Friday, June 17, 2016

Kierkegaard on the importance of universal love for neighbor-- to fulfill the command and to actually love friends and family effectively

If anyone asks, “Who is my neighbor?” then Christ’s reply to the Pharisee, who asked this same question, contains the only answer, for in answer to this question Christ turned everything around. Christ says: “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The Pharisee answers correctly, “The one who showed mercy to him” (Lk. 10:36). This means that by doing your duty you easily discover who your neighbor is. The Pharisee’s answer is contained in Christ’s question. He towards whom I have a duty is my neighbor, and when I fulfill my duty, I prove that I am a neighbor...Choosing a lover, finding a friend, yes that is a long, hard job, but your neighbor is easy to recognize, easy to find – if you yourself will only recognize your duty and be a neighbor.

I love that last sentence! The paragraph is too strong on "duty" for my tastes, but I like the point that being a "neighbor" is proved by showing mercy / being neighborly.

The poet and Christ explain things in opposite ways. The poet idolizes feelings and since he has only romantic love in mind, believes that to command love is the greatest foolishness and the most preposterous kind of talk: Love and friendship contain no ethical task. Love and friendship are good fortune, the highest good fortune...For the poet, the highest task in life is to be properly grateful for one’s good fortune. But one’s task can never be an obligation to find the beloved or to find this friend...

Christianity, however, dethrones feeling and good fortune and replaces them with the shall. The point at issue between the poet and Christ may be stated precisely in this way: romantic love and friendship are preferential, the passion of preference; Christian love, however, is self-renunciation’s love and therefore trusts in the you shall. According to Christ, our neighbor is our equal. Our neighbor is not the beloved, for whom you have passionate preference, nor your friend, whom you prefer. Nor is your neighbor, if you are well educated, the learned person with whom you have cultural affinity – for with your neighbor you have before God the equality of humanity... your beloved faithfully and tenderly, but let love to your neighbor be the sanctifier in your covenant of union with God. Love your friend honestly and devotedly, but let love to your neighbor be what you learn from each other in the intimacy of friendship with God! Moreover, the person who does not see that his wife is first his neighbor, and only then his wife, never comes to truly love his neighbor, no matter how many people he loves...
In this sense love is blind. Perfection in the object has nothing to do with perfection in love. Precisely because one’s neighbor has none of the excellencies which the beloved, a friend, or an admired one may have...

Therefore he who in truth loves, loves his neighbor. And he who in truth loves his neighbor loves also his enemy. This is obvious; for the distinction of friend or enemy is a distinction in the object of love, but the object of love to your neighbor is always without distinction...

Kierkegaard distinguishes between different sorts of love, arguing that love of neighbor is primary and should be universal-- even loving one's wife as a neighbor first. And by implication, if one does not generally love one's neighbor, then love for a spouse-- without that-- will be distorted, likely to be temporary, etc. In sum, "love your beloved faithfully and tenderly, but let love to your neighbor be the sanctifier in your covenant of union with God."

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orlando: "act of terror" (6/12) or "mass shooting"?

I thought this article was interesting: Will we end up labeling Orlando's tragedy (primarily) as an act of terror or a mass shooting? Among other things, seeing it as an act of terror, the author suggests we call the event 6/12.

We won't know what motivated the terrorist/murderer for a while-- if ever. The event seems strongly connected to terrorism, but he claimed allegiances to terrorist groups that opposed each other. It seems anti-gay, but the terrorist/murderer may have been active in a gay lifestyle. (See also: the guy from Jeffersonville who traveled to LA, apparently with similar goals.) 

In any case, what we call it matters. And jumping to the usual (dogmatic?) conclusions that many of us hold-- whether an emphasis on Muslims, gun control, mental illness, or gun-free zones-- is tempting but not helpful, when the evidence is far from complete and the bodies have not even been buried. If I've contributed to the FB rush to judgment and ideologize this time, mea culpa.

More broadly,
these matters are complex, including (at least) guns, gun control, mental illness, and "Islamism". As such, efforts to reduce this topic to one variable-- or even to, out-of-hand, eliminate one of these four-- is a sign of ignorance and/or ideology. Unfortunately, we see a lot of that sort of "thinking" from Obama, Clinton, Trump, and FB "debates".

Still, on gun control-- in practice vs. in theory and wishful thinking-- the questions must include: What have we done and why isn't it working well (enough)? What could get passed and enforced that would increase safety? Mere platitudes and hand-waving should be left to the Flying Spaghetti Monsterites.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Florence King on defending others' rights

I like Florence King's semi-spoof of Martin Niemoller's famous line on defending the rights of others, even when one does not exercise those rights: "When they came for the smokers, I kept silent because I don't smoke. When they came for the meat eaters, I kept silent because I'm a vegetarian. When they came for the gun owners, I kept silent because I'm a pacifist. When they came for the drivers, I kept silent because I'm a bicyclist. They never did come for me. I'm still here because there's nobody left in the secret police except sissies with rickets." 

Kierkegaard on the obvious response to God's love letter

Soren Kierkegaard on the Bible as God’s love letter—and the obvious response to accepting God’s grace and embracing His words to us:

“My listener, how highly do you value God’s Word?  Imagine a lover who has received a letter from his beloved. I assume that God's Word is just as precious to you as this letter is to a lover. I assume that you read and think you ought to read God’s Word in the same way the lover reads this letter…Let us assume that this letter contained not only an expression of affection, but also a wish, something the beloved wanted her lover to do. It was, let us assume, much that was required of him—so much so that any third party would have good reason to think twice about it. But the lover, ah, he is off at once to fulfill his beloved’s wish…If there are obscure passages but also clearly expressed wishes, he would say, ‘I must immediately comply with the wish—then I will see about the obscure parts’.”

And then this on “studying” the Bible: “Being alone with God's Word is a dangerous matter. Of course you can always find ways to defend yourself against it. Take the Bible, lock your door - but then get out ten dictionaries and twenty-five commentaries. Then you can read it just as calmly and coolly as you read newspaper advertising.”

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Kierkegaard on following Jesus

"If someone wanted to be his follower, [Jesus] said to that person something like this, 'Venture a decisive act; then you can begin, then you will know.'

...Once you have ventured the decisive act, you are at odds with the life of this world. You come into collision with it, and because of this you will gradually be brought into such tension that you will then be able to become certain of what Christ taught. You will begin to understand that you cannot endure this world without having recourse to Christ. What else can one expect from following the truth?"