Friday, December 10, 2004

"Let us live by justice and by mercy and wait with bright hope for the Lord to come."

Cervantes raises a good point.
I must say, RMJ, that my careful reading of the Old Testament reveals God endorsing, even commanding, the Jews to murder their enemies, steal their land, and enslave them. He even assists in these endeavours. Not very compassionate in my view.

One good deed does not drive out the bad. Nor does faith suspend the "laws" of sociology: communities will always act for their own preservation, and never in the interest solely of preserving an abstract moral code, no matter the source.

But the cosmic thunderer God is a caricature of the God of Israel, whose law included a lot of references like this: "You must not deprive aliens and the fatherless of justice...Bear in mind that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; that is why I command you to do this." (Deuteronomy 24:17-18).

And Jeremiah has variations on this theme quite often: "These are the words of the Lord: deal justly and fairly, rescue the victim from his oppressor, do not ill-treat or use violence towards the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place." (Jeremiah 22:3)

Of course, there are also scriptures where God commands armies to destroy their enemies. But again, communities who pledge themselves to the sanctity of an abstract moral code, soon disappear if that code is too abstract. Monks practice peace and non-violence, but they also work very hard for what they have. I've encountered Christians who really do want the Lord to buy them a Mercedes Benz, as their "due" for being "faithful." Monks understand that "faith" is an activity of body as well as mind; consequently, they've been around longer.

There is clearly a shift in the perception of God (in Xian theology, the "revelation" of the nature of God, and the relationship between God and humanity). But that is true of everything humans encounter in the Creation (or Universe, if you prefer a non-religious term). It may be that the nature of God is unchanging ("may be" because there are complex metaphysical assumptions behind that assertion that I don't necessarily agree with; not because I'm a stealth advocate for process theology). But the nature of human understanding certainly is not.

Which is not an apologia for "human progress," either. Just a realization that, as Kuhn pointed out, our paradigms shift. We move, ultimately, neither forward nor backward, but through a series of "frames." The human relationship with the Creator is subject to the same limitation. It's a human one. We need boundaries, in order to understand; and those boundaries are intimately tied to our own group survival.

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