Monday, August 1, 2016

What is Right? What is Wrong?

One of the great stumbling blocks which we face today is knowing for sure what is right and what is wrong.  To stand up against the crowd on a social, political, or ethical issue demands that one be absolutely convinced that he or she is right.  Many of us are unsure.  Who are we to speak out?  Who are we to stand against something when we lack the certainty of what is right within ourselves?

We can, of course, attempt to use the Bible to buttress our stand, but the Bible is full of conundrums, subject to various interpretations and, finally,  it is not viewed as “authoritative” by all people in our society.  We can, of course, use Jesus and his teachings.  But Jesus’  teachings have been so twisted and distorted by his followers that almost anyone can use them to fit their opinion or particular stance. The Bible and the teachings of the New Testament have been construed to support slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow.  The “holiness code” of Leviticus has been used to reject the LGBT community, strangers, immigrants, other religions, etc.  The Talmud and the Koran won’t work either and for the same reasons.  How about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?  We know full well how convoluted that approach can be by observing the difficulty even the Supreme Court has in determining what is constitutional and what is not. So how does one come to the place where he or she feels sure enough to cast a stone against what they see as wrong and be certain they are right?  

Perhaps we can rely on our personal and spiritual value systems—that set of ideals that drive and guide our behavior, give us structure and purpose, helping us decide what is meaningful and important?  Our values are important to us, but are our values the same as the values of others?  Apparently not, otherwise, we wouldn’t be facing this right/wrong issue.  Besides, we are fallible when it comes to our own values—how often do we sell them cheaply for a pot of porridge when life tumbles in on us?

Blackwater Falls, West Virginia
There is an old maxim that has helped me and perhaps it will help you.  “So act that you can will the principle of your act to be law universal.”  Make that application, that test,  in those areas where you are troubled by uncertainty concerning what is right and wrong and take your stand.  And stand we must!  If you act as a bigot—do you want everyone to be a bigot?  But rather than go through examples, let me, instead, use the words of Reverend Martin Niemoller:  “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.  Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Catholics, but I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.  Then they came for me—and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

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