationships upon which the survival of life depends. It appears that just about every sin, when it is applied across the board and taken to its logical conclusion, undermines the existence and advancement of life. Thus God, who is the source of all virtue and righteousness, is in His essence Pro-life, and the Devil, which is LIVED, spelled backwards is Pro-death. God wants to see LIFE grow and advance while the devil wants to see it extinguished. God says, I put pleasure in sex so that you would be induced to take on the burden and responsibility of creating and sustaining life. The devil says, Take the pleasure and block any chance of creating life and, if you fail, abort it. Even better, enter sexual unions which, while producing pleasure and giving personal satisfaction, are incapable of producing life. And encourage others to do the same. Tell them that cars, and boats and real estate, and all the trinkets of modern life are more desirable and valuable than children. In this way, life will be diminished or extinguished. And it appears that Europe and the rest of the Western world is buying into this lie.
The Pope has said that the Church position on sex and artificial contraception is based on our Christian understanding that sex, by its very nature, is an act of self donation. The husband and the wife each donate a part of themselves to create a third being which entails an intimate blending of them both. In other words, sex is sacred because it reflects the intimate relationship between the Father, the Son, with through their union produces the Holy Spirit. In fact, the three combined add up to one being whose very nature is Love. And Love, by its nature, is the act of self donation.
When Jesus was asked by one of his apostles to show him the Father, Jesus said, how long will it take before he and the other apostles understood that anyone who saw him was also seeing the Father. And, if they didnt understand what this meant, He made it clear in His passion and Death.
What exactly are we looking at when we see Him hanging on the Cross? We are looking at the very nature of God who is sacrificial love. Thus Jesus came not only to show us the way to eternal salvation but also to reveal to us who God was. As the scriptures say, He was the visible image of the invisible God.
We look at the harsh reality of the natural world where life is constantly feeding on life, and wish that it were different. It seems so cruel and unnecessary. That is our view. However, some of the American Indians viewed it differently. They, after killing an animal for food, would apologize to it and explain that they had to do it because they needed to sustain their own lives. . However, they said, the time would come when they also would die and become the source of life for other creatures. In other words, they understood that the dog-eat-dog nature of the natural world could also be viewed as a drama of self donation. Perhaps, we will never fully understand this and why it had to be so until we meet our Creator and are able to see it from His point of view.
Perhaps He will point to His Son, hanging on a Cross to demonstrate that He practiced what He preached.
So lets get rid of this faulty notion that morality is all about being nice. I like to be as nice as the next person but there are times when people need to be confronted with the truth. Jesus was very nice to the prostitute whom the crowd wanted to stone but he was very harsh with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes. And he certainly wasnt nice to the money changers in the Temple whose tables He overturned and whom he beat with a cord. He was full of righteous anger and that should be our reaction when we see the flagrant violations of the Holiness of God and His Wisdom.
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.