Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On Character....

Character is described by one's attitudes, as well as one's actions, as character reflects conviction and commitment. This is a simplistic view that doesn't take into account any dimension of psychological science. It is as if humans are two demensional beings, while the world is know to be multi-deminsional. It could be termed the "human" "flat-landers.

This is where I believe that Christians are amiss.

Character is not one definitive way of being in the world, otherwise, there would not be various commitments and convictions. One's values do not necessarily determine how one will behave within their value system. Free societies allow individual the liberty, in fact, protect the right of the individual , as this is the classical definition of liberalism.

Authoritarian structures were never meant to be sanctioned within our form of government, as coercion is not the terminology of liberty or justice. All of us are equal under law, as the law in no respector of persons. And Christians, as well as non-Christians, are "not above the law".

Today, we have those in places of power who take advantage of their power for their own purposes, while diminishing their responsibility and accountability to 'we, the people". This is the formula for depotism. And it was not what the Founder's intended when they sought to make a "more perfect union".

A person of character chooses his course of action based upon his highest ideals, or principles. This cannot be defined by religious texts, unless one wants to limit religious freedom and conscience.

Politics does not allow principle when needs are immanant. Politics is a pragmatic science. Is a senator to 'vote no" on legislation that will be the death knell to his particular state, while understanding that the needs in his state are not as immanant as another? Survival of the fittest defines appropriately the political realm. Politics demands attention and decisions to be made with compromise and negotiation, so that something can get accomplished. Politics is "dirty business". Those who hold high ideals will be sorely disappointed if they think that anyone can survive in a climate of partisanship and individual competition, where money and power speak.

Sometimes it is the 'little guy" who can maintain his character, without compromising his principle, because he doesn't have to represent many and diverse voices in our country. He is held up to be the "ideal in virtuous character". This is the traditional "position" of the Christian, the peasant class, where they submitted unto death for the sake of the principle of peace.

The principle of peace should never further tyrannical means, to peaceful ends. Tyranny demands resistance, because otherwise, tyranny will win over all, until there is only one standing. Egoism is necessary for a balance of power and the little guy must not give in to tyranny in any shape or form.

Character is as much about the strength of resolve, as it is about the quiet and submissive. Christians tend to define their terms on the anceint texts that had ancient social situations that are not to be promoted today.

Sometimes character cannot be willed, as there are other intervening factors that must be considered. Last night I watched a program on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. These are psychological illnesses that impact a person's ability to have control over their emotions or behavior. No one should fault another for a "lack of character" when stressors or illness is the real culprit.

Christians so often have a two dimensional view on the world. And those that don't see in "black and white" are doomed to be labelled as a "liberal", a "heretic", "not a Christian", "unbeliever", "reprobate", "morally stupid", "unrighteouss", "an infidel", etc.

Character is much more about how one handles oneself in a civil society, than it is about a definitive way of believing or behaving. Is one kind, considerate, polite, etc. These are qualities that are applauded across the spectrum of belief systems. One wonders, then what is the importance of the belief system?

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