Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My Christian Humanist Manifesto

The idea of Christian Humanism has been at the root of every lecture, reading, and discussion this semester, whether we were consciously aware of it or not. It has been an abstract concept to grasp, but the five main themes of Core 9 have helped to define the idea in more manageable terms. Through the themes of creation, sin and evil and Jesus’ humanity, resurrection and salvation, the process behind leading a Christian Humanist lifestyle reveals itself.

While going through my notes, I found a technical definition of Christian Humanism that we touched upon in the first class session. It said that Christian Humanism is a system of thought that studies humanity in relation to other humans, nature, and God and Jesus shows us what it means to be human.

In my opinion though, a simple and concise meaning of Christian Humanism was lectured to us within the first couple of weeks of the course. This is the notion that God is love. Dr. Ryan discussed this in his lecture and said that love is measured by activity and transforming power. If we do all things through God and in love, than we can confidently say that we are living a Christian Humanist lifestyle. Without both of these aspects, a key element for Christian Humanism is missing.

Indeed, when assessing the current situation of the world, I find it to be a world in need of compassion, love, and acceptance of all people without judgment. These needs are also, in my opinion, some of the key elements to living out a Christian Humanist lifestyle. Some of the values and traits I feel that a Christian Humanist needs to possess are that the person lives a Christ-centered life, performs selfless actions, and the end goal trying to be reached is a habit of acting according to God’s will. It is not enough to believe, because it would lead to an incomplete understanding of God’s love and our relationship with Him. “Faith without good works is like a seed without soil and water. It can not grow” (Reuter, 22 October 2003).

The Christian Notion of Justice that Reuter discussed should be the basis, for a Christian Humanist, of a pre-thematic self-awareness and sub conscious level of thinking. This notion states that the idea of charity is to love others because we love God” (Reuter, 29 October 2003). I feel that we are obligated to do this if we truly believe that humans are created in the image and likeness of God. If we believe this, then we must also believe that humans are worthy of respect and equality.

Creation in the Image of God

We were presented with the question of whether or not humans are essentially good and I firmly believe that in order to be created in the image of God, humans would have to be good since God is good. We are also created in the likeness of God, which instills in us an internal relationship and similarity to God and His ultimate goodness. Creation in the likeness of God gives us a background for right behavior or ethics but does not necessarily show how to achieve these goals.

While God created us in his divine image, He also gave humans the freedom to think and act without restriction. This way of thinking does not always lead to actions that are representative of God and His love.

“[O]ur human “nature” is to a great extent something which God has empowered us to freely imagine, create and shape” (Sachs 47). God has given us the ability to determine our own set of rules and ethics to live by, and we govern the world we inhabit with the restrictions of freedom that we have placed ourselves.

God places the responsibility on us to establish moral codes and rules that will benefit rather than restrain people from living freely. It is important that rules reflect the common good of the people so that the full potential of life may be reached. The Parliament of World Religions developed four principles based upon the general ideas of world religions. These four principles encourage a life that is wholly good and respective of all people and God:
1. Respect for life/non-violence
2. Deal honestly and fairly
3. Speak and act truthfully
4. Respect and love one another (Syllabus 19-22).

These four principles, which should be common sense, will help us to achieve “[a] just social and economic order, in which everyone has an equal chance to reach full potential as a human being” (Syllabus 16).

It is when we have developed a standard of living that fosters love and growth that we can find unlimited freedom. For biblical faith, freedom is the central characteristic of human nature. The essence of this freedom is the capacity and responsibility for self-determination in community with other persons and with God” (Sachs 47). Freedom does come with a certain amount of responsibility, and thus freedom can be affective at bringing us closer to God. While freedom is absolute within the mind, it can at times be hindered by external forces or people’s actions, of which some are inherently evil.


It is hard to imagine that God would create evil in order to challenge good. However, it is possible to think of sin and suffering as a challenge from a loving God because he did not maliciously set forth evil in the world to harm us. Rather, he created a world that creates natural actions, some of which contain natural evil. The processes of the world behave according to their natures and are acting within a world of order. Therefore, natural evil is the result of God creating the universe to behave in an ordered fashion (Reuter, 3 Sept. 2003).

The paradox of a loving God allowing suffering can be solved by acknowledging the difference between natural and moral evil. The only evil we as human beings can control is moral evil, as we chose to know of its existence when we were created. Moral evil is acting against all accordance with God’s will, whereas natural evil is the result of the world acting in its order.

