Class Warfare Blog

December 3, 2019

Simple and Impossible

I love it when things come together, in this case a PBS history of Hanukkah and a blog discussion of Christian ethics. Here, in a nutshell, is the core of the discussion of Christian ethics:

“The Bible says a lot of good things. Fundamentally, as Jesus says, the rule of law comes down to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Heartwarming, 100% a principle to live your life by, good job Bible (though it is bizarre to say that the Bible is its origin).”

I think this “law” is a classic exhortation of an impossible goal. Is it even possible to “Love your neighbor as yourself?” I think it is not. In the hierarchy of things we value, we place ourselves at the top (anybody who says otherwise is virtue signally or deluded or lying at the same time). This is because of a certain practical situation. You cannot serve, help, protect, etc. any of those you love if you die first. You must preserve yourself, so you can protect, etc. others you value. (Yes, it is that simple. Not even lemmings are lemmings.)

Under yourself, are your immediate family: your spouse, your children and then your extended family, your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. (We have names for these relationships for a reason.) Then, past that point there is your tribe and I use this term loosely as people see it differently. These are your extended in group, people you care about, at least theoretically. (Governments try mightily to extend your in group to the borders of the country … and no further (loyalty, patriotism, love for the Vaterland, etc.).

Biologically and socially, we have invested a great deal in making signals for who is and who isn’t in our in group. We have: language (people who didn’t speak Greek were called barbarians), hairstyles, hats and other articles of clothing (flag lapel pins, special underwear, shawls, religious uniforms, etc.), membership in certain groups (religions, churches, Knights of Columbus, Republican Party, etc.), and so on. So, if you are in conversation with someone and they interject “Praise the Lord,” you know who you are talking to.

Okay, so the PBS special? I found it fascinating how the memes of Hanukkah celebrations are supported, passed on to new generations, and used as a binder of Jewish society (which is what memes are for and why they are “transmitted” and survive). All of the ceremonies, special foods (latkes, yum!), songs, games, etc. involved in these festivities establish a common background for all of the people in their particular “in group.” This helps bond people into the group and helps to identify who is and isn’t in the group. (If you don’t know what a dreidel is, you ain’t in the in group.)

Which brings us full circle to Christian ethics. The admonition to “Love your neighbor as yourself” intended that neighbor to be someone in your in group. At that time “foreigners” just did not buy a place in your neighborhood and settle down. Jews lived with other Jews, so “Love your neighbor as yourself” actually means “Love your neighbor Jew as yourself.” It was not designed to include everyone. There was no point, especially in a group that is related genetically as Jews were. (The hostility directed at modern converts is a residue of this feeling. Those converts may be Jews, but they aren’t family.)

And, even when so limited, this admonition isn’t really possible. It was posited, possibly in good faith (no pun intended), as a standard that could not be met but could be strived for, a standard everyone fails at some times, and so it also bonds the in group. And it certainly wasn’t directed at “humanity.”

And, as an aside, the decrying of the secularization of the Christmas holiday (including the Fucking War on Christmas), is a bemoaning of the loss of any grip the Christian churches had on this “holy day.” Festivities were often centered in the church (when the church got over its opposition to the festivities all together) with nativity plays, special services, etc. Now, many don’t include the church in their plans art all. Thus Christians don’t have a powerful meme sharing program to identify with as the Jews have in their Hanukkah festivities. And they bemoan its loss.

8 Comments »

  1. Excellent post today sir. You may have noticed that when I say I try to treat all I come in contact with every day the way I want to be treated, I always say TRY. Some days that is very damn hard to do. We, as in any of us, may and often do wake up feeling like crap. Not easy being that ‘good person’ then.
    I agree that the idea does predate every religion we ever had. It IS impossible as well. I think you got it correct that it only extends to your extended family and tribe. Way too many asshats out there, even way back when. Now there are more than 7 Billion of us. No way any of us could be treating that many like we want to be treated. As you said, when I die, who takes over in my place? I suppose it will be the wifes’ oldest son. But, I’ll be dead so it won’t matter to me. Once again, it is all mind over matter. If I don’t mind, it don’t matter

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — December 3, 2019 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

    • “It is all mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” This is an excellent life philosophy! Words to live by.

      Happy holidays, my friend!

      On Tue, Dec 3, 2019 at 1:57 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — December 4, 2019 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

  2. Of love your neighbor as yourself, is indicative of the way they feel about themselves, the worthless sinner that needs saving.

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    Comment by jim- — December 9, 2019 @ 9:41 am | Reply

    • The Jews weren’t focused so much on salvation. They wanted obedience and compliance with the Law. The words put in Jesus’s mouth were that he was an observant Jew, introducing some modifications to the Law (some few mods). So, when Jesus pulls this quote straight out of the Jewish scripture, he is not announcing something new, he was just emphasizing that Jews need to take care of other Jews. I think the standard as written is unachievable and maybe it was intended that way. If it had been phrased “Love your neighbor as if they were your family.” would be more to the point, since that was what they were trying to do, make all Hebrews “part of the family.”

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — December 9, 2019 @ 9:48 am | Reply

      • Sure, but add in unintended consequences, I was beaten over religion as a child. That same lovely mindset is part of the imperative once you own the truth through faith. Now you must believe what I say and do what I tell you to do. This may not be the intent, but the outcome of monotheism. The reality is, reality is a unique individual perspective. THAT is the sinful nature of man—Thinking and observing the world on your own.

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        Comment by jim- — December 9, 2019 @ 9:55 am | Reply

        • Re “Now you must believe what I say and do what I tell you to do” This is, I believe, the whole point. The entire OT, which Jesus affirms, is all about obedience (and little else) which is at the core of all religions as social control mechanism to serve the elites (even if they are well-meaning elites doing what they do for “the people”). I cannot stomach the indoctrination of children (and I do not like children, per se). To hear of beatings on religious grounds makes me angry.

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — December 9, 2019 @ 10:52 am | Reply

          • Worse than the beatings was growing up watching it happen to my older brothers.

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            Comment by jim- — December 9, 2019 @ 10:55 am | Reply

            • I had, as did all kids it seemed, occasional spankings. I have never considered that child abuse. My partner, though, “saw the belt” and suffered as you did. She was also told that her grandparents, whom she loved, would have to burn in Hell because they were the wrong denomination of Christian. *That *I consider child abuse.

              On Mon, Dec 9, 2019 at 10:55 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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              Liked by 2 people

              Comment by Steve Ruis — December 9, 2019 @ 11:02 am | Reply


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