Indifference, The Unacknowledged Immorality
Personal messiahship, that is, responsibility for others according to our ability to assume such, is the basic message of the hero myth and the fundamental message of Jesus. Self sacrifice for the good of others is not only humane; it is a necessary component of a healthy spiritual life.
Jesus said as much when he stated:
When the son of man comes in his glory and all his Angels with him, he will sit in state on his throne, with all the nations gathered before him. He will separate men into two groups, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, "You have my Father's blessings; come, enter and possess the kingdom that has been ready for you since the world was made. For when I was hungry, you gave me food; when thirsty, you gave me drink; when I was a stranger you took me into your home, when naked you clothed me; when I was ill you came to my help, when in prison you visited me." then the righteous will reply, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and fed you, or thirsty and gave you drink, a stranger and took you home, or naked and clothed you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and come to visit you? And the king will answer, "I tell you this: anything you did for one of my brothers here, however humble, you did for me."
Jesus went on in this statement to proclaim that those who did not do these things were condemned to the fires of hell - and that is INDIFFERENCE! Indifference becomes immoral when we ignore or neglect the sufferings of others when we are in a position to help, aid, or eliminate the cause of such suffering.
Too often, people consider sin as a breaking of some law of God. What religion fails to recognize is that other people suffer and hurt due to our human neglect, which responsibly theologically speaking, is every bit as immoral as other harms we might inflict upon others.
There is no disputing the words of Jesus above, and in that same chapter he declares that the entrance to heaven (defined here as: spiritual fulfillment) is only achieved by going beyond the expected. It was not enough for the ten virgins to take their lamps - it required that they think about the situation and prepare beyond the minimum (Matthew 25: 1-13). Returning the masters money safe and sound was not enough for the unwise servant - the useless servant was banished from the masters household because he did not utilize the coins to add to the masters wealth (Matthew 25:14-30). The theology that Jesus was preaching here, went far beyond the almost complacent theology of avoidance so common today.
Theological concepts often expressed today imply that charity; compassion and concern are not expected to be part of God's Kingdom. While it is true that churches are often advocating good works, they most often emphasize that to be a good Christian only requires a minimum of faith and compliance with religious duties. Religiously speaking these are enough to make one moral in the eyes of God according to many religious belief structures. Self-sacrifice, compassion, and (religious) humanism are reserved for the saints and anointed.
But these ideals are like the "Ten
Virgins" or the "Unwise Servant" where each did the minimum
of what was expected, and in the parables of Jesus, this was insufficient to
Many of today's religious concepts are totally
alien to the theology of Jesus himself. The kingdom of God,
be it here or in another state of being, is not about the minimum or the average.
And Jesus is not alone in his ideals; the
concepts of self-sacrifice are present in the universal myths from the Odyssey,
to the legends of the
Of all the immorality that is preached and emphasized, indifference is the greatest for it consumes our societies and theology pays so little attention to it. Paul talks about the great virtues of faith hope and love with the greatest being love, one might say that the opposite of these are greed, hypocrisy and indifference - indifference being our greatest antithesis of love.
The Psychiatrist and author Scott Peck tells us:
If an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love. There are no exceptions.
(The Roadless Traveled, p120, ã 1978)
And in another work called "People of the Lie", he tells us:
Evil is also that which kills spirit. (p42, ã 1983)
These descriptions are applicable religiously as well as psychologically. Indifference "kills the spirit" because it makes us incapable of love, for how can one reach out in love if they choose to ignore the plights of those who need it most?
Human indifference, in terms of morality, takes on three main forms. The first is ignorance, the second is denial, and the third is projection.
Ignorance is not of itself immoral nor does it necessarily lead to the immorality of indifference. But too often, ignorance does become a problem because the individual chooses to remain ignorant about so many of the problems of others that they might be in a position to help solve. If we look to the archetypes of myth, and the teachings of Jesus, we see that true morality requires a commitment of body, mind and spirit. Religion often leads us down a path that tells us that learning about the scripture, or the life Jesus, or church teachings are what brings us closer to God. But what would bring us closer than any of these things (all which take great effort), would be an enlightenment about the needs of others, with an effort to do something to address those needs in accordance with our means to do so.
