Saturday, June 11, 2016

Writing the Culpable Sphere: a Patch upon the Moral Climate

I last wrote on January 23, 2016. I have written nothing since then. Instead I have been doing and mulling. Mostly doing, but always mulling. Among the topics I have been mulling over is the subject of moral culpability, though I rarely think of it in those terms. I think about what is right and wrong, and whether people are at fault, and whether I can say they are at fault. But when I sit down to write, the phrase "moral culpability" occurs to me to describe the sorts of things I have been mulling over. I suppose this is what writing is to a degree, an act of putting n order one's thoughts and experience.

Besides the doing and mulling I have not felt inclined to write or needed to. Writing carries its own anxiety and pressures and I wanted to live off the anxiety-grid, or at least that particular grid, until I could see a way forward. I don't know that I have a way forward per se, but I do want to write about moral culpability, and for many reasons, but mostly because I believe it would be beneficial, personally, to do so. It will help put things in order and clear the air that surrounds me. I hope it will produce a "way forward" related to this loaded topic. I hope it will be of interest to my readers.

First and foremost, I am concerned at how people levy the terms of morality - right and wrong - against each other. More and more, people are inclined to voice strong opinions on moral issues. More and more, people are content to broadcast these opinions, to send them out over the social networks. The broadcasts are accompanied by behavior I can only describe as wall-building, or surrounding oneself with opinions and information that match exactly the moral tone that person broadcasts.The effect is loud and narrow. It is very much a phenomenon of our time, I think. And our time is nothing if not competitive and confrontational.

Social media allows a person to interact and form groups with like-minded individuals either through the media itself or by establishing connections with persons they know personally. This is good, of course, up to the point where the group becomes either exclusive or sees its mission to be to attack other groups. And the typical grounds on which other groups or individuals are attacked are moral ones.

Attacking a person on moral grounds has become easier with the advent of social media. Thus, the advent of the social media "troll." One can speak indirectly and never be personally confronted. There are no editors to filter the message. It used to be that a person with an opinion needed to write a book or publish a letter in the newspaper. What an arcane conceptual framework that is! Now, you simply log in, let it rip, log off, and never have to account for the effect of your opinions.

Isn't it ironic that as we come to terms with the detrimental effects of toxic emissions on the world's atmosphere, we have turned to poisoning the atmosphere of human relations? The current presidential contest is a perfect picture of this imbalance, a tableau of smugness and vitriol on all sides. How pitiful. How sad.

How sad....O so much more sad it is that we levy moral charges against each other's character and person. If I could publish a banner paragraph across he skies it would read, "What you don't know about any given person makes your judgment of them the opinion of a fool." Christians in particular are challenged in this regard. We have laws that we look to for guidance. So far so good. But then we esteem the action of others in accordance with those laws. Not so good.

Allow me to say at this juncture what has always been obvious to any adult, but seems to have gone the way of the newspaper editorial, and that is that people make the best possible choices available to them at the time they make that choice. Unless one is present at the time of choice-making and can help that person to choose, by invitation, then there is no opportunity to comment on or evaluate that choice. God, who knows our hearts, will judge. Of that we are sure. And we judge ourselves, constantly, and all too harshly.

I have done things that were wrong and I have done things that were right. My estimate of the rightness or wrongness is based on my understanding of the Law. I am confident, when I confess, that the wrongs I confess are indeed wrong, but I hear the word "wrong" only from myself. The shame is personal. From God all I hear is forgiveness in the form of absolution provided by the priest.

As a Catholic I am better able to recognize and confess what I do wrong because I am surrounded by what is right than I used to be able to do when I did not know with the same certainty what is right and what is wrong before God. This confidence comes from God, not from people and their opinions. It is a grace and a gift. When you tell someone they are wrong you do not help them to be right. You simply make yourself look foolish and you likely make that person turn away from you and whatever you pretend to represent to support your assertions.

There is no surer prescription against religion than the narrowly expressed opinions of its adherents.

Moral culpability. We are all culpable, but none of us are favored with having the last word no matter how loud we shout. I can think of no better position in religion, or politics for that matter, than to build a firm foundation in Christian moral law, to do good for others, and to praise the good in others. To praise. How often do the Psalms praise the Lord? And yet how much time do we spend fomenting against this or that group, trend, lifestyle, etc., etc., etc.

I think there are two kinds of persons in this world. There are saints and then there are the rest of us. Who but a saint, a person invested with Holy Grace, can stand apart from the belittling strife of politics and the social, culpable sphere and provide light? And how do we attain to this state? By putting our selfish, foolish selves aside as one sheds a garment and allowing God to shine through us, as He sees fit to do.

It is a simple thing, after all, to do what is right, then to stand aside. To do God's will by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, and stand aside. Not to point at oneself or others. Simply to do what is right and bow your head and stand aside. To let God's light shine through. It is simple. It is the only way to live and not harm or hurt or get in the way of others. How little we know each others' hearts. How little we know where each other is in their journey toward God. And yet how easily we insult each other and make ourselves a stumbling block on that journey. How I yearn not to do ill, not to interfere!

Thank you for reading.