Another way to justify evil in the world is to think of it as a challenge God has set before us to enlighten our path to salvation. In this justification, “[t]he world is seen, instead, as a place of ‘soul-making’ in which free beings, grappling with the tasks and challenges of their existence in a common environment, may become ‘children of God’ and ‘heirs of eternal life’” (Syllabus 47). The events of the Holocaust, while horrific and tragic, have served as a learning experience for the rest of the world of the abuse of power and desire to act as God. This forced evil upon innocents can be thought of as a test and a learning experience not only for the people who it directly affected but also for all of humanity now and in the future. If “[s]in is the failure to recognize certain boundaries to human power and knowledge” (Malone) then the Holocaust can serve as an example of the ultimate sin placed upon humanity.

If we believe that humans can perform evil actions, then it is hard to say that humans are essentially good. However, evil is a perversion rather than a necessity of our existence. (Reuter, 3 Sept. 2003) Other indulgences such as sex and materialistic living can distort our vision of reality but God chooses to forgive us through His grace, just as He can forgive evil as a perversion and distorted version of our reality that we feel remorse for.

While He knows that we are aware of conscious choices we make, but if we also make a conscious choice to seek reconciliation for our sins He will honor this request for forgiveness. It says in Genesis 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When we chose this, we chose a responsibility that God maybe had never intended for us, but also knew we could handle the consequences if we made that choice.

The Humanity of Jesus

The incarnation of Jesus accomplished three main things. When the Word became flesh it bridged the gap between God and His people, enhanced human dignity and gave humans a tactile leader and example for us to model our lives after. While Jesus lived an ordinary life among people, he accomplished extraordinary things by loving and accepting all people and sharing his life selflessly with them.

The Humanity of Jesus enhanced human dignity because God, the ultimate source of divinity chose to send a part of Himself down to earth to live among His people. This made part of what we are as humans divine, because He became an active member of humanity. As a member of this society, Jesus lived and acted as any other human. He also taught through parables, which reflected normal everyday life because he was fully human, but emphasized a divine message to the people.

It is important to emphasize the dual humanity and divinity of Jesus so that we may be able to not only relate to Him, but to respect Him as well. The emphasis on both of these aspects is what makes Jesus unique among prophets, because He was truly the Son of God and could promise us salvation and at the same time live among us and share in our struggles and suffering. To understand the possibility of this notion, understanding the pre-thematic and thematic self-knowledge of God is necessary. This is emphasized through an Ascending Christology. Because Christ experienced life on earth as a human, He was not always fully aware of His divinity and that he was the Word of God in flesh, though it influenced his choices that he made consciously. His thematic thought that occurred on a conscious level was his role as a teacher, healer, son, leader, friend, and prophet and these choices were made based upon his influence as the divine Son of God.

Jesus defines how we should structure our lives based upon his relationships and choices. Most importantly, He maintained a solid relationship with God through prayer and scripture, but He also shared a relationship with other people. Jesus emphasizes a concentration on humanity and God, not on material things or self-desires. Jesus lived and worked on earth with us, experiencing pain, and the evils of the world. His unconditional love drove him to selflessly abandon His human form so that we may in turn be saved, as He was (Johnson 69-70). His death and resurrection displayed the true power of a fully human and fully divine Christ to humanity.

The Resurrection of Jesus

The Resurrection of Jesus gave humanity hope for their future place in the Kingdom of God. It not only clarified and enforced the divinity of Jesus, but also showed humanity the fulfillment of a promise from God that we will indeed join Him in heaven after death. It also gave us an idea of how we will be, as complete and perfect versions of both our body and soul, glorified in Christ. “In fact, it [the resurrection] signaled the ‘end’ of history and the beginning of a new age” (Sachs 86). Before the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, there had not been a personal relationship between God and His people. After the resurrection, the door was opened to sharing in a loving and comfortable relationship with God.

The resurrection was the “culmination of God’s action ‘for us and for our salvation’” (Sachs 86). The resurrection signaled what would come, but also enforced that the Kingdom of God begins on earth, giving new meaning to living a life that is good and representative of the examples that Jesus taught.

The resurrection also enforces the necessity for the human body and that it is indeed necessary in order for the soul to thrive. “The empty tomb stands as a sign that this future fullness is not attained by shedding the body as worthless refuse. By virtue of God’s power, the whole of Jesus’ human life is saved and transformed” (Sachs 87). The body remains as a vessel for the glorified soul.

After death, Christ’s body, which becomes incorruptible, and soul are equally dependent upon each other. In other words, the Resurrection is the perfection of bodily life (Sachs 90).

The Resurrection symbolizes the end of Jesus’ existence in human form on earth, but serves as a reminder that we can all achieve this state of fulfillment if we live as Jesus did. The Resurrection affirms sacredness of the material world and of Jesus as the savoir of all the natural world (McFarland, 10 Nov. 2003). Jesus died so that we may live, and this drives me to live my life as a Christian Humanist to its highest potential, while maintaining Christian values and morals.

