Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sin, Outrage, and Making Sense

I'm not sure why so many folks act as if we need to be angry to care about something.

I've seen the attitude in folks who blame religion for the world's woes, and in others who verbally lambast just about everyone who doesn't worship the way they do.

It might be fun to rant about stuff I don't like, and folks whose actions annoy or offend me: at first.

I've indulged in (self-)righteous indignation now and then, and try to avoid doing so. I've found that in the long run it doesn't accomplish much except feed my anger.

That doesn't mean that pretending everything is fine is a good idea. Truthfulness is a virtue, hypocrisy is a really bad idea, and I'm getting a bit off-topic. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2468)

Not Letting Friends Drive Drunk

Noticing that someone's action is wrong is okay. Sometimes it's important.

The old 'friends don't let friends drive drunk' slogan may have saved lives. It's a good idea.

Labeling someone a useless drunkard, maybe not so much. Making a lifestyle out of kvetching, definitely a bad idea.

We're not supposed to be arrogant or self-righteous. We're not supposed to be stupid, either.
"1 2 'Stop judging, that you may not be judged.

"For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you."
(Matthew 7:1-2)

"1 Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. 2 For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things. ... There is no partiality with God."
(Romans 2:1-11)

A footnote to Matthew 7 points out that Jesus isn't telling us to avoid getting lumber stuck in our eyes. The idea is that being arrogant and judgmental is not good.
"2 [1] This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, which would be hardly compatible with ⇒ Matthew 7:5, 6 but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one's own faults."
(Matthew 7, footnote 1, footnote 2)
That seem clear enough.

Getting Even, Getting Smart

"Anger" can mean an emotion, or an act of will: something I decide to do. Emotions happen. They're part of being human. They're not good or bad, what we decide to do about them is what makes a difference. (Catechism, 1762-1770)
"ANGER: An emotion which is not in itself wrong, but which, when it is not controlled by reason or hardens into resentment and hate, becomes one of the seven capital sins. Christ taught that anger is an offense against the fifth commandment (1765, 1866, 2262)."
(Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church)
The sort of anger that's a desire to get revenge is a bad idea. I'm not even allowed to hurl insults. That last part is something I still need to work on. (Matthew 5:22; Catechism, 2302)

Besides the sort of psychological damage we've been (re)discovering in recent generations, taking revenge is butting into God's business: and a really, really bad idea.

God is good, God is merciful, but God can play hardball.
"Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' Rather, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.' Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good."
(Romans 12:19-21)

"We know the one who said: 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay,' and again: 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
(Hebrews 10:30, 31)

"The vengeful will suffer the LORD'S vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Should a man nourish anger against his fellows and expect healing from the LORD? Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows, yet seek pardon for his own sins? If he who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?"
(Sirach 28:1-5)

My Life, My Choice

Having free will, being able to decide what we do, is great. But responsibility comes with that power. I can 'decide' my way out of Heaven, which is why I may seem diffident about denouncing 'those sinners over there.'
"...although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God."
(Catechism, 1861)
So: what's the worst that can happen if I decide to hold on to a grudge, or opt into some other mortal sin? God won't throw me into Hell: but I could jump in.

If I tell God 'thanks but no thanks' to love and charity, and walk away, that's my choice: a stupid choice, but mine.

On the whole I think deciding to clean up my act, telling God I'm sorry, and asking to be taken back in, seems prudent.
"...If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it [mortal sin] causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, ... our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back...."
(Catechism, 1861)
The good news is that repentence is possible as long as I'm alive, and that's another topic.

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