Tag Archives: philosophy

saved by faith

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. — Reinhold Niehubr

Reinhold Niebuhr has long been one of my favorite theologians. He was a true religious leader. His intellectual power and capacity to realistically deal with the social issues of his day ranks him among the ablest of philosophers, as well. He was a Christian idealist that demonstrated the essential spirit of Christianity.

Through his early experience as a pastor for thirteen years in Detroit, Niebuhr developed his own interpretation of Christianity. He came to understand that the true meaning of the gospel was in direct conflict with most of the customs and attitudes of contemporary society.

Niebuhr finally reached the conclusion that the church cannot save a person’s soul without addressing the kind of life they live in the world. That’s when the Christian gospel became a social gospel for him.

And what is so compelling for me about Niebuhr is that he fully understood that Christianity could not be allowed to be seen only as vague generalities.

That the ministry is particularly tempted to the self-deceptions which afflict the moral life of Christians today is obvious. If it is dangerous to entertain great moral ideals without attempting to realize them in life, it is even more perilous to proclaim them in abstract terms without bringing them into juxtaposition with the specific social and moral issues of the day.

But, as shown by the opening quote, even Niehubr’s passionate concern for Christianity to have a direct and practical impact of the economic and social issues of his day never displaced his deep and essential religious faith. That’s the power of Christian idealism.

what does it mean?

Pardon me for waxing a little philosophical, but the weather, the recent burial of yet another old year, and nice crackling fire in the fireplace all conspire to force some thoughtfulness.

If after all, men cannot always make history have a meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one. 

This quote by the French Nobel Prize winning author, journalist and philosopher, Albert Camus ( 7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960) is one that perfectly fits into my wheelhouse these days. I sometimes have real difficulty in seeing meaning, at least significant meaning, especially in contemporary history.

Camus tells me that’s o.k. I don’t need to fret. I cannot be held responsible for making history have meaning. However, what I can do, and indeed, should do, is to live every day so that my own life has meaning.

I guess I’m satisfied with that. If every one would do that we might even make history have a meaning, and wouldn’t that be a grand thing?

 

taking the bone away from a dog

People who love soft words and hate iniquity forget this, that reform consists in taking the bone away from a dog. Philosophy will not do this. — John Jay Chapman

There are times when I have to remind myself that I need to take a deep breath and move more slowly. But, then there are other times when my frustration at the lack of of caring and compassion I see around me almost drives me into despair.

Nowhere is this more true than in the church. Platitudes and prayers for the poor and oppressed flow from our lips in unending streams as long as we are well hidden behind our stained-glass fences. But once we go through the gate into the street all we can say is “good doggie.”

All of us daily pass by the big dogs cracking the bones of the poor. It’s not as if we don’t see the iniquity that crushes the oppressed in our midst. But, soft, smooth words whispered in a sanctuary are both safe and respectable. Attempting to take that bone away might mean stitches.

The hungry will never get fed, the poor will never get justice, until we care enough, until we love enough, to start taking the bones away from the dogs. When will we be faithful enough that we hunger more for justice than respectability? When will our love for each other trump our love for safety and ease? When will the headlines finally read “Man Takes Bone Away From Dog”?

justly accountable

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was an English philosopher and political economist. He was an influential contributor to both social and political theory. He wrote that:

A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.

If we agree with Mill’s statement then it follows that we must hold ourselves just accountable for the death of another 25,000 of our human family who we allowed to die in the past 24 hours due to our inaction. We know we can end hunger in our lifetime, yet we allow it to continue causing untold evil and unnecessary suffering on the poor and hungry.

When will we align our actions with our professions of faith? When will our lifestyles begin to match the lip service we give to being moral and caring people?

 

if it doesn’t bleed…

What is newsworthy? It’s far more than a philosophical question for me.

I took Journalism 101 before the turn of the century, and I have been working with journalists and reporters most of my adult life. I am also always actively seeking publicity for the various nonprofit organizations I work with and of which I am a part. I am comfortable with the media. I know a little about what is news and what isn’t.

One of the first adages we were taught in my journalism class was that “if it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead.” Some things never change.

Every since the collapse last month of the garment factory in Bangladesh, the news of this particular tragedy has been close to  continuous. It is newsworthy. Over 1125 people lost their lives. That is definitely news.

What bothers me is that the media coverage of that singular event continues after almost a full month. Over 1125 people died in a tragic accident. That’s news. I understand that.

But, during this media feeding frenzy and shark-like ripping at the carcass of that story, over 25,000 of our family have been needlessly dying from hunger related causes every single day. That’s over 750,000 unnecessary deaths in the month since the Bangladesh building collapse. Yet, I can find no coverage of these deaths.

Where is the media coverage for the victims of hunger? Why isn’t the unnecessary deaths of these innocents newsworthy?

“If it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead.” Maybe the victims of hunger are dying too quietly. They just need to bleed more.  Or maybe the world just doesn’t give a damn about the poorest of the poor. It’s obvious that the media doesn’t. The hungry just are not newsworthy, even in death.

If we ever get serious about ending the moral obscenity of hunger in a world of plenty this will have to change.

 

 

 

too much talkin’ and not enough doing (part 2)

As I was thinking about my last post, too much talkin’ and not enough doing, I remembered a quote by the noted Jewish theologian and philosopher, Martin Buber. Buber wrote:

The greater the crisis becomes, the more earnest and consciously responsible is the knowledge demanded of us for although what is demanded is a deed, only the deed which is born of knowledge will help to overcome the crisis.

We definitely need more action on behalf of the poor and hungry. But, as Buber pointedly reminds us, those deeds must be informed by knowledge. In order to achieve a world without hunger in our lifetime we need the best information available on which to base a solid and responsible course of action.”Francis Bacon wrote, “For knowledge, too, is in itself power.”

That power of solid knowledge is what we need to create a global movement committed to ending the horror of 25,000 of our human family dying daily from hunger in the midst of a world of plenty.