adversarial self-righteousness

((What I’m about to describe happens not all the time, but enough to notice it…))

Christians are not only against things, we are also for things.  (Indeed, for everything you are for, you are therefore against anything that hinders what you are for!)  Nonetheless, because of the Christian conviction that the Creator is for wise, loving, creative order in the cration, for two-millenia, Christians have been against all manner of things they see in the world, which they see as falling short of the order that God designs and desires to be brought to bear upon the creation: violence, slavery, abortion, unjust pay for workers, various kinds of sexual behaviour (sex with those who are: too related [incest], too young [paedophilia], too similar in bodily sex [homosexuality], not willing [rape], etc.), cruelty to animals, pollution, anarchy (and it’s equal opposite evil, oppressive dictatorships), greed, sloth, etc., etc.

In the old back-and-forth between the Church and State (‘the World’), there have been two main areas of BOTH disagreement AND agreement:

a) ethics: what is right and wrong (i.e. what we should be for, and therefore also against)

b) politics: how to wisely govern and order society (including how to promote/legislate in ways that promote this)

Sometimes the Church & State agree happily, and ‘religion in public’ is not a problem to most.  Other times, the clash drives people to try to force religion into private life.  And it’s different in different times.  William Wilberforce fought the slave trade against much opposition.  Now both Church and State oppose it happily.  Church opposition to drunkenness is often met with groans against self-righteousness, etc.  Recently (certainly in NZ as seen in various mainstream media), however, ‘problem’ or ‘binge’ drinking has a level of opposition that is very high.  Sometimes it goes the other way.  The list of times, places and issues could go on.

My main observation here is that it is not only the Christians who (at times) look down their nose at ‘the World’ in self-righteous moral superiority.  The ‘world’ often repays them in kind.  Whatever one’s views on sexuality and marriage are, it is not hard to see, at present, a posture of more-moral-than-thou, more-modern-and-progressive-than-thou directed from (much of) ‘the world’ to (most of) the Church.  Whether it is Facebook interaction or a survey of MPs, there is a ‘name and shame’ methodology that seeks to identify and villainise anyone who disagrees with popular cultural leanings on this topic.

This posture of adversarial self-righteousness, whether in Christians or otherwise,never helps when it comes to a) discussing an issue, or b) making a difference in society.  ‘Nuff said.

10 thoughts on “adversarial self-righteousness”

  1. Can’t help feeling, Dale, the whole point of this post lies in your claim: “there is a ‘name and shame’ methodology that seeks to identify and villainise anyone who disagrees with popular cultural leanings on this topic.” (Whatever the topic is that cocerns you – its not clear).

    Perhaps you should accept that often those who disagree with “popular cultural leanings” are actually morally wrong. After all, just look at how these “popular cultural leanings” have andvanced so much on issues like slavery, racial and sexual discrimination, rights for women, religious and political freedoms, etc. On the whole we are making progress – or most of us are.

    I must also take issue with your rosey depiction of the stand Christians have taken over the years. Surely you are aware that on issues like “violence, slavery, abortion, unjust pay for workers, various kinds of sexual behaviour (sex with those who are: too related [incest], too young [paedophilia], too similar in bodily sex [homosexuality], not willing [rape], etc.), cruelty to animals, pollution, anarchy (and it’s equal opposite evil, oppressive dictatorships), greed, sloth, etc., etc.” Christians have been on both sides of the issue. In fact for quite a while leading Christians were strongly in favour of slavery, raciusm, apartheid, discrimination against women and homosexuals.

    And finally, the Church-State contrast misses the largest part of the popluation. Today we can see a number of disputes where spokemen for the “Church” agree on one side – and on the other there is a whole raft of people – Chrsitians, believers, non-believers, other relgions, no religions. United around secular (of this world) issues against a church heirachy concerned basically on things they admit are not of this world (not secular).

    And in such cases people are pretty clued up on who is being “self-righteous.” Perhaps you are choosing to interpret peoiple’s rejection of a medieval morality as “self-rightous” when the people themselves are more concerned about human rights and dignity.

  2. Hi Ken,
    I certainly didn’t mean to imply that Christians (like all people) haven’t been, as you say, ‘on both sides’ of various issues, and have – at times – been guilty of homophobia, racism, apartheid, etc. These are so publicised (often without acknowledging the other side of the coin) that I felt it acceptable (and not misleading) to give positive examples.

    But I must say, that your “we are making progress – well most of us…” tone (and the quip about ‘medieval morality’), does sound to my ears as an example of the posture I refer to in the post.

  3. This posture of adversarial self-righteousness, whether in Christians or otherwise,never helps when it comes to a) discussing an issue, or b) making a difference in society. ’Nuff said.

    This is why I think the self-righteous notion of an existing objective morality that some are more ‘in touch with’ than others is not only unlikely but abhorrent. The idea that humanity as a whole has been moving closer and closer to moral ‘perfection’… until my lifetime… where now humanity is slipping away from this perfection and only me and my friends and family who think like me are the ones attempting to hold onto the moral yardstick with one hand, whilst trying to hold onto the slipping humanity with your other hand..

    It just makes me chuckle.

    Seriously, isn’t it more likely that things we consider moral, we only consider to be moral because of the society we’ve been raised in? And that society has only held on to the morals it’s raised you with in order to sustain such goals as longevity, happiness, prosperity, peace, acceptance, etc. ??

    If you ask me, true moral discussions can only occur when both parties are prepared to listen out to the other party’s reasoning and possibly take on board the others reasoning at the end of discussion. This can’t happen when/if one party always comes into a discussion believing with certainty that they have access to some sort of objective moral code that they need share with the other ignorant party..

  4. I detect plenty of anti-church tone in your comments too, Ryan. As I said to Ken, I’m hardly arguing that Christians have ever been free of a ‘from on high’ posture of self-righteousness. We’ve been pretty good at that. But in this post I’m simply observing that people outside Christian faith can repay the favour. Indeed, in my experience, entering discussions “believing with certainty that they have access to some sort of objective moral code that they need share with the other ignorant party..” has also characterised those criticising Christian views; except it’s perhaps “certainty that morality is subjective and that they need to convince the other ignorant party of this”. Same posture though. That’s all I’m saying with this post. So I say an Amen to both (or more) parties being “prepared to listen out to the other party’s reasoning and possibly take on board the others reasoning at the end of discussion.”.

  5. Dale, this is why I said

    Ryan: If you ask me, true moral discussions can only occur when both parties are prepared to listen out to the other party’s reasoning and possibly take on board the others reasoning at the end of discussion. This can’t happen when/if one party always comes into a discussion believing with certainty that they have access to some sort of objective moral code that they need share with the other ignorant party..

    Of course if we were talking about objective vs. subjective morality there would be a different approach. But when it’s a moral discussion such as the topical homosexuality stuff – it seems futile to me to enter said discussion knowing you and your objective moral code are right.

  6. Besides, Dale – you know morality is subjective. It’s on your little values, goals and ethics chart you made – under things that come from or exist in the mind (subjective) ;D

  7. I don’t need to convince you at all :D.

    P.S. And you know I’m not anti-church. I love church.

  8. Well ryan, the impression I have is that there is often just as, uch dogmatism directed at christians as there is from them.

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