Monday, November 15, 2010

Skating on thin ice: a parable

Imagine a pond.  Beside the pond is a sign that says 'Stay Off, Thin Ice.'  Now consider an individual who wants more than anything to skate on the ice.  Now imagine there are two individuals next to him.  One is a conservative.  One is a liberal.  The conservative says, "Don't do it.  If you do and fall through the ice, you're on your own.  Don't see why I should help.  You know better."

The liberal says, "If you feel compelled to do it, for whatever reason, go ahead.  Don't worry, we'll get you out somehow.  Even if others have to die to save you, or we have to deplete our accounts to build rescue equipment, it doesn't matter.  The important thing is doing what you are driven to do.  Follow your passions, your desires, above all things.  There is nothing that shouldn't be sacrificed in order for you to do what you want, or what you are compelled to do by your own desires."

And therein lies the problem.  Our modern division between liberal/conservative is one that has done little to help the average person.  After all, how many people look around today and say 'gee, things are better than they've ever been!'?  We've reached a point where most old values have been discarded, and we are encouraged to do what we want to do.  Despite our tendencies to be compassionate, we are given plenty of excuses to let people stew in their own juices.  And yet there is nothing out there to suggest we really are happier, better off, more fulfilled than ever before.

In fact, just the opposite.  Whether it's a pandemic of teenage suicides, unprecedented levels of drug dependency, or a genera malaise toward living, the indicators are that a vast sea of people in our nation are feeling left out, missing something, floundering in the wake of two ideological warships locked in mortal combat. 

The reason could be the extremes from which we are left to choose.  It shouldn't be 'do what you want, consequences be damned', not matter why you may want it.  Nor should it be 'everyone for themselves, if you screw up, you're on your own.'  A good, Christian, alternative should be, "Hey, don't skate on the thin ice.  No matter what, no matter why you want to.  Don't risk if.  It could be thin.  You could break through and die.  And others could be impacted by your decision.  But know this everyone else: sometimes humans in their weaknesses will sneak out and try the ice just because they are human.  When that happens, we should work together to do what we can and save them." 

In the same way, Jesus handled a situation many years ago on the streets of Jerusalem.  When a woman was dragged from the act of adultery and tossed at the feet of Jesus, the pundits of the day thought they had him where they wanted him.  She was caught in the act of adultery.  The Law of Moses makes it clear what must be done: death by stoning!  But Jesus would have none of it. Famously, and in the part everyone loves to quote, Jesus asks that the one among them who is without sin cast the first stone.  One by one the rocks, those rocks held in hand eager to do the throwing, begin to drop.  Realizing the degree of their own sins, they got the point.

Then Jesus walked over to the woman.  In another statement often quoted on shows like Oprah, and other post-modern venues, he asks her if there is anyone left to condemn her.  No doubt shaken, she looks around at the thinning crowd and realizes that all who were there ready to stone her to death have dispersed.  There is no one left.  Jesus then says, "Neither do I condemn you."  Now this is one of the favorite passages by those on the more liberal side of the tracks.  I've heard entire sermons centered around this line.  This is telling the skater, "Don't worry, no doubt you had to skate on the ice, it was beyond your control, it was you affirming your desires and passions. We would never, ever condemn or criticize you in any way for fulfilling your desires, no matter what the outcome." 

But Jesus doesn't merely say, "Neither do I condemn you."  He says, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."  It's that last part that is missing in our post-modern age.  Sure, the sometimes self righteous condemnation from the right, or worse, the Darwinian philosophy of everyone for himself, can sound as cold and callous as a mob with stones in hand ready to pounce.   But the other, that there is no condemnation which means there is no moral absolute, no truth beyond our right to fulfill our every desire, is no less flawed; no less disastrous, as the body count in the wake of the deplorable sexual revolution should more than attest. 

It is the combination.  The Christian faith says 'there is no condemnation, but go and sin no more.'  For there is sin, sin for which we will all be held accountable.  It is not 'skate if you want, everyone else can suffer to affirm your desires.'  Nor is it 'skate if you will, and if you fall through the ice, then screw you.'  It's 'don't skate, because you and others could be hurt.  But if you do, we'll do everything we can to save that you will never do such a thing again.'  Having that as the foundation of our modern value system could only help, given the disastrous legacy of the two fallacious choices with which we have been left in recent decades.


  1. I am right with you. Christians are in the end "Christians" no "Conservatives" or "librals" What should matter is "what would Jesus Do" not what would "Nancy Pelosi" or "Sara Palin" do. We need to look at what Jesus did and apply it to our lives today.

  2. LOL dee. I agree on all counts. It's time we realize that conservative is not the same as Christian. The same goes for liberal. That's the great thing about Catholicism, it doesn't try to be one or the other.

    Dave, I also agree that comments are not the easiest to do on this blog. I know your blog is new, but try some different ways to make it easier and you might get more commenting.

  3. Thanks for the kind words. I'll look into the comments. Speaking of looking into, I've been informed that a previous comment was up, but has sense been removed. I did not do it (that I'm aware of - though I admit I'm still getting used to the whole blog thing). It was from a reader who must be somewhat regular. If you want to repost, I'll try to make sure it stays up this time.


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