The Eagle and Child: S1E15 – “Social Morality”

SocialMorality

SocialMorality

In today’s episode, Jack asks what a truly Christian society would look like. He’s going to say some things to upset people on the Right and people on the Left…

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Episode 15: “Society Morality” (Download)

 

— Show Notes —

• My outline for this chapter is available here. Unfortunately, there isn’t a C.S. Lewis Doodle for this chapter.

• Quote-of-the-week:

“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity” (God in the Dock)

• Beer-of-the-week was Ballast Point Bonito again.

• Christ didn’t come to preach a new morality.

“People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed”
– Dr. Samuel Johnson, an 18th Century (writer, essayist and poet)

Even Jesus’ teaching concerning loving your neighbour had already been expressed in the Old Testament:

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” – Leviticus 18:17-18

However, we could say that Jesus widened and deepened this teaching, particularly in answering the question “Who is my neighbour?”

Saint Paul tells the Philippians that he’s not teaching them anything new, but that they need to be reminded:

To write the same things to you is not irksome to me, and is safe for you. – Philippians 3:1

You can watch my video series on Philippians here and my study notes for that book of the Bible can be found here.

I also quote the lead singer of the band Casting Crowns:

“We are trained well beyond our level of obedience” – Mark Hall

• Christianity is not a political programme. In contrast, other religions (Judaism and Ilsam) set out a detailed programme for every aspect of personal and civil life. Christianity is instead a director and source of energy.

• It is up to every Christian to bring the Golden Rule to his/her domain of responsibility and excellence. A document from the Second Vatican Council says the following:

Each individual layman must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God. All the laity as a community and each one according to his ability must nourish the world with spiritual fruits.(212) They must diffuse in the world that spirit which animates the poor, the meek, the peace makers—whom the Lord in the Gospel proclaimed as blessed.(213) In a word, “Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body.” [Epistle to Diognetus] – Lumen Gentium, Paragraph #38

• The New Testament hints at what a fully Christian society would be like. We each find aspects of it which we like and other parts which we don’t like…

On the subject of husbands and wives, I mentioned Brant Pitre’s talk “Wives have to do what?!”. You can also watch the trailer for it, or even watch the entire talk online.

I explained why I think the Garter toss is stupid.

• The issue of usury was briefly addressed. I found this article helpful on the subject.

• We moved on to the subject of giving to charity. We discussed the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, as well as Mother Theresa and the city on a hill.

We talked about charity and about the question of how much we should give. Some people think it’s 10%, but I don’t think it’s that simple. I referenced a fantastic interview with Douglas Gresham.

Jack suggests that we don’t give more because we’re afraid of our own financial security.

• When we are asking about the question of a Christian society, we really come seeking validation, not enlightenment.

One comment

  • After listening to the “Social Morality” podcast, I feel compelled to share some thoughts.

    First of all while it is true that Christ didn’t come to preach a new morality (although he did raise some old moral truths to a new status like the indissolubility of sacramental marriage) and that we need to be reminded more than instructed in what is true, I would disagree that crackpot false theories are new. Like truths, particular falsehoods are nothing new either. Every “new fangled” fad is nothing more than a warmed-over regurgitated old fad. As the Book of Ecclesiastes says “Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.” (1:10) Another way of saying it is “Same old thing different day.” Even the heresy of Modernism, which was condemned by Pope St. Pius X was not all that modern. The same pope himself called it the “synthesis of all heresies”.

    Sadly, the bishops today need no encouragement to interfere with things outside their realm of competence. They routinely overstep their boundaries in areas of economics and other societal issues. Immigration policy and capital punishment are two examples where they take sides undermining the legitimate diversity of opinion that Catholic teaching affords and marginalizes one segment of faithful Catholics while opening themselves to scandalous exploitation by another segment. Unfortunately, the mainstream orthodox Catholic media lacks the needed courage to push back against this. Now we have a pope who is taking this to a whole new level. In fairness, at least on the death penalty issue, even Pope St. John Paul II acted rather irresponsibly. His anti-death penalty posturing did a significant amount of harm to the pro-life message that he himself did much good to promote. Now, even though I am pro-death penalty and tend to take the more mainstream conservative view on immigration, I would object just as strenuously to the Church hierarchy using their offices to take that side of the issue because Church teaching regards to the other view as equally legitimate.

