‘Hmmm’ is a new category we have added to the website. Its purpose is to provide a place to dump various chunks of information I’ve been reading or processing lately. The subjects will be related around a theme but not tied together into one piece. In other words, it’s an excuse for me to ramble. But hopefully ‘Hmmm’ will also be a place to think out loud and continue to explore what we think and believe.
I’ve been thinking lately about morality and character and how they affect all of us. The recent spate of events like Covid-19, race demonstrations, and their related topics, have reminded us that the conduct of individuals does indeed affect the rest of society.
It’s in times like these that we notice how rare morality and character are. They are sadly missing from the conduct of our leaders and our clamouring culture. Unfortunately our full time access to information can lead us to wallow in all that badness.
On the other hand those virtues are like candles in the dark when we see them, shining more brightly when everything else is darkest. How wonderful it feels when people rise above their instinct to hide their deeds, or lash out, or win at any cost! Isn’t it refreshing when respect leads the way, when gentle truth is spoken, when peace is paramount?
An important purpose of the Bible is to give us the tools we need to look inside our motives and the messy actions they lead to. And isn’t ‘inside’ the place where true morality comes from? Isn’t the whisper of the Holy Spirit the ideal voice for us to listen to? This is much preferable to the finger-pointing that our political (and spiritual) leaders demonstrate.
So I’ve been thinking about society and how we are morally linked together. Here are some quick hits of information for you to ponder and help you think, ‘Hmmm…’.
‘Gaslighting’ is a term that has been thrown around a lot lately. It is a method of controlling information by making the listener question reality. This is done through a variety of tactics that manipulate truth: creating chaos, telling bold lies and insisting they are true, spreading a high volume of untruths and rumours, and sharing enough confusing information that people begin to drown in mis-information.
It is good know about gaslighting because anyone seeking to control us will use at least some of these tactics. You can educate yourself further with the simple points in this brief article.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount where he says, “Simply let your ‘yes’ mean yes and your ‘No’ mean no. Anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (v37).
Think about it: simple honesty and truth would be so much nicer than the excessive talking, accusing, and ‘noise’ we have come to expect from our leaders. Come to think of it, we would do well to give them that whole Sermon on the Mount to live by when they begin their jobs.
A related way of controlling people is the practice of ‘scapegoating‘. Scapegoating is one aspect of gaslighting but is used more commonly by more people. We see it all the time in schoolyards and in families; in workplaces and among nations. It happens when groups look for someone to blame in order to justify themselves.
You would do well to be familiar with the tendency of people (individuals, groups, religions, nations) to scapegoat victims. When our economy struggles, when pandemics cross our border, when we don’t like outsiders, when something bad happens, when we are defensive, etc. we all tend to point elsewhere. Scapegoats can be: demonstrators, cops, Jews, blacks, China, socialists, Calvinists, Catholics, immigrants, terrorists, teenagers, lawyers – anybody we can find to blame.
The word is taken from the ancient law of Moses where a goat would be selected to symbolically have the sins of the people laid on it. It would subsequently be led into the wilderness to never return. It’s ironic that the practice was intended to relieve the guilt of sin rather than just shift it elsewhere.
And that’s the problem, scapegoating puts the blame on someone else, usually an innocent victim, instead of where it belongs. Scapegoating punishes wrongly, multiplies pain, and prolongs injustice.
This coming August 5 will mark the 75th anniversary of the first use of an atomic bomb which was detonated over the city of Hiroshima.
The B-29 Superfortress that dropped it was piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets who named the plane after his mother. Makes me wonder what kind of person his mom was …
Co-pilot Robert Lewis may have had the most fitting emotions of the event when he wrote, “My God, what have we done?”
General Thomas Farrell was an observer to the first test of an atomic bomb a month before. I know it was a different time and place but I find the mix of religion and justification to be interesting.
“The feeling of many could be expressed by ”Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.’ We were reaching into the unknown and we did not know what might come of it. It can be safely said that most of those present – Christian, Jew and Atheist – were praying and praying harder than they had ever prayed before. If the shot were successful, it was a justification of the several years of intensive effort of tens of thousands of people statesmen, scientists, engineers, manufacturers, soldiers, and many others in every walk of life.”
“The First Atomic Bomb Blast, 1945,” EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2003)
‘The bomb’ has been used twice in the history of the world. I can’t judge whether it was right or wrong – huge military and civilian casualties were inevitable either way. My interest is in another place: the effects of protectionism and militarism on a culture. What are the negative effects of losing or of winning a war, and how does that affect the future course of our national morality? And honestly, how does the constant diet of violence in movies, video games, etc. affect us? And what about the assumption that God is always on our side?
Consecutive generations usually suffer from the effects of poverty, greed, racism, hatred, ignorance, abuse. They are so hard to recover from. I found this quote by Fr. Stephen Freeman to be interesting:
“It has rightly been noted that “history is written by the victors.” It is therefore the case that we more easily repent for the sins of history’s vanquished and leave the writing to the victorious. But the burden of sin as historical reality remains. Unaddressed, the sins of the past become the problems of the present. Many of the most enduring conflicts in the modern world represent centuries of unresolved issues and the inherited burden of our ancestral legacy.”
“Often the legacy of history is carried on in competing narratives. We do not always know or rightly remember the details of what happened, but we know all too well the emotional burden of its trauma. Hatred can be a very ancient thing.” (Emphases mine.)
You can find the the full blog at: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2020/06/04/the-sins-of-a-nation-3/
My daughter is a psychotherapist and has found a niche interest in counselling victims of trauma, especially military personnel and first responders like firefighters, paramedics and police.
We were texting back and forth recently about nothing in particular when she suggested I might be interested in the subject of ‘moral injury and trauma’. So I did a little reading.
“Moral injury is the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress one’s own moral beliefs, values, or ethical codes of conduct.”
You’ll find some very worthwhile reading @ https://moralinjuryproject.syr.edu/about-moral-injury/
Think about it, individuals and societies can have our consciences and moral compasses damaged when we perpetuate, witness or fail to prevent wrongdoing. Think about it…
It made me wonder again about the implications of wars, violence in our streets, crooked politicians, cheating on our taxes, telling lies, and all the other ways that we close our eyes to immorality. What is the real price we pay for rampant capitalism and unfettered wealth accumulation? What is the true cost of losing so many young soldiers to PTSD? How expensive is anger, depression, danger on our streets? What is the larger price of poverty, racism, militarism, and poor education in the homes and commerce of our people?
Think about it: moral injury is a thing, and it affects us all.
it’s called a cross for a reason
I am saddened by the response of some christians during the past few months: eyes focused on their own interests, nitpicking about their rights, doctrine, tradition, and general ‘holier-than-thou-ness’.
And yet I have been encouraged by others who have taken up their cross to bring justice, peace, and goodness; who have spoken truth to power; who will not accept the darkness as long as they have a light to shine.
These are the children of God. Regardless of religious affiliation.
But it’s dangerous and exhausting to swim against the immoral currents, whether secular or religious.
Amos 5 just came rolling out of the recesses of my brain and into my mouth. In these selected highlights, notice what God thinks about those who manipulate truth and justice to fit their own selfish morality.
“Your city that marches out a thousand strong
will have only a hundred left;
your town that marches out a hundred strong
will have only ten left.” (v 3)
. . .
“There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground. (v 7)
. . .
“There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth. (v 10)
. . .
“There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. (v 12)
. . .
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream! (vv 21-24)