Saturday, September 08, 2012

Morality and Values -- Individually and Collectively

I want to raise a question about how we perceive our own identity as individuals and as communities.  The theme of individualism is quite present in our culture at the moment.  While I do believe in the importance of individual responsibility and initiative, I wonder why cultures, including our own, find it difficult -- collectively -- to live in a way that is responsible to and for the other.  How do we move toward fully embracing the principle of love of neighbor?

I think I need to read a bit of Reinhold Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society.  Written in 1931, it seems to offer wisdom that speaks to us today.  In the introduction to that book (as found  reprinted in     Reinhold Niebuhr: Theologian of Public Life (Making of Modern Theology)edited by Larry Rasmussen), Niebuhr writes:

   Individual men may maybe moral in the sense that they are a able to consider interests other than their own in determining problems of conduct, and are capable,  on occasion, of preferring the advantages o others to their own.  They are endowed by nature with a measure of sympathy and consideration for their kind, the breadth of which may be extended by an astute pedagogy.  Their rational faculty prompts them to a sense of justice which educational discipline may refine and and purge of egoistic elements  until they are able to view a social situation, in which their own interests may be involved, with a fair measure of objectivity.  But all these achievements are more difficult, if not impossible, for human societies and social groups.  In every human group there is less reason to guide and to check impulse, less capacity for self-transcendence, less ability to comprehend the needs of others and therefore more unrestrained egoism than the individuals, who compose the group, reveal in their personal relationships. (pp. 46-47).   

 Our problem -- we often don't perceive this group influence and thus don't know how to check it.  Thus, libertarianism may work in small homogeneous contexts, but not in much larger, diverse contexts.  So, how do we address this reality?


VC said...

I wanted to share this book with you. As a Christian historian I wondered what you thought of Lawrence Goudge's new book Cover Up: How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs? Goudge proposes that the Jewish followers of Jesus preserved the beliefs and practices of the original apostles: Peter, James and John. Therefore, the true heretics were those who created the new religion of the dying God (anathema to Peter James and John). Cover-Up: How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs exposes the church's hypocrisy in first silencing those who truly followed Jesus and then exterminating them, just as they did the Cathars.  I just learned of a new book – Cover Up: How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs by Lawrence Goudge. I found it here Let me know what you think of it.

Robert Cornwall said...

I looked it up on Amazon. There was a group of largely Jewish Christians who continued to exist for sometime into the 2nd century CE and maybe longer. There was no cover up, there was a split and by the middle of the 2nd century the Jewish Christian group had largely died out. Though you could make a case for Islams as the logical heirs -- Robert Wright Evolution of God makes that suggestion. As for the author, he has a bachelor's degree in something. The book is self-published, thus not vetted by any scholarly groups. But, there was no cover up. This is just one more attempt to sell books on "alternative" theories.