Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christianity and Universal Values

This was on a hobbyist blog - the exact source doesn't matter as it is a very common sentiment:
I love the Solstice. It's such an important day of the holidays for us, marking the root of the whole season. We're not Christian, so Jesus isn't the reason for our season -  but the ideas that he represents within that religion, light, love, compassion, kindness, generosity, these are pretty universal human values that we can rely on to guide us through the darkest days and the longest nights, and for us, those are the spirit of Christmas, Yule and the Solstice.   Every day between now and Twelfth Night, this family will concentrate on those things- like we try to all year - but it's just so much easier to keep our focus there when there's a big honking pagan symbol of the season in our living room.
Unfortunately, Jesus didn't represent values, or at least any values that make sense without him. The love Jesus represents is a self-sacrificial divine love that transcends the human: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." But more significantly, Jesus did not "represent" that love, he is that love. If Jesus is not real, then in fact God did not so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son, and in that case what becomes of the "universal human value" of love? It remains a merely "human" love, a love that perishes with us and has no more power than any other human value - for instance, the value of social stability (which is why agitators like Christ should be executed) or personal security (which is why it is foolish to give all you have to the poor). Love remains, it is true, but it is not the love with the revolutionary power of Christ. If it tries to be, it ends up crucified like Christ, but without a resurrection and therefore permanently dead and buried in the tomb. The universal human value of love without Christ is a muted love, a love that cherishes others to be sure, but must be tempered by worldly prudence and circumspection. For to love as Christ does is to become vulnerable to the point that suffering is inevitable, and death the only end.

Like Christian love, Christian generosity is revolutionary and, without Christ, appropriately dismissed as crazy. Thus the figure of St. Francis, who gave the very clothes off his back and ran naked into the woods. This is a nutty thing to do - unless you are do it in the Name of the God who volunteered to be nailed naked to the Cross.

And so it goes with all the values. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the universal human values are remade in His image. Without Him, you may keep your human values... but they remain merely human.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tragedy or Atrocity?

It's already been noted by others that our insistence on referring to atrocities as "tragedies" is a sign of the moral decline of our civilization. Here is another example involving the murder/suicide of a Kansas City Chiefs linebacker and his girlfriend.

The headline in the video itself reveals a skewed moral perspective: "Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher dead at 25." The most significant fact as far as the Globe is concerned is that the man is dead, not that he murdered his girlfriend. Why not "Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher kills girlfriend?" We are all dead in the end, after all, but we do not all murder our girlfriends.

Cannot we summon any outrage over a man who guns down his girlfriend? Not his friends:

‘‘He was a good, good person ... a family man. A loving guy,’’ said family friend Ruben Marshall, who said he coached Belcher in youth football. ‘‘You couldn’t be around a better person.’’

Unless you happen to be his girlfriend. And that is the most appalling aspect of the article: The relegation of Kasandra M. Perkins, who should be the moral center of the story, to the status of a bit player in Jovan Belcher's psychodrama. Her name is mentioned but once in the story, and is everywhere else referred to as "the girlfriend."

"The two of them left behind a 3-month-old girl. She was being cared for by family."

No, the two of them did not leave anyone behind. Belcher left his daughter behind, while the young girl had her mother taken from her by a murderer.

"It’s unknown how the Chiefs plan to pay tribute to Belcher during Sunday’s game."