On Comments Of The Day Day, Comment Of The Day #1: “Ethics Observations On ‘Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman'”

hate fist

This is a Ryan Harkins Super Comment Of The Day, combining a series of his reflections on this prayer for racial hate. Here it is, inspired by “Ethics Observations On “Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman’” and a comment by Glenn Logan:

I wonder, if we had a poll, which of the following people would find more appealing? “Dear God, please help me to hate White people…” or: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, help me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” [Side note: though this prayers if often associated with St. Francis of Assisi, it is entirely absent from his writings. Its use can only be traced back to just before World War I.]

After spending a little more time reflecting on this incredible diatribe, I decided to take a step back and ask what it is about me that would lead to this. Now, I’m not necessarily claiming any direct personal responsibility for this terrible prayer, but my reflections do stem from Matthew 25:31-46. Have I seen you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and I did not minister to you?

Have I been indifferent to your struggles, since they are not mine? Have I been dismissive of your burdens, and perhaps even cast blame upon you? Did I sneer at your poverty, your drug addiction, your broken relationships, and say they were the just desserts of your poor choices? Have I stood at a distance and shrugged, because someone else would help, or if no one else did, the government would lavish plenitude upon you? Did I think that you were greedy for free money, and not feel the sting to your pride? Did I never feel the self-doubt and the hurt? Did I never extend a hand in genuine friendship, giving in to my own fears, rejecting you for your skin color before you could reject me for mine? If I showed you a smile, was it forced and hollow, because I cared more about not being called a racist than in offering you genuine happiness? Did I always demand you come to me asking, and never came without being asked? Was I the one who demanded you get a job before I’d respect you? Was I the one who belittled you for taking the opportunities offered you, without ever taking a moment to see if you were actually qualified? Did I ever stop to listen to you, to really listen to you, instead of lecturing at you?

This is not white guilt, but perhaps a bit of personal guilt at failing to walk side by side with someone who is hurting. Perhaps trying to walk alongside that person is not what they want, but am I so pusillanimous that I would not bear my heart to be wounded, that I would rather not risk pain in an effort to help another person?

I think this applies broadly. I think it is true that conservative economic theory is better than liberal theory, that it helps more people by increasing capital and opportunities all around. But the temptation for the conservatives is the same for the liberals. Correct me if I’m wrong, and I’m just spouting out my personal failings and shouldn’t indict others in my sins, but it seems that both the right and the left want to skip personally helping someone, and just let the monolithic, impersonal systems do the heavy lifting. If it isn’t letting the government distribute welfare to all those in need, then it is letting the economy generate the jobs that will then give people the opportunity to rise out of poverty.

Yes, I know there will be people who will unjustly hate with the fiercest hate imaginable, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. And there’s too much hate for anyone one person (save for the one person who proved his love for us by dying for us) to handle. But maybe there’s a great deal more hate than there needs to be because I didn’t do my small part to diffuse it.

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Blaming God For An Unfair Decision

"Yes, I agree, Patrick; I've been thinking the same thing. Paige needs to be playing field hockey. Let it be written. Let it be done."

“Yes, I agree, Patrick; I’ve been thinking the same thing. Maddy Paige needs to be playing field hockey. Let it be written. Let it be done.”

Maddy Paige is a 12-year-old girl from Locust Grove, Georgia who was the starting defensive tackle for her sixth grade football team at Strong Rock Christian School until the school’s head, Patrick Stuart, decided that the order of the universe depended on his implementing a new policy declaring that “Middle school girls play girls’ sports and middle school boys play boys’ sports.”

For all the benefits and wisdom a conservative approach to public policy can add to society’s progress, conservatives will always erode their credibility and trustworthiness by their tendency to stubbornly insist on unjust and arbitrary rules because “that’s just the way it’s always been.” This will be the impact of  conservative opposition to gay marriage, now officially shown to be futile by the Supreme Court’s DOMA rejection yesterday on Due Process and Equal Protection grounds under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, and it is the lesson to be harvested from Stuart’s fatuous move. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Atheist, the Graduation, and the Prayer”

Tgt, the Ethics Alarms resident atheist, backs graduating high school senior Damon Fowler, voting for “hero” rather than the jerk-in-training assessment of my original posts on the topic, to be found here and here.

“I think impeding the encroachment of religion into schools is important, especially when it is unpopular to do so. While Damon is not actually hurt from school backed prayer, some of the other listeners will be: anyone who gets the impression that the school and government back Christianity, anyone who feels they must believe to fit in.

“The danger in this prayer isn’t that Damon will be hurt or his rights violated. The danger is to the weaker people unwilling or unable to stand up against this behavior. The danger is to the children not yet graduated, that they will learn in an environment that sees a place for superstition and pandering at a ceremony that should be celebratory.”

More on “The Atheist, the Graduation, and the Prayer”

Damon Fowler, School Adminstrator-In-Training?

Either by design, bias, or because I was not sufficiently clear (always a distinct possibility), a lot of readers seem to have misunderstood the central principle in my post about Damon Fowler, the Louisiana high school senior who singled-handedly bluffed his school out of including a prayer in his graduation ceremonies. Let me clarify.

The post is only incidentally about atheism vs. religion. The ethical issue arose in that context, but it just as easily could have been raised in other circumstances. The ethical values involved here were prudence, tolerance, self-restraint, proportionality, consideration, generosity, and empathy. Fowler’s actions assumed that preventing what he believed was a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religious belief over another justified ignoring all of these. They don’t, and the same conclusion applies whether we are discussing a technical legal violation, a breaching of organizational rules, or personal misconduct.

Anyone who reads Ethics Alarms knows that I believe that the culture only becomes and stays ethical if all its participants accept the responsibility of flagging and, when necessary, condemning and stopping harmful societal conduct, as well as unethical personal conduct that will be toxic to society if it becomes the norm. Nevertheless, society becomes oppressive and intolerable if every single misstep, offense, violation, possible violation, arguable violation or mistaken judgment is cause for confrontation, conflict and policing, without regard for context and consequences. Indeed, much of the challenge in ethical analysis involves deciding what kind of misconduct matters, even once the question of whether something is misconduct has been settled. Continue reading

The Atheist, the Graduation, and the Prayer

Is an atheist high school student who single-handedly blocks his school from having a prayer at graduation a hero or a jerk?

Well, neither. He’s a high school student. But he’s growing up to be a jerk. Perhaps even… a fick!

Pray for him….no, wait. Scratch that.

Here’s the story in Damon Fowler’s own words:

 “My graduation from high school is this Friday. I live in the Bible Belt of the United States. The school was going to perform a prayer at graduation, but due to me sending the superintendent an email stating it was against Louisiana state law and that I would be forced to contact the ACLU if they ignored me, they ceased it. The school backed down, but that’s when the shitstorm rolled in. Everyone is trying to get it back in the ceremony now. I’m not worried about it, but everyone hates me… kind of worried about attending graduation now. It’s attracted more hostility than I thought.

  “My reasoning behind it is that it’s emotionally stressing on anyone who isn’t Christian. No one else wanted to stand up for their constitutional right of having freedom of and FROM religion. I was also hoping to encourage other atheists to come out and be heard. I’m one of maybe three atheists in this town that I currently know of. One of the others is afraid to come out of the (atheist) closet. Continue reading