Denial is more serious because we are aware of those needs of others but choose to ignore them for a variety of reasons. People often tell themselves that they have problems far greater, or, they can't do anything about another's concern. The truth is that most of us are in constant denial because the social/economic problems of the world bombard us everyday and consume so much of our attention. That is why it is imperative that in this age of self-absorption, that theology and the religions based upon it, affirm the spiritual need of contributing to the needs of creation according to our ability to do so. It is imperative that religions provide a balance for our self-consumed world by reminding us: that to separate one's self from the community of creation is to separate one's self from God and the loving experiences His diversity offers us.
Projection is the most serious problem we have in our spiritual evolution. It involves everything from our indifference to our refusal to accept personal responsibility for so many things, which ultimately do become our responsibility. One of the most common projections is to lie the misfortune of an individual upon the individual. For example, we might accuse a poor person of being poor because they are lazy, or don't want to work. And while that sometimes may be somewhat true, it is more likely that a poor person will remain poor and disadvantaged even if they choose to work because there is an exploiting element in our free market structure. Projection also takes the form of passing the buck - "I can't do anything about that", or, "Someone else will take care of that". And again, while such may be founded in truth, far too often it becomes an excuse which excludes our involvement.
Our present religious attitudes feed the latter example of projection. Our theological ideas have us dependent upon Jesus as salvation, God as the solver of human problems through miracles, and prayer and miracles as the end all of human misery. But it is noteworthy to point out that so many of humanity's problems do not stem from God's natural order, but from our human social/economic systems which God neither created or ordained. Can anyone say that God makes people poor and hungry? Does God start wars? Does God lie, steal and cheat? Did not God provide her resources to all Her creation? Too often, religious teachings have us looking to God to clean up the mess that was created by humans and this projection is simply counterproductive.
Yet, Jesus taught differently. His idea of
"picking up our cross", each in our own way, is in direct
contradiction to the external salvation doctrines. It is a moral imperative in
his idea of the
The theology of Jesus was to build a living
In terms of the teachings of the Gospels, it is an absolute failure of Christian Theology that so many people in this world have insufficient food, clothing, and shelter - that so many people need medicines, which are often deprived to those who cannot afford them - that rich prosperous nations exploit Third World workers to produce greater profit-making goods - that so many Christians can see a Divinity in Christ, but remain blind to Jesus' humanity and the teaching and example of caring he set!
True religious and theological responsibility need to go beyond soup kitchens, poor boxes, and clothing drives which so often merely pacify one's conscience about peoples' needs. While these things help, too often, they become a Band-Aid on a bleeding wound that needs major surgery. They allow one to boast about their contributions, while the same human failures continue from one generation to the next. The sheer need of people and the suffering they endure, requires that any responsible faith work toward offering concrete solutions to real social problems. That it is the role of religion to encourage through its example and teaching, that people can seek the Kingdom of God in the here and now - by eliminating poverty, bigotry, oppression, exploitation, greed, hypocrisy, inequality, and the indifference which feeds this evil creating a cancer in the ideals of Jesus. Religion can only be about God when it is about people - when it is about creation! Anything more leads to delusion and anything less leads to hypocrisy.
It is the role of a responsible theology to educate believers and make them aware of human misery in the community as well as the world. It is not by understanding God's Nature, nor Her Being, that will bring joy to the soul; rather, it is our awareness of what we can contribute to the creation and the benefit of others that will accomplish this. This is much more of a moral imperative than teaching and interpreting scripture. A religion based upon such theological assumptions will work together toward eliminating such problems that exist, according to their means to do so. And if any church wants to be really responsible to the teachings of Jesus, human need will be the priority of that church, surpassing belief, worship or any sacred place or work!
Jesus told us, "What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?" We might paraphrase that in today's religious world by asking, "Of what value is all the theological knowledge ever written if it cannot effect the quality of human life in our world?" What have we gained in solving the problems of human misery with two thousand years of Christian theology? How can one possibly save their soul when so many of our religious concepts have little to do with the most important aspect of saving it?
In religious projection, we have literalized the Gospel of Jesus making him the savior through the redemption by his blood. But the fact is: this is not what he demonstrated, taught or said. What he showed and told us was to love one another, to take care of one another, and to comfort one another. He showed us how to do that and paid with his life. As we do these things for one another, no matter how lowly our state, we are actually doing these things unto God. The fundamental flaw of so much of the present Christian theology is that it places salvation outside the individual; whereas Jesus taught:
He called the crowd and said to them, "Listen to me, and understand this: a man is not defiled by what goes in to his mouth, but by what comes out of it."
