An attitude I keep encountering, an attitude which continues to baffle me is general resentment from non-Christians towards Christians. This generic resentment I have come to realize stems from perception on the part of non-Christians, that Christians believe they only are capable of ‘goodness’, ‘uprightness’, or using terminology of ancient Greek philosophers, only they are capable of ‘right living’.
Before I delve into a rebuttal of the notion that Christian ecumenism belies the belief only Christians are capable of right living, it is important first and foremost to acknowledge Christians can at times seem to suggest only those who believe in Jesus Christ are capable of right living. I dare say, however, that such seeming suggestions emanate not from intention, but from miscommunication or misinterpretation.
The first mea culpa I provide relates to ubiquity of the following cultural code (Honor for Parents), and five civil codes all over the world, which are, Do Not Steal; Do not Commit Adultery; Do not Murder; Do Not Bear False Witness; Do Not Covet Your Neighbors Spouse or Property. The oldest record of outlined civil laws resides in the Decalogue provided Moses by the Christian God, this while He, the Christian God still was known only as the Jewish God, Jehovah or YHWH. All of this, thousands of years before advent of Jesus Christ.
If the Christian God really is a God of love, love demands He would not give to Jews commands no one has capacity for obeying. In the giving of enumerated six laws to Jews thousands of years before advent of Christ, the Christian God declares that in absence of Jesus’ Sacrifice and Resurrection, man possesses capacity for morality. In presence of the public declaration, clearly it is erroneous for those who believe in same God — Christians — to declare incapacity of all non-Christians at living up to moral codes of behavior.
That being said, do we in fact observe men or women within society who struggle with the moral code? Absolutely. If men and women did not have tendency for breaking of the moral code, the moral code probably never would have been instituted. When Christians refer to man’s incapacity for living up to the moral code, what they in reality refer to is the historical and sadly ubiquitous stylized fact that there exist ‘sometimes large’, ‘sometimes small’ chunks of society who struggle with living up to the moral code.
As instituted in civil laws of society can you confidently assert that capacity for living in consonance with the moral code is getting easier?
While there exists men and women who struggle with living up to the moral code, there simultaneously exist men and women who exercise willpower, moral rectitude, and inner strength for living up to moral codes of behavior. In so far as living up to the moral code is concerned, this men it would seem have no need for Jesus Christ.
Until he commenced persecution of Christians, and found himself assenting to murder merely out of anger at being insulted, the Apostle Paul thought himself a man who possessed capacity for living up to the moral code by force of willpower, moral rectitude, or inner fortitude. In his heart, Paul who then went by name Saul, realized that based on the ‘eye for an eye’ Jewish principle, the Christian preacher Stephen was not deserving of death, at best was deserving of an insult in response to a perceived slight. Using the standard of justice prior to advent of Jesus Christ, Paul knew deep within his heart, his assent to stoning of Stephen to death was wrong.
It perhaps was guilt at his failing to live up to non-committing of murder that prepared Saul’s heart for conversion to Jesus Christ.
But if his conscience was condemning him, why was Saul on his way to Damascus for hauling off of Christians to jail?
Well, Saul was doing what most people do whenever their consciences begin to speak. For quieting of the conscience, with intention the conscience realizes the person in question believes his or her actions to be right, Saul intensified his wrong course of action.
Quieting of a conscience via persistence in wrong courses of action never is evidence for rightness of decisions, actions, or behavior.
But does the person who possesses the willpower, moral rectitude, or inner forte for moral living have any need for Jesus?
If a person possesses capacity for living up to the moral code, can any case be made for relevance of Jesus Christ, or is Jesus only for the morally weak, for people who fail at morality like Saul who became Paul, or Apostle Peter who attempted to murder the servant of a High Priest because His Teacher was about to be arrested?
Consider the following illustrations. When White people settled in America, truth be told, commercial interests led to mistreating of American Indians. Note, however, that same commercial interests sometimes made loans to American Settlers, created artificial roadblocks for ensuring loans could not be repaid, repossessed said land after many years of payments for nothing, all of this so they could resell the land to companies building railroads for much larger sums of money.