Jesus Redemption/Salvation:

The redemption and salvation of people is the drive that keeps human beings striving to maintain a Christian Humanist perspective and lifestyle. Redemption is the end goal for Christian Humanists, and living a full and positive lifestyle influenced by God is the means by which we try to attain that end. Without this promise of salvation, there would be no basis for Christian Humanism.

This is our obligation as Christian Humanists. It is the giving of ourselves freely to God so that we may act according to Him, in response to his act of sending Jesus to be crucified for our sins. “The world is in sin, and the Father in his great mercy wishes to save us. Therefore, he freely hands his Son over to be crucified, which will accomplish this salvation” (Johnson 120). This gift from God is something that Christians cannot take for granted. Through Catholic mass, we reflect and honor the crucifixion of Jesus in memory of what He did so that we may be saved. His death and resurrection represented to us that our life on earth is not completely fulfilled, and emphasized the necessity for life and a transformation of ourselves after death (McFarland, 15 Oct. 2003).

After the death of Jesus, we begin to understand the need for a personal relationship with God and our relationships on earth. It is through the people we experience life with that we see God and can fully appreciate the gift of life that we have been given. Although we begin to experience the Kingdom of God on earth through relationships with other people, it is only through our redemption that our lives are perfected and transformed into a complete human being united with both humanity and God.

What Does it All Mean to Me?

I would like to say that I am a Christian Humanist. While I feel I may not always do everything through Christ as I should, I know that most of my beliefs and morals are based on a Christian upbringing and thus I sub-consciously make choices based on these beliefs. I assert that I am often in need of reconciliation with God, but this does not prevent me from trying to maintain a relationship with Him and to live as He desires.

I arrived at my beliefs as a result of examining the current state of the world and my place in the world. My beliefs are also based upon personal experiences and my acquired knowledge of concrete and abstract ideas that have helped to give me an educated and supported opinion about ideas and things.

I feel the most important thing that Christian Humanists need to do is to not judge other people for what they believe. After this semester, I have felt that the need to label and categorize everything is rather unnecessary. I feel that I am in no place to judge someone else’s beliefs, and I need to focus on my beliefs before I can form an opinion on others. I think it is also important that in order to be defined as a Christian Humanist people live rightly for their personal well being, to benefit others and also to live rightly in the eyes of God. The latter is what I feel separates Christian and Secular Humanism.

I think the largest criticism of Christian Humanism lies in the everyday actions of Christian Humanism. There is a difference between representing something and forcing something upon other people. I think that if we strive to be an example of Jesus and His actions to other people, rather than trying to teach them to other people we will make more of an impact in the end. I would compare this to students representing Saint Joseph’s College. I can say I am a student of Saint Joseph’s College but then act entirely out of accordance with everything the school stands for. If I do this, I am not only contradicting myself, but also creating a false image of the school. Just as I can say I am a Christian Humanist, and then not follow through with representative actions of Christian Humanism. In order to be a sincere and genuine Christian Humanist, it is necessary to also act as a Christian Humanist, representing Christianity in its true form.

While Secular humanists base their beliefs on another cause, “[w]e are working toward a view of life, of the world, of God, of all people, and of our relationships to the preceding that has the label ‘Christian Humanism’” (Syllabus 9). This system of belief is something I want to strive for now and in the future, so that I may achieve a state of fulfillment with God after death.

Works Cited

Core 9: Toward A Christian Humanism. Syllabus. Saint Joseph’s College, 2003.

Johnson, Elizabeth A. Consider Jesus. New York: Crossroad, 1990.

Malone, Michael. “Sin and Grace: Undoing and Uplifting.” Core 9 Lecture. Saint
Joseph’s College. Rensselaer, 24 September 2003.

McFarland, Timothy. “Jesus’ Life: What did he Accomplish?” Core 9 Lecture.
Saint Joseph’s College. Rensselaer, 15 October 2003.

McFarland, Timothy. “Jesus through Ages and Cultures: How do we ‘see’ him?”
Core 9 Lecture. Saint Joseph’s College. Rensselaer, 10 Nov. 2003.

Reuter, Rob. “The Mysteries of Evil.” Core 9 Lecture. Saint Joseph’s College.
Rensselaer, 3 September 2003.

Reuter, Rob. “Are You Saved? Toward a Christian Humanist Notion of
Salvation.” Core 9 Lecture. Saint Joseph’s College. Rensselaer, 22 October 2003.

