Thursday, May 07, 2009

Crisis (Elevator Version)

i used to think people were inherently capable of more good than they are. some recent experiences brought this to mind. i no longer believe in altruism. i think at some level, it all comes from a sense of self... some selfish notion is at play.

this isn't inherently evil nor is it inherently good. however, it usually leads to bad and if unchecked, even the seemingly good acts are bad.

does this come from original sin? no. it's how we're built. for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. so if God created and claimed creation was good, then there was an opposite reaction which was evil. or think of it this way, a big light casts a big shadow. same with humans, we are beings of light and shadow, it's just easier to cultivate the shadow side.

i think a big mistake would be to deny the inherent evil that exists in humans but it's also another mistake to say the inherent good is not there either. people put bullets into other humans and they also jump in front of bullets for one another too. to say that this is because someone ate a fruit or talked to a snake is craziness. it's a mistake to think about why there is evil in the world or that there ever was a perfect earth. there is and has always been suffering. it's how you respond to it that counts.


Tit for Tat said...

Firstly I think you have to remember that many things that are Good and Bad are culturally bound. So your definition(American) would be very different then lets say a Canadian. ;)

You Bad(evil)capitalist infidel.

Anonymous said...

Word verification: gracce (lol)

I agree with you on this version of theology - it's realistic. I think we are 'self' ish in some senses - but we learn to cultivate that into sharing that experience with others (love). We are bound by our personal being (self) - but we are not prisoners to it. Good and evil can come from us at anytime and we need to know that - as personal self-awareness.

I don't like the idea of original sin and how it corrupts everything - people that hold that view can also come to this viewpoint you share. Maybe self is the problem and religion is there to help curb our appetites.

RJ said...

a few thoughts, my man: 1)when I was doing community organizer, a key idea was that there is a difference between selflessness - ineffective - selfishness - cruel -and self-interest. Most western christians identify selflessness with Jesus and there begins the problem because combating evil involves self-interest.

2)one of my dearest profs said, "until a clergyperson comes to grips with what gaps they can tolerate re: suffering and god they really don't have to say or do in a local church of hurting people who are trying to understand why?" working through/into your understanding of where god is amidst the real pain and evil is essential to my mind. So who are you reading and thinking about this with? No one theologian gets it all...

3) Douglas John Hall writes some very helpful things for me re: alienation and sin in his trilogy; the shorter version - The Cross in Our Context - is very helpful, too. His book on suffering isn't deep enough.

This is important to wrestle through; I know there are times when people live beyond even their self-interest to promote the common good in ways that I can only understand as God inspired... and that is another piece of the puzzle for me.

Keep me posted. Perhaps we can wrestle with this more.

Yael said...

Without their yetzer hara, evil inclination, no one would get out of bed, work, have children, the world would come to a stand still. (Talmudic teaching)

That doesn't mean we give it free reign, but it serves a useful purpose as well. I've seen too many people sitting around doing absolutely nothing to make the world better because they think they have to eliminate their evil inclination before they can do anything good. Kind of amusing to realize...what they see as so good, trying to cleanse their souls of impurity, is actually all about self....

Paul Maurice Martin said...

I think you're right. The overall picture is gray - people are capable of doing great good and also great harm.

Luke said...

T4T: I make a piss-poor capitalist infidel, i'm a socialist at best, communist-anarachist at worst. i'm working to shed the capitalist ideal but my wife is helping with that, she don't buy sh$t! but we both agree with some tenants of capitalism... so we're a mess over here! maybe we should move north... but we'll wait until that global warming we started gets rid of all the snow.

SVS, Yael, and PMM: all good insights and i think y'all get where i'm come'n from/heading to. people are largely selfish, but this can be used equally for both good and evil.

Luke said...

@RJ: great thoughts, i'm with you here. i think i've considered the depths of human suffering and something new pops up and the depths get deeper.. i'm slowly realize'n that they could be bottomless. but also the potential for good is limitless as well.

i've read a ton for doctrine, church history and for my church and human sciences. dudes like Reinhold Niebuhr, Heidi Neumark, and a book called "UnChristian" and a movie called "The Day After Trinity" as awakened me to well-meaning, intellectual and rational people doing horrible things.

any further book suggestions would be great!