Rather than a single “big” topic, we’re going to take on a couple of different ideas in our conversation this week. We’re going to start with the issues raised in the above cartoon, the work of the always thought-provoking author and cartoonist Man Martin.
As the protagonist of the comic asks, why doesn’t Jesus teach us to pray to resist temptation, rather than to “lead me not”? Cartoon Jesus has an answer: “In my experience, the best way for folks to resist temptation is to avoid it.”
So what do you make of this point the cartoonist is trying to make? Are we so easily led astray that we need to avoid temptation? What’s your track record on this score? Are you more likely to give in to temptation, or resist it? And does this hold true for all kinds of temptations, or just, as one of our regular participants likes to as “capital-T” temptations?
There are all kinds of ways we could approach this. For example, this article from the website Core Christianity takes what looks to me like a fairly typical spiritual approach to the idea of resisting temptation. And this, from a health insurer, puts a decidedly secular, and health-focused, spin on the idea. But if you look closely, you might find that some of the recommendations are in fact quite similar.
Our second topic asks us to take a second look at the so-called Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated. It is much-reputed for being the most culturally universal ethical tenet in human history. Yet it has its shortcomings, says essayist and poet Maria Popova, as it mistakes the reality of the self for the only reality, taking one’s own wishes, desires, and longings as universal and presuming that the other shares those precisely — negating the sovereign reality of the other, negating the possibility that a very different person might want something very different done unto them.
Writing here, Popova suggests that “the remedy for this malady of selfing is to remember that there are infinitely many kinds of beautiful lives, each with its singular longings for and visions of beauty, goodness, and gladness.” Let’s talk about this critique of the Golden Rule. Do you agree with it? How could we rephrase it to take into account the uniqueness of the other? Does our human individuality present a challenge to treating others well? What might that be?
Join us for the conversation tomorrow evening, Tuesday April 25, beginning at 7pm at Casa Real in downtown Oxford.