In a recent post, I discussed how it is the issue with society is not absence of a unifying code of morality, but the fact that in presence of desire for self actualization, people tend to rationalize violations of others’ rights to self same actualization.
What I did not articulate in that post is how exactly it is a person can violate others’ rights to self actualization, yet not violate the moral code.
For ease of development, let us agree that the moral code consists of the following laws, which already are incorporated into civil law, namely, Do Not Steal; Do not Commit Adultery (while no longer criminal in many Western countries, still can induce civil penalties in context of divorce); Do not Murder; Do Not Bear False Witness; Do Not Covet Your Neighbors’ Spouse or Property.
Consider my illustration about how, prior to arrival of the ‘White Man’, dominant American Indian tribes, such as the Apache mistreated smaller less warlike tribes. So then, one tribal group invades another. The other group chooses to fight, loses. Now all of the losing tribe becomes eligible for ‘spoils of war’, becomes candidate for war booty. One truth becomes overarching for the victor, which is, we won, you lost. Now the victorious tribe assures itself it can take without stealing, can take without coveting, can take without committing murder, can take others’ wives without committing adultery. By waging war against a weaker tribe, a weaker tribe within which people treated each other right, a weaker tribe which had done nothing malicious to the victorious tribe, the victorious tribe assures itself it’s actions conform with, do not merely attempt to circumvent the moral code.
War against people groups within which people treat each other right, people groups who have done nothing malicious to an attacking group, seemingly enables circumvention of the moral code.
Consider my illustration of settling of freed African Americans in what now are known as countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia, both domiciled in continent of Africa. Well, new settlers needed land, needed to build a new life, needed to acquire property, wealth, infrastructure, needed to develop their culture. What then did the settlers do? They took whatever they needed, however they felt it could be taken because guess what, they had need, and they reasoned there would be plenty left after their needs would have been met.
Settlers who are more powerful than indigenous inhabitants always can justify ‘taking’ as morally justifiable, as consistent with the moral code. Always the justification leads to attempts at taking just about everything that can be taken.
With the preceding two illustrations in mind, and with all of our institution of the moral code, we find it still is relatively easy for people to find justification for ‘taking’ of what already belongs to others. This then is the heart of the matter, which is, regardless of the moral code, whenever men and women have become more powerful than others, they have perfected the art of justifying within their minds taking of what belongs to others.
Consider that the slave trade was predicated on the fact that the White Man had guns, Africans — spears, bows, arrows, and swords. Guns were superior. The White Man won. Enter the slave trade, which robbed many Africans of all of their dignity. Men enslaving other men merely because they had guns.
The White Man did not enslave Africans because he was of superior intellect. The White Man enslaved Africans because he applied his intellect to becoming more powerful. The White Man enslaved Africans because he had guns.
It was not Bible thumping that led to the slave trade, it was guns. Without guns, the White Man would not have needed an excuse for his actions. The Christian God — who Himself is Love — had nothing whatsoever to do with it all.
Self actualization is about becoming who we desire to be in life — great mother, great father, great scientist, great soccer player etc. Morality does not help us become, it merely ensures we have a good conscience on our way to becoming. It ensures we do not look over our shoulder wondering if someone we intentionally mistreated is out to get us. Even if those we mistreat do not come after us, there is the notion of God as ultimate arbiter of justice. This is value of morality plain and simple — when we are moral, we can place a claim on society for justice.
When one person takes from another what that other needs for dignity of life, he or she takes away another’s opportunities for self actualization. It is important that there is renewed push for the recognition that it is wrong to attempt to take away others’ opportunities for self actualization.
Illustrations of importance of maintenance of others’ rights to self actualization were enshrined in Jewish law (for references see bottom of page).
First, if a man pledged his outer garment as collateral for a loan, the outer garment had to be returned to him every night for ensuring he could sleep warmly at night. Well then, if you lent out money and accepted outer garments as pledge, you essentially became your debtor’s slave — every night you had to show up at his door to return his outer garment. Equilibrium outcome: no Jew would take a man’s outer garments as pledge for a loan. Every Jew no matter how poor could at the very least sleep warmly at night.
