Cross That Line

As I was reflecting about a couple of ‘heroes’ against oppression since yesterday [1] I pondered on the subject of boundaries. Now, boundaries are something that have been a subject of major concern of mine for quite some time [2]. Boundaries exist in areas as diverse as being able to keep from over-committing to projects to making sure that we send the appropriate signals to others about where they stand with us. The same qualities that lead someone to have the moral courage to stand bravely against great evil and motivate others towards positive social change against oppression can all too easily encourage people to stand up rebelliously against godly restraint and encourage people to follow their own subjective lusts and lose all sorts of moral discipline.

This is not an idle concern. We simply cannot trust our own subjective sense of boundaries. All of us have areas where we behave with the utmost of propriety and grace seemingly without effort. Likewise, we all have areas where we run roughshod over boundaries out of carelessness or compulsion. In those areas where we are by nature strong we will tend to be less understanding to those who are flagrant transgressors of those boundaries. Likewise, in those areas where we are flagrant transgressors we will see a strong need for mercy and a strong sense of identity for those who likewise struggle with similar boundaries. Either way, we are faced with the tension between mercy and judgment, between the ditch of being harsh and unloving and the ditch of being licentious and antinomian. Often, we are faced with different combinations of both.

And yet there is something praiseworthy for having the moral courage to stand against evil, even if we must temper that praise with an understanding that for others and for ourselves the same moral courage that would lead us to stand up against racism and hatred is the same sort of rebelliousness that would lead us to disregard the bonds of godly sexuality in marriage or other boundaries that seek to protect us from suffering and protect the vulnerable and innocent from exploitation. Our praise must take into account the fact that our subjective boundaries are inconsistent, that we are prone to double standards, and that we can easily praise the wrong qualities or fail to praise the right ones, because of our own biases.

After all, we are faced with a profound tension. Where does the authority for setting standards lie? If it is a subjective matter, then there is no just condemnation that people can make on any grounds, for anyone with the power possesses the right to do what they will, and no society can endure upon that standard. Likewise, if the majority of a society, or a particular elite group within society, has the authority to set the standards of society, then the membership of that elite or the vote of majorities invalidates the praise that we give to those who represent the marginalized and oppressed. If those who stand up for the lowly are to be praised, then clearly the legitimacy to decide moral standards does not belong with the oppressors who typically seek power in political and cultural institutions.

This presents us with a serious bind. If our subjective standards are inconsistent and contradictory, and if our desires to legitimize authority within institutions ends up leading us to inconsistent praise of those who rebel against the selfsame authorities that we seek to use to enact our own positivist agendas, then where can standards lie? It is only a transcendent moral standard that is outside of culture and time and personal bias that can present the sort of authority that we seek for praising right and condemning injustice. Yet those same standards condemn us even as they condemn others. We are all alike in the same boat, wrestling with the struggle to stand bravely against evil while working with all our might not to cross other lines. The wisdom and discernment to do this task successfully requires help from another place. Let us find that help.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/hope-is-our-four-letter-word/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/book-review-boundaries/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/book-review-related-by-chance-family-by-choice/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/a-crisis-of-gratitude-on-the-confluence-of-hanukkah-thanksgiving-and-predatory-commercialism/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/playing-to-your-weak-suit/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/go-instead-where-there-is-no-path-and-leave-a-trail/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/out-of-bounds/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/blurred-lines/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/when-art-and-science-collide/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/good-fences-make-good-neighbors/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/dont-cross-that-line/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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