Well, what do you know. American Indians griped about being mistreated by the White man. But guess what? The dominant American Indian Tribes, tribes such as the Apache, had themselves for many years mistreated smaller, less warlike American Indian tribes, driving them off of their tribal lands and securing such lands for themselves. We find then that while American Indians resented their mistreatment at hands of the White man, whenever they themselves had been in position to mistreat others in the past, they always had found justification for such actions.
Consider African Americans. Upon freedom from slavery, some African Americans chose to relocate to Africa. Most of these freed men and women ended up in what now are countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Guess what happened when they arrived at these locations? They subjugated the indigenous tribes, took their lands, made it difficult for their children to secure Western Education. While the savagery of the notorious dictator of Liberia — Samuel Doe — whose defeat and death at hands of insurgents cannot be justified, the savage treatment of settlers by this indigenous native man cannot be dissociated from anger induced by decades of domination by settling African Americans. We find then that African Americans leave America because they are not treated right, arrive in Africa, do exactly what they felt was not right that was done to them by others.
I could go on and on, but communist revolutions in either of Russia or China, the French Revolution, and fights for Independence the world over all have produced exactly the same outcome, which is, new sets of oppressors for the rest of society.
Why then does the man possessing of willpower, moral rectitude, and inner strength for moral behavior require Jesus Christ?
On the path to self actualization, groups consisting of men and women have developed capacity for justification of any trampling of rights of others considered necessary for attainment of self actualization.
When it comes to self actualization, man it would seem suffers from naturally occurring cognitive dissonance. Enter Jesus offering washing in His blood and receipt of His Spirit as solution to demonstrated evidence of naturally occurring and ubiquitous cognitive dissonance.
Most people see Jesus mostly as a personal Savior. This of course is true. The teachings and life of Jesus Christ are most relevant, however, in context of relations between leaders and the people they lead. In the command to His disciples that leaders are appointed for ensuring welfare of people entrusted to their care, as opposed to exploitation, Jesus decries all efforts at self actualization that trample on rights of others who themselves have equal right to self actualization and determination — the very essence of America’s Declaration of Independence.
Jesus instituted democratic principles before ever there was any real democracy anywhere in the world. American democracy is built on foundation of Jesus’ teachings.
You personally may not need Jesus for morality. You perhaps could argue you do not need Jesus for ensuring you do not give in to mistreatment of others — never mind the fact that your propensity for mistreatment of others hinges on naturally occurring clouding of perception of quality of your actions.
What you never can get away with, however, is the argument that your society as a whole can do without mediating effects of Jesus’ teachings for ensuring of an egalitarian and just society.
The empirical evidence shows very clearly that absent implementation of Jesus’ teachings, every revolution induces dystopian endings, endings that at times are worse than outcomes that subsisted under overthrown regimes. Just ask Ukrainians how they fared after overthrow of the Czars.
Even now, American democracy continues to be under threat from those who seek to turn America into a hedonistic, as opposed to a ‘human faced capitalist economy’. Without teachings of Jesus Christ, there exists little if any effective ammunition — philosophy, principles — for fighting off said hedonists.
But how then to acquire power domiciled in teachings of Jesus Christ in conjunction with repudiation of same man? Can water be pure (uniqueness and practical value of life and teachings of Jesus Christ for building of egalitarian societies), yet be brackish at the same time (falsity of claims to Saviorhood)?
While the civilization that was Constantinople eventually deviated from it’s origins, it is objective evidence of attainments that are possible whenever society functions on basis of principles of Jesus Christ. While all of the Western Roman Empire lay in darkness of superstition between about 325 and 1350 AD, Constantinople, which explicitly operated on Christian principles as center of the Eastern Roman Empire was a beacon of light to the entire world. Regardless of foundation of Christian principles, Constantinople was welcoming to strangers. Russian Orthodox Christianity originated from interactions between Constantinople and Russians. Arabs traveled to Constantinople for sharpening of their mathematical skills.
If society is to benefit from Jesus’ teachings, secular interpretations of Jesus’ teachings must become important cornerstones of relations between leaders and followers, must become integral components of how leaders of both governments and corporations are evaluated. In presence of such rubrics, it will become ever more clear that capacity for ‘goodness’, ‘uprightness’, or ‘right living’ cannot be construed to be preserve of ‘goody two shoes’ Christians.