Suppose a Jew fell on hard times, could not work his own land anymore, pledged himself to a neighbor as employee. After 6 years serving as an employee, the Jewish civil code demanded the man in question be released from being an employee, with release accompanied by accumulated profit sharing and stock bonuses amassed over the 6 years of service. The law explicitly stated the severance payout had to take account of how much profit and wealth the neighbor boss accumulated over course of those 6 years. Stock option grants for motivating or rewarding management and employees? The God of the Jews, Father of Jesus Christ was way ahead of the curve.
Finally, within the Jewish code, every 7 years debts were wiped clean. Anyone owing money had opportunity for a clean start, had opportunity for getting their lives back.
What do each of the three foregoing illustrations demonstrate? They show a man who loves does not think in “thou shall not”; rather he thinks in “what can I do today to demonstrate love?” Love asks “what can I do to make someone’s life better?” not “what can I avoid doing today that lets my conscience keep me feeling good about myself?”
Love embeds morality. Love implies moral man. Moral man does not imply a person who believes in and practices love. Self interest is sufficient for inducement of morality.
It is because morality so easily can be sidestepped that Christianity is not about morality. Given man has perfected the art of justification for taking whenever he or she is more powerful, Jesus came to preach not ‘do not’, but ‘what to do’ — active demonstration of love for others.
Faith in Jesus Christ is about knowing ‘what to do’ not ‘what not to do’. Knowing what to do precludes doing of what not to do. Knowing what not to do does not necessarily implying knowing of what to do.
Faith in Jesus Christ encompasses, yet transcends ‘do nots’. Morality (do nots) do not encompass ‘all of the dos’ implied by faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ and His Father care that no one be left in situations within which while they continue to yearn for self actualization, self actualization becomes impossible.
For a true son of God, morality is the tip of the iceberg, not even worth discussing. Its like opening a PhD Class in Physics at MIT by discussing the basic High School formulation of Newton’s First Law of Motion. Morality? A true son of God is way past morality. He or she is thinking about, meditating about, asking questions about, and making efforts towards becoming like God, like Jesus Christ. He focuses his energies on figuring out what to be doing, not what not to be doing. Ruling out 8 things you know you ought not to do does not necessarily improve your chances of figuring out 1 of 2 things you ought to be doing.
Christian faith is about being proactive in love, being proactive as to what is good or right, not an exercise in moral avoidance.
When we love actively, we never will be able to justify taking everything that can be taken, all because we seek self actualization. Love desires self actualization, but recognizes and respects others’ rights to self actualization. It is not that love does not compete in life, rather it is the case that love does not believe in “winner takes all.” Love does not believe that just because it has earned an MBA from a prestigious university, a person whose qualifications only are good enough for custodial services ought not to make enough for a decent living. Love recognizes that if a service is needed in society, and persons with commensurate qualifications are willing to provide the service, they ought to earn a living wage from performance of the service in context of a job. Love recognizes that winning the race for promotion does not justify meanness to the person who lost out, does not justify humiliation of the other, does not justify a plot for facilitation of an unanticipated exit from the company.
Morality is important, is a safeguard of society, but is powerless at pricking of the conscience sufficiently enough for preventing those more powerful within society from violation of others’ rights to and opportunities for self actualization.
Love — kindness, patience, gentleness, willingness to work cooperatively within teams, absence of pride, unwillingness to behave in a manner that trifles others etc. — transcends morality, is a sufficiently powerful force for pricking of the conscience, for mitigation of tendency of the powerful to violate others’ rights to and opportunities for self actualization.
This post uses some material taken from a response of mine to a Medium reader/author on December 9, 2017.
Outer Garments Illustration: Deuteronomy 24:10–13
Illustration Relating to Profit Bonuses and Sharing: Ibid: 15:12–15
Canceling of Debts: Ibid: 15:1