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the
The metaphor of the first quote here is not
about food, it is that the external is not so
important as so many religions focus upon today, but rather, that what we feel
in the depths of our being will produce the outcome. The second quote is
clearer about spiritual fulfillment telling us that entry into the
If religion is to be responsible, and add
meaning to the reality of our world, it must stop feeding with its ideals the
indifference of their faithful. It must incorporate into its theology the
concept that we all contribute to one another's problems and the true
salvation, the true
These spiritual ideals contained in the hero myths and the teachings of Jesus - are all supported by the natural order that is a great testimony to the mind of the Creator. The wonderful miracle of the diversity of creation is that it thrives on the interdependency of that diversity. Every component of nature gives back something in return for what it takes. The success of life itself depends upon a delicate balance of giving and taking according to one's needs. All of creation serves its individual unique purpose, why should man be any different? Unlike the bees, the birds, insects or plants, we often have to make our own purpose, for this is the cost of intellect and free will.
And in the human species, we so often loose sight of the inequality, injustice, and intolerance that so often creates hardship on others as well as the environment. There are many that take far beyond their need while great masses live in human misery.
Jesus also addressed this issue, proclaiming:
Jesus Looked round at the disciples and said to them, "How
hard it will be for the wealthy to enter the
*repeated in Matthew 19:23
The reason for this is that wealth often blinds
ones to the plights of others. But more importantly, it feeds our ability to
take in a manner, whereby, we could never give back enough to balance what
often goes so far beyond needs. In a sense, Jesus was saying that those who
have been given much are much more accountable to this ideal of personal
messiah ship. They have so much more to give and so many treasures in life that
they become blinded to their true responsibility in the
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
And as if this were not bad enough, to often wealth is accumulated at the expense or exploitation of someone or something else.
The ideal expressed there is the essential element in achieving spiritual growth: that our contribution is in direct proportion to our ability to contribute; and, the more we as human beings have bestowed upon us, the more we are expected to contribute.
And from a psychological standpoint, the personal messiah ship ideal is a sound one. It calls for individuals to help make life better for others, and in doing that, others make life better for the individual.
Human beings can accomplish mighty feats when they are focused collectively on any problem - modern technology is a shining example of this. And while our minds have evolved, our spiritual understanding is as naïve as that of our ancient ancestors. The rudimentary problems of humanity are as existent today as they were thousands of years ago; despite, the spiritual tools God has provided. Poverty, inequality, greed, indifference, oppression, bigotry, hatred, conquest, persecution, lies and deceit are all alive and well in the masses of humanity. Instead of seeing the value of being motivated by love and self-sacrifice, we are faced with societies focused on personal gain and wealth. In the majority of cases, human advancement is not the goal, but how much can one make for their contribution. To often, our human ideals are based upon "what does it get me"; instead of, "what am I giving back for what I receive?
It is the psychology of this latter ideal that makes the actual theology of Jesus so great a contribution to our world. Christian theology with its redemptive doctrines, endless interpretations of the scriptures, complex moral codes, worship of words, emphasis on faith and its role in salvation: has led us down a road where we have lost sight of the simple message of Jesus, as well as the other great masters who realized that far too often human beings make unimportant things, important; and important things get ignored. Jesus once again says it nicely:
This people pay me lip service, but their hearts are far from me; their worship of me is in vain, FOR THEY TEACH AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.
While responsible theology would move forward to give relevant meaning to life, for ours as well as future, generations, it must really return to the basic and the simple messages of the holy sages who have gone before us. Bottom line is, seen as a whole the Bible is not a complex or mysterious work at all; it is a book that tells us life is a struggle and we need to do our part to ease that struggle for as many as we can. It tells us that free will has a cost, and that love is what gives us our sharing in the nature of God. Jesus demonstrated that until we transcend our human selfishness we are doomed to be separated from God - no matter what we profess to believe! We must always keep in mind that the priests of Jesus' time thought they were doing God's work and were His handpicked servants. But Jesus says differently in Matthew 23, in Luke 20: 45-47, in Mark 7:6-13, in Mark 20:45-47 and the entire Gospel of John where spirituality is ultimately measured in one's ability to express love!
What is ultimately immoral is that which offends the spirit of God's love within us and at some level such is always relative. But in our approach to be moral people, we can never forget or neglect the concept that INACTION can be a greater immorality than any of our actions!
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