I haven’t written a blog entry in a while. It seems I’ve had some complicated (= long) trains of thought and just never seem to finish them. The result is that, while my facebook status gets updated semi-regularly, there’s not much substantial content flowing from my brain. In the interest of solving that, I hereby give myself 30 minutes to get it all out.
What follows is some trains of thought. They might not be complete, or might not be well thought out, or might not even be important. But, darn it, 30 minutes from now, the whole universe will know what I’ve been thinking lately. As for what I’ve been doing, I’ll have to leave that for another time (or get the play by play on facebook).
Rights, obligation, and charity
I started writing an essay last month titled Rights, Obligation, and Charity. I’ll finish it at some point (I hope). Any number of topics could have prompted me to write it, but it was the healthcare debate that put me over the edge. That said, it’s not about healthcare, really. The idea is simple. Rights are natural, individual, and negative and obligations cannot exist without consent. The only theological foundation suitable for anything other than that view is one which, regardless of its position on the existence of God(s), allows for forcing its views on others. That’s an affront to several major religions (Christianity included), as well as being grossly incompatible with a pluralistic society such as we live in.
Of course, focusing on rights and obligation is an incomplete view. Bleeding heart liberals use the crisis of the day to insist that violating rights by creating obligations without consent is necessary. They ignore the very real role of charity. Unfortunately, those whose fluency in rights theory is high enough to meaningfully engage them are frequently not fluent enough in theology to suggest a suitable foundation for charity. That missing link is where Christianity shines, in my opinion. Rights itself – the libertarian mantra – not only feels cold and empty (devoid of positive motivation), but is truly insufficient for a functioning society. The fallacy of the liberal is that, absent coercion, charity is insufficient for a functioning society. The truth is, the only formula for a healthy society is one that respects rights, obligates itself voluntarily, and is charitable with good Cause.
Abstract ethical principles v.s. concrete moral laws
This conflict presents a bit of a paradox. In a way it can be distracting. In the debate itself, I find myself favoring abstract ethical principles. Christian theologians have an easy time making a case for either view as there is plenty of text to support either. I think the trend towards the former tends to be led by liberal theologians. Some (though likely not all) might do so in an attempt to escape sin. The problem is, that’s impossible to do. The ethicist has as much of a challenge with sin as the moralist, maybe more. Orthodoxy has made good use of legalese to both condemn the righteous and excuse the evildoer. Ethicists might have a harder time pinning down which is which, but it seems to me that Romans 3:23 (“all have sinned…”) still applies. And having taken the ethical position, it might be all the more condemnable because it becomes all the more personal. Instead of breaking the law (God’s law about God or man), we have ‘broken’ (violated) God or man directly. That’s heavy…
The immaculate conception – Varrin’s heresy edition
I’m not suggesting throwing the scriptural (and traditional) accounts of the birth of Jesus out. But, for just a moment, let’s assume that one (and only one) charge against it is true: that Mary wasn’t a virgin and Jesus wasn’t conceived by the Holy Spirit. Further, let’s assume that she became pregnant not by Joseph (the usual suspect), but by another man all together.
The usual assault on the story is that Joseph gets Mary pregnant. But there would have been easier ways to handle that situation than the immaculate conception claim. You have to break so much more of the story in order for that to make sense. But if someone else got Mary pregnant, Joseph’s treatment of her, and the rest of the story makes much more sense. What would be remarkable about that heresy is how divinely inspired it looks.
Consider the circumstances. Mary’s infidelity is against Joseph. Joseph, like any man of the time, considers putting her away (she’d either be killed or suffer a horrible life). Instead, an angel convicts him to show her love. He forgives her, marries her, loves her, and raises the child as his own. In that day and age, that would be truly revolutionary. And how fitting, then, for the child who grew out of that revolution to carry it on… and then to be killed by the same cultural/religious/legal establishment against which his family revolted.
Of course, it’s not written that way…. but it was an interesting thought, anyway.
I had more, but I’m out of time…