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Bob Green Innes,

curmudgeon - click for definition

Hamiltonian by birth & occupation!  

.... seeking to restore values, traditions, institutions, laws and protections Canadians once enjoyed
      .....lost by apathy
          ..... but stolen nonetheless

Reflections on Christmas -#15 Dec 22, 2010

Perhaps we can spare a moment in this festive season to think about the fellow who started it all. Not about the religion based on His life, corrupted and dogmatic as it gets from time to time. Not about His divinity, which, the bishops at Nicea could barely agree upon - one vote margin. Not about the folks who do bad things (or even good things) in the name of His religion, or the wars, inquisitions & crusades similarly justified. Not about the related commercialism that runs rampant at this time of year that I have no time for - to the dismay of kids in my vicinity. Not about any particular institution with His name on it. Not even about the Bible, source of inspiration and/or perspiration for millions. So if not for any of these reasons, why should we bother thinking about Him?

Quite a few of us these days might particularly like to think about how Jesus Christ, on Good Friday, dealt with bankers and money men who were abusing their entrenched position at the temple. Maybe we can learn something. Certainly money and religion shouldn't mix, especially relevant today in view of the semi-religious hype over oh-so-certain Climate Change. Accords meant to solve the unsolveable threaten to put all of humanity in chains via undemocratic banker-managed carbon-trading mechanisms. The Copenhagen Climate Treaty was almost signed. Whole nations would be bound to immutable taxation and money manipulation calibrated to an unproven and unprovable thesis that Earth's Climate is not controlled mainly by the sun and its myriad output cycles - to which other planets also respond. The hubris (and gullibility) of humanity knows no bounds.

More importantly though, Christ is known for His remarkable but poorly understood idea that changed the world - the idea that one should turn the other cheek to one's adversary, or should give one's coat to those who would take it.

This idea confuses because we see so little evidence of it, because it is almost impossible to do and because no nominally Christian country ever applied it. The dichotomy of this concept though indirectly spawned a remarkable development, a thousand years in the making, not in religion but in politics.

Many religions such as Islam teach the importance of forgiveness as an equivalent. However, these are not the same concepts at all. Forgiveness happens after the event. Turning the other cheek happens before the avoided event.

One might wonder what we could expect from a simple carpenter but a confusing, impossible and therefore weak idea, more honor'd in the breach than the observance. In contrast, the practical philosophies of Islam were developed by a more realistic fellow well experienced as his society's chief soldier, chief politician, chief religious and chief social leader. Islamic (and Jewish) philosophies are based on a much more consistent, understandable and reasonable idea - an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Makes eminent common sense, no? Not that most people don't get confused anyway, thinking it is a vengeful idea, instead of a rule that sets limits on revenge that would otherwise spin out of control. A tooth and absolutely nothing more - a limitation easily forgotten in the heat of the moment, but a limit nonetheless. Thus the problem with this idea is its basic unenforcability, the ease of forgetting it, which results in hard-to-stop, escalating hostilities between individuals or groups. Such recurring conflict (warfare, killings and destruction) weakens the society that permits it. Islam and Judaism can only preach forgiveness as a partial antidote, better late than never.

So maybe the cheek-turning, conflict-avoiding philosophy is not so weak after all. This is one area in which it is clear that Christ came to repudiate the teachings of the Old Testament. Not all teachings, but some. Christians are very confused about this since they think the whole Bible is boss, or God is boss, or Peter is boss, or St. Augustine is boss, or the Pope is boss, or their priest is boss, apparently anybody but Christ Himself. Simple really, the idea that Christ is the 'boss' of Christians. Duh.

Early Christians understood this - and mostly died for their troubles, individually and batchwise in the first turbulent centuries of Christianity, until Constantine elevated Christianity to acceptable and then to favoured status in Rome.

