Friday, October 06, 2006

A collage of ideas for Friday

I have no words of my own to offer just now. The ideas that are swirling through my head and heart defy synthesis into anything coherent. I am full of shreds of thought about the nature of God's presence and the meaning of Christian community (personal and church issues), trolley problems and unconscious famous violinists (these from my Christian ethics class), and how we are supposed to live out our calling to be followers of Jesus Christ (a combination of both of the above, I suppose). What does it mean to be good?

In place of my words, I offer instead a few snippets from other sources that I've been thinking about:

Let there always be quiet, dark churches in which people can take refuge ... houses of God filled with his silent presence. There, even when they do not know how to pray, at least they can be still and breathe easily.

Thomas Merton

For if we wish to dwell in the tent of that kingdom,
we must run to it by good deeds
or we shall never reach it.

But let us ask the Lord, with the Prophet,
"Lord, who shall dwell in Your tent,
or who shall rest upon Your holy mountain" (Ps. 14:1)?

After this question, brothers and sisters,
let us listen to the Lord
as He answers and shows us the way to that tent, saying,
"The one Who walks without stain and practices justice;
who speaks truth from his heart;
who has not used his tongue for deceit;
who has done no evil to his neighbor;
who has given no place to slander against his neighbor."

Prologue, The Rule of St. Benedict

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

The Catholic tradition is unified in its belief in God's active and intimate care for the world and each person in it, and in our own correlative obligations to care for those who are in need--preventing unjustified harm, alleviating pain, protecting and nourishing the well-being of individuals and the wider society. There are deep roots in the Catholic tradition that anchor a commitment to the most poor, the most marginalized, the most ill; and that in doing so sustain a commitment to human equality in its most basic sense.

Margaret A. Farley

Consequentialism may be described as that moral theory which holds that from the fact that some state of affairs ought to be it follows that we ought to do whatever is necessary to bring about that state of affairs. And, although teleological theories of morality are very ancient, consequentialism as a full-blown moral theory is traceable largely to Bentham and Mill in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. To remember this is instructive, since it is not implausible to suggest that such a moral theory would be most persuasive when Christendom had, in large measure, ceased to be Christian Those who know themselves as creatures--not Creator--will recognize limits even upon their obligation to do good. As creatures we are to do all the good we can, but this means all the good we "morally can"--all the good we can do within certain limits. It may be that the Creator ought to do whatever is necessary to bring about the state affairs which ought to be, but we stand under no such godlike imperative.
Our responsibilities (as creatures) are limited--that the responsibility for achieving certain results has been taken out of our hands (or, better, never given us in the first place).

Gilbert Meilaender

We have in fact to distinguish between two kinds of Samaritan: the Good Samaritan and the Minimally Decent Samaritan. ... After telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus said "God, and do thou likewise." Perhaps he meant that we are morally required to act as the Good Samaritan did. Perhaps he was urging people to do more than is morally required of them. At all events it seems plain that it was not morally required of any of the thirty-eight that he rush out to give direct assistance at the risk of his own life ... I have been arguing that no person is morally required to make large sacrifices to sustain the life of another who has no right to demand them, and this even where the sacrifices to not include life itself; we are not morally required to be Good Samaritans or anyway Very Good Samaritans to one another.

Judith Jarvis Thompson

(In fairness I've taken these last two quotes out of context; Meilaender was talking about euthanasia and Thompson about abortion, but I find them even more interesting to think about away from those significantly charged issues. Out of context I find it difficult to agree with them; in context ... well, that's a subject for another day.)


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