    Now with the issue of charitable giving. Lewis’ view is something of a mixed bag in my opinion. Certainly, we must be generous with our resources. But Christian charity does not demand, in the normal course of things, that we give more than we can spare. In fact, barring extraordinary circumstances, it would be counterproductive. I would go so far to say that if our first consideration is what it may cost us to help others we have the cart before the horse. We are actually make it about ourselves, my sacrifice, what it is costing me. Our first consideration should always be considering the others’ good. To be sure, that may, and often does, entail sacrifice and difficulty on our part, but that’s really ancillary. The need to exercise good judgment in how we charitably give was not really addressed in the podcast. Nor does Lewis really address it. I would heartily agree with Tolkien that Lewis should not have just indiscriminately given his money to the panhandler. I would suspect the reason Tolkien made the admonition was that what Lewis did harmed the man as opposed to helping him. So what if Lewis was going to spend the money on beer? He probably would have done less harm in doing that, unless he was an alcoholic of course. But, to my knowledge Lewis was not. I don’t think Tolkien would have had an issue if Lewis would have emptied his pockets and put the money in a poor box at a church. I would also suspect Tolkien thought Lewis had other motives, in addition to charitable ones, for doing what he did like feeding his own pride. Here I think Lewis was engaging the very “showy” form of generosity he laments about those who tip more than they ought and less on those who are in real need. But since it was Lewis’ own money, he is free to disburse it as his will and conscience bids him. The main reason why I don’t give to panhandlers is that I honestly believe it does more harm than good. I think Mother Teresa also discouraged giving to panhandlers for that reason. Jesus’ admonition to as wise as serpents as well as being as innocent as doves applies as much to how we should should go about helping the least among us (which include not only the materially poor) as it does to everything else.

    The citation you read from Lumen Gentium had an operative word that you might have overlooked. It talks about animating the poor, meek, and peacemakers. To animate, in this context, means to energize, to enable them to be more proactive in participating in bettering their lot. I know of no one who says that we should “teach a man to fish”, so to speak, would deny that we have to give him a fish in the meantime. This is a false dichotomy. In fact, those who take the “teach a man to fish” approach are those far more likely to give of their own resources to assist those less fortunate than those who take the opposite approach.

    This gets to another thing we often don’t think about when we seek to help the poor. Do we think of the poor man as a man or a poor man? This is not splitting hairs. By looking at him as a man as opposed to a poor man is to recognize his inherent dignity as your equal and that his being poor as a matter of external circumstance or, as Mother Teresa would say, a disguise. When we confuse these things, all sorts of harm gets done especially to the poor under the guise of helping them regardless of intentions. For instance, the ever expanding welfare state in Europe and, to a lesser extent, here in the U.S. has compounded the problems it was supposedly designed to alleviate. Unfortunately, this travesty has had and still garners the support of world’s Catholic bishops. Socialism and Communism, which are always presenting under the guise of being for the poor, are the more extreme examples of this.

    I think it is important to think of charitable giving in terms of making an investment. By investing in the good of the least among us we contribute to our own. As a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, society is only as strong as its weakest member. This I believe is a true view of a Christian society so few Christians really understand.

    Now a few words on the garter toss at wedding receptions. While I would agree some unbecoming and rather inappropriate actions get included with it in many cases, the garter toss itself isn’t necessarily itself a bad thing. The washing of the feet is of course a lovely gesture. However, it bespeaks of a solemnity better included in the nuptial mass itself and not the reception.

What are your thoughts about this article?