Rome of course ignored the inherent philosophical quandry. Can you imagine a Roman Emperor turning the other cheek!? It took another thousand years, a few Crusades and an Inquisition (that pretty much eliminated the competition) for Christian based polities to work out that governments should be secular instead of religious, that tolerance (at least tolerance for the folks who survived the previous mayhem) might work and that a theocracy is mostly a dangerous, damaging institution. It might be a stretch, but I believe that without the basic philosophy of turning the other cheek, this would not have happened. This is still a work in progress, especially the tolerance idea - indeed we may be about to (re)discover that religious tolerance only really works when there is, more or less, no other religion around to tolerate!

So if turning the other cheek is so difficult to practice that it is rare, can we really say that it is important? The simple answer is yes - it is a noble ideal, something to aspire to, something Godlike, a worthy religious idea, even if most of us fall short. God may not be very impressed with a white flag surrender (a cheek turned but only because of weakness) but someone strong, willing to turn the other cheek as a matter of principle, is an example of the highest virtue. Nor can I imagine God being very impressed with the smashing of a tooth in the exact same manner as the original transgression, but who am I to judge?

The other reason that we should be thankful for the idea of turning the other cheek is that if it can cause even a one micro-second hesitation in one's normal bloodthirsty reactions, that is one micro-second that might forestall conflict, bloodshed and destruction. Nothing is guaranteed, but if the philosophy works even a percentage of the time, it has done its job. Any infrastructure not thus destroyed is infrastructure that can still be used. The embodied labour, energy and materials are preserved for another day. This is a good thing for our increasingly depleted world. I hope it goes without saying that a life not shed in useless conflict is a life that still may contribute in its multiple ways to the march of civilization. The labour, teachings and energy embodied in that life are preserved for another day. Some may disagree that more people is better for a depleted planet, but hopefully not many of us think this way. It is not easy to distinguish the plunderer from the preserver; we all contain elements of both.

Nothing is absolute of course, which is why turning the other cheek is so hard to put into practice. You will easily think of circumstances where turning the other cheek leads to greater evil or destruction, at least in the immediate term. But even if, as noted, it only changes the outcome to positive in a small percentage of cases, that percentage accumulates. And accumulates. It can accumulate over centuries until it leaves other 'stronger' but more destructive philosophies in the dust.

Which is something we should reflect on this and every Christmas. Not bad for a carpenter.

Season's Wishes to all :-)

Bob Green I

leave the fake one *

Please be patient. Hopefully you can check back for your comment or response in the next day or two. Thanks. Bob

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Bob's 'Breviations

    LRT - Light Rapid Transit

    MSM - Main Stream Media

    Mn, Bn - Million, Billion Dollars

    GMO - Genetically Modified Organism Foods

    PIIGGS - Portugal, Iceland, Ireland, (Italy?) Greece, Spain, Great Britain

Pet Peeves

      * gummerment overspending
      * what we're doing to our political and educational systems -

      * banksterism.

      * political correctness (equity policies) along with

      * Rigid thinking, dismissiveness, judgementalism, as practiced by .....

      * MSM - mainstream media, especially the Spectator, our local rag, CBC radio

      * human rights commissions and their guilty-until-proven-innocent destruction of our ancient rights. Soon to get worse.

      * Overmedication in our society - this link relates to kids ADD, ADHD

      * legal liability issues - playgrounds, bake sales gone. This is stupid (corporatism).

      * senior (upper levels of ) gummerment funding - distorts and deflects responsibility

      * Public sector unions

      * credentialism

      * a little rant on mailboxes!

      * spelling in the English language. The real culprit is Johnson and his dictionary that picked words before they ripened!

      * apathetic people. Plato said 'Your silence gives your consent'

      * aphids, Torx screwdrivers, proprietary parts, the great Eyeglass ripoff

    * retired Professional Engineer, married, father of 2 including one still in the system.

    * pursuing many interests - partial list below

    * small-c conservative (but not a Harper PC - that's the party of big business!)

    * investigating causes of economic problems, finding troubling trends and possibilities

    * Former candidate, Hamilton East Stoney Creek, FCP, Public System Trustee, Ward 4

Links to other Interests.


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Updated Dec 2010