Thursday, July 2, 2009

No Moralizing Here

Since no one has asked me why, being a minister, I didn't write about issues like morality and family values, I thought I'd ask myself, why don't you? My answer surprised me: I do write about them, and fairly often. Just not in the way people might think. For one thing, I don't like to moralize.

When I graduated from seminary I suffered from a vision problem: I tended to see things in blacks and whites. The truth is, I had a head full of mush, as Professor Kingsfield from The Paper Chase was fond of saying, and had no more idea how to relate to the real life concerns of people than my dog has about driving a car. Seeing him sitting in the driver's seat when I come out of a store, I have to wonder what he's not telling me. Let's put it this way, I didn't know much.

As time has gone on, I've learned people are frequently harder on thems
elves and each other than I could ever be. Judgment and self-recrimination come at a price and you can measure it by the amount of ibuprofen and antacid they consume. It's like dragging a huge invisible bag around and stuffing it full of blame, guilt, fault-finding, and God-knows-what-all. It weighs you down until sooner or later you're sick, depressed, angry, or lashing out and picking a fight with some poor schmuck on the highway.

It really doesn't do anyone any good to moralize at times like these: most of us have already done enough of it for ourselves. We may not be fully aware we're dragging a bag behind us, but we know something's not working. We may not understand how it affects us, but we know we're sick at heart. We may not realize how badly we'd like to turn loose of the damn thing, but we know we have to do something.


There may be some who feel it's their duty to shout at a person who's drowning, "You should have learned to swim!" but my inclination is throw them a life preserver and if they can't grab it, dive in and help. It's not that I'm morally pure or anything of the sort. It's just that I know what it's like to be in over your head because, like most people, I've been there. Moralizing when I was a young "preacher boy," as we were called, wa
s easier before I'd learned what it means to hurt.

So, family values? Sure. I've written about my father, a young bo
y and his mother, the delights of sunrise on my hayfield (photo), the warmth of new love, and the comfort found in the company of close friends. Those are what make for redemption, healing, and renewal. Since we're already good at filling the bag, I'd rather spend my time trying to figure out ways of making it bearable or better yet, letting it go.

(The Paper Chase by John J. Osborne, Jr.; photo by the author)

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