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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 152                                         Days Blogged: 136 

New Mileage: 3                                                          Total Trip Mileage: 1049

The Don't Tread Rule!

As I ride the bike tonight I find myself thinking about the “Golden Rule.”  In western society it is most common presented as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden rule, in its various forms, is a feature of all of the major world religions.  I also know numerous atheists who embrace the rule, by choice not as a dictate by the divine, they are very moral and socially conscious people.  I have come across a number of social and spiritual world movements that propose using the golden rule as the basis or core principle to bring the diverse peoples of the world together.  As a youth I always figured that the golden rule was without question the best approach to take when dealing with people different from ourselves. When in doubt, follow the golden rule!

However, as I moved out into the world I grew more and more puzzled by the fact that we as individuals, communities and nations often perpetuated behaviors towards others that I would not want to experience myself.  I observed times when people in need, were excluded from aid because “they didn’t deserve our help.”  I observed (as recently as the Iraq War) and read in our history of times when we started and visited war on people and cultures (e.g., the Native Americans), because “it was us or them” or “it was our destiny” or “it was God’s will.”  I personally had doors slammed in my face because of my religion (something I was born into).  I stood by and watched as white cops talked about “our niggers” and sat in a sauna as old white men talk about “sending in the Klan to burn them out.”  I remember watching as white residents of non-flooded suburbs of New Orleans blocked the roads and turned back other citizens who were attempting to flee the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

What man has visited upon man!

I came to realize that the golden rule was clearly an ideal, but one that many individuals, groups, communities and nations failed to achieve, and in some cases seemed to not even attempt.  In addition, I found it fascinating and disturbing that I would at times find people who insisted they were following the golden rule even when it seemed apparent to me that their efforts (the “do unto others” part) was creating suffering and distress in those on the receiving end of the behavior.

Rockwell had the right idea!

I believe this “distortion” of the golden rule occurs in part because of a potential short coming within the rule itself.  The rule comes in two general forms.  The positive form which in general states: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  While the negative form in general states: “Do not do unto others that which you would not want done to you.”  This second form is sometimes called the “Silver Rule.” 

Studying both of these forms we see that each has what can be called the Behavioral Command Component (do unto others or do not do) as well as a second Evaluative Component (you would have them do or you would not want done).  It is with this second component that a potentially destructive distortion can take place. For one needs to evaluate what behavior or actions is desired and wanted, however, both forms use an evaluation of needs and desires of the person initiating the behavior not the person receiving the behavior. This was highlighted for me during a discussion with a devote Christian who was commenting on his church’s effort to “bring Christ’s message” to the tribes of Southern India.  I asked if it was possible if these people were happy with their existing faith and that the missionary efforts might be upsetting a delicate balance in such locations. I asked him if it would not be better to follow the golden rule as we might find it disturbing if Hindu missionaries began showing up in our communities with requests that we abandon our long held beliefs. His response was: “Oh No, if I was a Godless heathen I would want to be saved.”

This leads me to what some people have called the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others that which they themselves desire.”  This rule presents us with a significant challenge, for to follow it we must listen and inquire about the other’s needs, and suppress our desire to tell them what it is that they need. This rule still contains the same Behavioral Command Component; however the Evaluative Component focuses on the needs of the receiver not the giver. 

It is my understanding that Christ and Buddha did not tell us to “go forth and do for others those things that make us feel good.”  I believe that both great teachers, and many other teachers, wanted us to address the needs of the needy not our well meaning but often egotistical needs.  I’m reminded of a sense of sadness I experienced as I listened to a missionary tell a crowd that his efforts had saved a quarter million South African souls during the summer.  Then he added: “We can’t feed them, we can’t give them jobs, we can’t offer them protection, but we saved their souls!” His statement was met with “Amen” and praise. I’m sure many of the people who were saved were thankful, but what about all those other needs.   Do you think if they were given a choice,  would “being saved”  be their top choice?  But then again, who are they to know what they really needed?

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  108                                                 Days Blogged: 97

New Mileage: 10                                                               Total Trip Mileage: 807

Haiti needs Solar Powered Bibles!

As I ride the bike this morning I find myself pondering the significance of two recent news stories.  One is associated with the tragic suffering in Haiti and the other involving A South Carolina politician. A recent story reported that a Christian organization named Faith Comes by Hearing is in the process of raising $300,000 in order to ship what they call “proclaimers” to the people of Haiti.  These are not tents, or medical kits, or prepackaged meals, they are solar powered audio Bible in the language of the Haitian people. Mr. Jon Wilke, a group spokesman noted that the Haitian people will need the long-term hope and comfort that comes from knowing that God has not forgotten them. The second story concerned recent comments made by the lieutenant governor of the state of South Carolina.  Andre Bauer was speaking to the issue of government assistance to the poor when he made the following comment: “My grandmother was not an educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply.  They will reproduced, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that.”

