Friday, July 28, 2006

Of actions and words

There was a discussion going on here about what kind of Christians progressives should be, or even how much religion political liberals should be showing (sort of like the old days, when a lady was advised to cautiously show "a little leg"), and it prompted an early morning response from me I figured I could share here, too.

Perhaps, I offered, we should worry less about ideas, and more about actions.

I was teaching causation the other day, and had to make the point that there are two methods involved in the use of cause and effect analysis. One reasons backward from effect to determine cause; the other use cause prospectively, to predict what the effect will be.

It is very tempting to say we must carry our fight in the realm of ideas, and that our ideas must prevail, must even be proven out in the field of battle, whether that battle is physical or simply psychical (i.e, for hearts and minds). Bush is using the former reasoning in the Lebanon conflict right now, arguing inaction is better than action because of what he thinks it will produce. But actions, as we all know, speak louder than words, and inaction on a cease-fire is speaking loudly in Lebanon because of the actions of Israel and Hezbollah.

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," they told me in seminary, and being an "idea" kind of guy, I resented that advice. I've come to realize how true it is. So maybe if we talk less about what we would do if we only could, (or, more properly, what the other guys should be doing if only they'd listen to us), and spend more time simply doing, whether our doing is legislative, or ecclesiastical, or communal, or simply personal, we could be judged by our actions, instead of argued with about our ideas. We could, in other words, be perceived retrospectively, the effect already present, the cause examined in light of our effects, rather than prospectively, the effect as yet un-effected, the cause constantly up for debate and re-consideration.

Better, after all, to light a candle...

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