Monday, April 23, 2012

Rightness, Wrongness, and Respect

I was reading an interesting blog about a recent conference that Baptist Christians had to address the issues of the objectification of sexuality and other relavent issues in that vain (such as whether or not the idea of a Convental Relationship to homosexual relationships).

After the article, there was one comment that said the writer of said comment had converted to the Universalist "church" where respect for people and their beliefs trumps the desire for rightness or wrongness.

As per usual, I disagree with the sentiment expressed. Rightness and wrongness should not be secondary, or be trumped by, respect. These things are not mutually exclusive and there are some very obvious problems with trying to put respect before rightness and wrongness.

Here is my point, would you rather someone correct you in a disrespectful manner or let you continue to do wrong out of respect? Respect is important yes, but rightness and wrongness are inherently more important. They have to be, if only because showing respect is considered the right way to relate to people. I, of course, think there is more to it than that; but, respect itself has a value conferred to it by the ideas of rightness or wrongness. Rightness and wrongness gets their value conferred from an even higher level, the human mind and the mind of God. God and humans think it is important to be right or wrong, but all virtues or proper ways of behaving are subordinate to rightness or wrongness, something that could also be called morality.

Personally, I would rather be corrected in a poorly done fashion than continue to do things wrong. Think about doing a problem in mathematics, the rightness or wrongness of your approach is going to determine if your answer is correct or not. It would be ill-fitting for a teacher of mathematics to let his or her students just figure out their own way of doing the problem when there is a correct or right way of doing the problem. If they did allow such things to happen, they would likely get a plethora of incorrect answers with a multitude of paths chosen to get to these "answers."

Morality is much the same way because there is some sort of standard of behavior to which we feel we must adhere. In general, if you examine the written moral codes from ancient times that we still possess, the ideas of morality were not extremely varied. The differences would tend to be found in which immoral behaviors will be tolerated and which ones would not. In Ancient Greece, pederasty was tolerated. It appeared at though the boys involved got an education and the ability to advance themselves through that system, so the sexual aspect of it was tolerated. It is more than likely that a lot of people were squeamish or felt as those the sexual aspect of pederasty was plain wrong. However, it was allowed to go on for a number of years.

One can also look at the idea of marriage. All cultures agreed that man and woman should be joined together. They differed on whether marriage was eternal or more like a contract. They also differed on how many wives or husbands was allowable. However, the underlying rule was that men should not have just any of the areas women when he so desired. Sleeping with another man's wife was considered a transgression. This all counts for any man or woman who is having sex with one other than their spouse.

So, it is clear that there is an underlying morality to everything, even if different cultures may have weaknesses or simply allow for certain reproachable behaviors to go on for whatever reason. Tolerating behavior is not the same as assenting to its correctness. Ours is an age where the word tolerance is tossed about and essentially stripped of this meaning. It is most often used by what most people would call the far-left in political terms. These are the more liberal people who consider themselves champions of freedom. In the political realm, this means that they push for legislation that will challenge the status quo and give marginalized people fairer share of things.

Liberals in any age have often helped move society into profitable directions, but that does not mean that they cannot be wrong. What is forgotten is that not all change is desirable or good, and that the natural human condition is freedom. As Sartre would likely say, these people are not living authentically. Changing laws in a nation can be a good thing, but it can also be simply a way to assuage one's conscience when engaging in actions that could be considered deplorable. One such example is abortion, but I cannot go too deeply into that issue for the sake of keeping things on track. Suffice it to say that, even in that incendiary topic, laws in a nation are not necessarily just nor are they necessarily correct. In fact, law does not actually eliminate choice in any sense, however strict or tyrannical a law may be. There is such a thing as defiance, whether it is occurring in a sit-in or in a battle with guns.

Morality is not that easy, it is not that cut and dry. Morality can only exist in a world where people have a choice. If all of these behaviors were simply instinct imprinted on us in birth and assuming we did not have the cognitive capabilities that we have, then all this conversation is moot. Choice is what makes humans human. If choice is not, in fact, possible then nothing that is discussed has any meaning or bearing on reality.

The truth is, people will always do what they choose to do; their want of what they choose is an irrelevant issue. People will make choices, and that is simply how it is. Outlawing something and putting strict penalties for getting caught doing something does not eliminate a person's freedom, mentally or physically. Even if being incarcerated pushes a person's physical and mental freedom aside, the inmates still have a choice in how they are to conduct themselves. All actions have consequences or results that stem directly from the choice made. Let us face facts, the law only places restrictions on possibilities, and does not clash with a person's freedom. They can never fully lose their freedom.

So, to recap: Law does not eliminate freedom, it just makes the decisions more difficult than they might be otherwise; and Rightness or wrongness are more important than respect. Respectful delivery of praise or admonishment is, of course, desired; but, it is not explicitly necessary. Some people simply do not show respect to those they believe are in the wrong, and that probably is a failing on their part.

In any case, I would like to get this back to the Christian worldview.

When one reads the Holy Bible, one will have to note that people are making choices left and right. Jonah chooses to flee his vocation, David chooses to kill Uriah for the prize of Bathsheeba, and the Pharisees chose to hand the Christ over as if he were some criminal. All of these acts were acts of disobedience, a lack of charity, coveting, and the like. God gave the laws in a direct fashion, but having a law does not mean it is actually obeyed.

That said, the author of the comment clearly believes that respect is a good or right mindset to possess. So, he/she clearly does believe a certain kind of rightness is necessary. Let it be known that I agree that respect is good and useful, and more likely to bring people to the Church. However, I cannot say that I would rather trade respect for Truth or rightness or wrongness.

If people were disrespectful and yet speaking truth, it would be far more beneficial than stepping on eggshells and not correcting someone that needs to be corrected. Part of the Christian life is to admonish one another. While one can do this to people outside of the Church, the ones inside the Church are the more obvious and necessary ones to notify of their wrongdoing, being asked to repent. The Church is meant to be one in mind, Faith, and a multitude of other things. Correction from within the ranks are, therefore, necessary. This being done in a charitable and respectful fashion is preferred, but will never preclude the possibility that correction is done in the exact opposite fashion. Though that may push a lot of other people, it is preferred that truth be spoken. The person who does not do well with the task of correcting someone, still needs to work on themselves obviously. But, being right or truthful is a good trade off.

To finish off this longer than planned blog, I will say this:

The Greatest two commandments are "Love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind," and "Love your neighbor as yourself." People of our age seem to forget that love is not necessarily describing a feeling. In fact, love properly described is more akin to action than flowery feelings. Most people who have joined the Christian life have to learn that doing actions that express those two commandments has the effect of producing proper feelings towards themselves, others, and God himself. Consider that period of empty feelings to be the crawling phase of the walk with Faith; as one grows, one will be better able to feel the proper feelings that go with the action in question.

The same can be said with respect. It takes practice to properly respect others and behave in a right and just manner. People who cannot do this need to be borne with patience and charity, which will contribute to the virtue of all involved. Let us not lose truth in our scramble to express understanding and respect. Respect is important, but not at the expense of truth. This is why people have fought and died defending truth. Men have fought and died defending their honor, but that honor and respect is usually given in response to what the man does in relation to the truth and rightness. Respect cannot come before rightness or wrongness. It has to be determined that someone is right or wrong before any sort of correction can be shown in any manner, let alone a respectful manner.

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