I believe every person has a right to hold and express their opinions and that people have a right to spend their money where they feel there’s a need. However, in both of these cases it is my opinion, that these individuals are in fact displaying a profound shortsightedness and potentially dangerous bias. In particular, it presents me with a scary prospect that Mr. Bauer, who is the Lieutenant Governor and running for the office of Governor, could be making our laws and deciding who get our social service aid. As I think about these issues I recognize several assumption and premises that guide my personal expression of opinions.

 
 
 

Some consequences don't forgive or forget so easily!

First

, I strongly believe that we have a right to our opinions.  Part of the benefit of being in a democracy is this right to share, explore and listen to other people’s opinions.  Our system is based on the hope that this give and take of opinions will lead to well thought-out choices (laws and programs) based upon a consensus of opinion and objective facts.

Secondly, like the late Senator Monahan I believe “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own fact.”  Some people become confused when loudmouth radio talk show hosts present their opinions as if they were “God given truths.”  Shouting loudly and repeating something over and over does not make it “true.”  This behavior shows that it is YOUR strongly held opinion! I realize that Mr. Wilke and his group feels righteous and good about sending solar powered Bibles to the people of Haiti.  But I ask: Is this what these people need, will these “gifts” meet their most desperate needs? Does this gift have more to do with meeting the needs of the givers than the receivers?  In addition, the last time I checked isn’t Haiti already a Christian nation? But then perhaps it’s an issue of a form/substance analysis because Catholics may not be considered “true” Christians!  As to Mr. Bowers, he has a right to his opinion about what causes the high level of need among our country’s poorer citizens. I disagree with his assessment that feeding them, with the resulting breeding, is what accounts for their growing numbers.  Being a resident of Mr. Bauer’s home state I suspect  that a lack of jobs, drug problems, a dysfunctional education system and state leadership that promotes low wages and employer rights over workers rights/needs may play a more significant role in the growing numbers of our state’s poor.

The third point I’d like to make is that while you have a right to your opinion, you also have a responsibility to both acknowledge and accept that your spoken words have consequences!  I often find that talk show hosts, who get paid to “pontificate,” and some politicians, who can garner both attention and donations (e.g. “You lie!”) simply express loudly what they believe and then later they’ll either make a lukewarm apology (i.e., Mr. Bauer has insisting he wishes he had used a different metaphor and that he “didn’t intend to offend anyone.”), or they disavow any criticism as petty biased partisan politics. The Christian Bible group has every right to spend its money the way it wants, but how do you think the people of Haiti might feel when they receive solar powered Bibles instead of much needed food and shelter.  What’s the message to take away from this gift?  Will they see it as a joyful and heartfelt sharing of the word of God, or an example of a group that has ignored their obvious immediate needs and chosen to tell them what they “really” need?  As the people of Haiti bury their beloved Arch Archbishop and many of their priests and clergy is the humane and loving response to send in automated devices with the subtle message “leave your churches and join us?”

Don't my needs matter?

As I recall, in response to the great tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean, a TV program showed a group of Christian college students rebuilding shattered homes in southern Thailand.  It was wonderful to see these American youth pitching in to help those in desperate need.   Then the interviewer asked how they decided which houses to rebuild.  The response: “Oh, we rebuild the Christian homes!”  Again it is their right to send aid in the way they choose, but how do you think the other victims of this disaster, many of them Buddhist or Muslims felt as they watched this preferential treatment.  Do you think they rushed out to join the Christian church simply to get a new home?  Do you think this might have fueled an unsettling feeling of resentment at these foreign people who come in at a moment of great need and do “good work” in the name of their God, but only for “their people?”

Ask - Listen -and you will Understand their needs!

 Again everyone has a right to their opinion, just as I express my opinion in this blog.  But I challenge everyone to think through the consequences of their expressed opinions and actions.  Ask yourself, do my actions and opinions do more than simply meet my need to feel “good” and “self-righteous?” Do my actions and opinions have more far ranging consequences?  Do they meet other people needs, as they define them, or do my actions and opinions drive a wedge between communities, cultures and religions?  Think twice before you speak or act, once for yourself – through your needs, and once for the “others” – through their needs!

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