Monday, November 05, 2007

In Response to Which Guideline is Better

On, a thread was created discussing whether Confucious was ahead of Christ. The author made the argument that Confucious' Golden Rule was superior to Christ's "Love one another as I have loved you" because Christ encourages an external reference point (himself), whereas Confucious encourages an internal reference point. Here is my response:

If Jesus were god and loved us perfectly, then the saying, "Love one another as I have loved you," would be essentially saying, "Love one another with a perfect love even as I have demonstrated to you". I wouldn't have a problem with that if Jesus were capable of perfect love and demonstrated that. But, he did not in my opinion.

For the sake of brevity allow me to give just a few examples:

Matt 10:34-37: 34Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

35For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

36And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.

37He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matt 13:41-42: 41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The above examples do not demonstrate perfect love to me - maybe perfect sadism - but no where near perfect love and there are many more examples where these came from. Most everything that Jesus supposedly did that was nice involved using his supernatural powers, which example we can't follow because we don't have supernatural powers. About the only nice thing I think he supposedly did that did not involve supernateral abilities was that he forgave the woman taken in adultery and the people who killed him.

Anyway, as for the Golden Rule, I think in most situations it is good advice to follow, but there are times when it needs to be superceded. I believe a lot of problems in relationships happen because individuals treat their significant other the way they themselves would like to be treated instead of how the other person wants to be treated.

Example: Suppose Tom loves strawberry ice cream more than any other treat. He enjoys banana cream pie, but not nearly as much as strawberry ice cream. Ann loves banana cream pie more than any other treat. She wants to show Tom how much she loves him, so she does unto him the way she would like to be treated and gives him banana cream pie, which is a big sacrifice for her. She thinks Tom will be so grateful and appreciative. Tom recognizes that Ann is doing something nice for him, but is sort of disappointed, too. He thanks her, but not with the huge gratitude that she was expected and would have shown had she been getting what she was giving him. She is disappointed and frustrated. It would have been better for Ann to treat Tom the way he wanted to be treated instead of treating him the way she would like to be treated.

Real life examples might include a husband giving advice when the wife only wanted to be heard and did not want advice. The husband gave advice because that is what he wants when he shares his problems. Another example might be a wife trying to get a husband to talk about his bad day because that is how she would like to be treated, instead of giving him some space as he would like to be treated.

Futhermore, the Golden Rule causes problems in cross-cultural interactions in which treating someone from a different culture as you would normally treat someone from your own culture can be offensive.

Then, you also have people with odd tastes such as sadomasochists. Most people would not appreciate being treated by a sadomasochists the same way as they would like to be treated.

So, the Golden Rule isn't perfect either. In fact, I'd say that the injunction to love one another is superior to the Golden Rule, because if you truly love someone you will at least treat them as they would like to be treated and maybe even better in cases in which they want things that are not best for them. For example, many kids would like to be treated to fast food and junk food all the time, but if you love them, you will treat them better than they want to be treated.


Jonathan Blake said...

Interesting discussion about Confucius vs. Jesus.

If we take the words "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" too literally, then it leads to silly results like what you mentioned. I wish people would give me all their money, but it's not a good idea for me to literally give all my money away in the hopes that others will reciprocate.

I think the other verse "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39) helps to moderate the literalistic reading of Jesus' other expressions of the Golden Rule. It seems that this teaching was ignored in the discussion. The two verses taken together, the Christian version of the Golden Rule seems to be to treat each other with selfless love, a much more reasonable idea.

LifeOnaPlate said...

I have viewed the particular "sword" scriptures as referring to the fact that one should choose God above anything else, including family, even if it leads to family discord. Amicable relationships should be maintained if at all possible, but unfortunately this isn't always the case.

I also don't view Jesus' statement as braggadocio, or something he is pleased about, but is stating the lamentable truth.

Hüffenhardt said...

jonathan blake,
Yeah, I think you are right.

To each their own. I am actually glad that you interpret those verses in those ways. For me, there are far too many verses with these negative messages to give them such a benign interpretation.