31 July 2005

More on morality

From a recent dinner with some strident conservatives, I've been kinda perplexed by some contrasts they brought up. They bemoaned the plight of a society that must support "stupid people," with one key example being a relative who always makes poor dating decisions. Paired with this was an almost angry insistence later in the conversation that my, and everyone's, morality was for sale. So, we're all willfully fallible in that which is possibly most important, and yet fallibility in common choices of life--dating, jobs--is unforgivable.

There was a certain smugness in both statements (and maybe my view to the contrary is smug?): we're so smart because our lives have worked out and others who aren't so successful must be incompetant. A good deal of the conversation consisted of that obsession of conservative talk radio: how most people in the world are so very stupid. Now, I'll do my share of complaining, but I don't doubt that people can make mistakes. Life is complex and some choices will be wrong ones. However, it's those choices that we know are wrong--choices of willful ignorance, choices of morality--which should not be accepted.

Now Harper's has an article on the dichotomy of Christian America:

Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor.

This is important and importantly not lost on some Christians. Back in January, I pointed out an article from Christianity Today that attempted to address the issue of the equal-if-not-worse immorality of American evangelicals compared to us secular folk (who were amusingly labled pagans). Ignoring the pagan quip, it was a introspective and only slightly flawed article.

[ posted by sstrader on 31 July 2005 at 1:59:31 PM in Culture & Society ]