Reuter, Rob. “Jesus and Justice.” Core 9 Lecture. Saint Joseph’s College.
Rensselaer, 29 October 2003.

Ryan, Thomas. “The ‘Ends’ of Human Life.” Core 9 Lecture. Saint Joseph’s
College. Rensselaer, 29 September 2003.

Sachs, John R. The Christian Vision of Humanity. Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1991.

Confessions of a Kairos Leader

Kairos began at Saint Joseph’s College in November of 1986. Campus Ministry began the program due to the interest of students who had attended in high school and wanted to continue the experience for others. The original Kairos team consisted of Doug Daulton, Karen Johnson, Mike Momper, Kevin O’Shaughnessy, Frannie McVeigh, Carla Veneziano, Nina Kasch, Sister Donna Liette, Val Sperka, and Fr. Ben Berinti. The retreat has been inspiring and changing the lives of students ever since it was introduced. In 2002-2003, Kairos began happening three times a year in order to give students the most opportunity to attend.

Kairos is a Catholic religious retreat that spans over a four-day period. The retreat allows students to experience the love of God through many different talks, meditations, and discussions. Each day has a different theme, and these themes tie together to help students connect many aspects of faith and Christ in a variety of ways.

Kairos aims to give the students an introspective look into themselves, and then challenges them to share their ideas and beliefs within a group. Through these small groups, students are given the opportunity to connect with each other and learn from one another through each person’s unique experience. At the end of the retreat, students are challenged once again to “Live the Fourth,” as in the fourth day of the retreat, and to bring the love and knowledge they have received back to school. They are also encouraged to try and incorporate this into their everyday lives and relationships.

One of the most amazing results of Kairos is that it creates strong friendships and bonds, and relies on a strict code of confidentiality, so that students will feel open enough to share their feelings without the fear of their personal stories and ideas being compromised.

The group is sponsored by Campus Ministry, but each retreatant is required to pay a $35.00 fee in order to attend. Should the student not be able to afford it, Campus Ministry will cover the cost. The retreat is held at the Hammond Spiritual Life Center in Hammond, Indiana. This center has been the host of most of the Kairos retreats, due to its low cost and available space for retreatants and leaders.

This opportunity has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I had previous experience as a peer minister in high school, so being given the opportunity to be a leader once again was a great honor. I attended Kairos Thirty-Five as a retreatant in March of 2003. Two months later, the rectors approached me and asked me to be a leader for Kairos Thirty-Six in October of 2003. I gladly accepted, and we began having meetings each week to prepare.
I was a little wary at first of the process, because it was so different from any retreat I had worked on in high school. Kairos turned out to have a very rigid schedule that allowed little to no room for change. I was used to doing a variety of skits, games and music along with talks and small group discussion, and I saw some of this format as being stagnant, but felt I did not have an authority to initiate any sort of change.

I was assigned to give the “Life Graph” talk, in which I created a chart with the highs and lows of my life and re-iterated my life story to the group. This was challenging for me because there were a few people on the retreat that I felt uncomfortable sharing some rather personal and uncomfortable experiences with. I learned to overcome this though, due in part to the fact that the entire group sat in front of me with respect and kindness in their eyes. I felt at ease sharing my story with them, and talking about the various foundations that have supported me in my life. They taught me to be less judgmental and pre-supposing about other people and what they may think of me and my ideals. I certainly had not expected to learn so much about myself as a leader.

My small group was where I learned the most about the retreatants. It was in our small group discussions that I was able to see the service that Kairos does for others. They started very quiet, and only one or two people were willing to discuss their stories with the rest of the group. One person admitted that they did not believe in religion, and by the end of the retreat attempted prayer for the first time within the group. The transformation that occurred between these people was amazing; I never expected them to open up as much as they did to each other.
The change after we returned from Kairos is the one that influenced my opinion of service, and its benefits. As trivial as AOL instant messenger may be, each person who attended Kairos takes a giant leap by inserting a simple, “Live the Fourth” or “Kairos was an awesome experience!” into their profiles along with silly quotes and sayings. This symbolized to me that what happened on Kairos had a very real impact on their lives, and I continue to see the difference in their faces each day during class. People became friends who under any other circumstances never would have spoken to each other. They taught me about respect for all kinds of people, and proved to me that people are generally good at heart.

Bro. Rob Reuter was one of the adult leaders on Kairos, and he mentioned many things we have discussed in Core 9 in his talk. He discussed Gospel Values and the connection between Jesus Christ and his mission, and his plan for us to follow his example became much clearer. We discussed the ability to see Christ in other people through the role of leader, mentor, friend, servant, and called these people by name within the group.

Personally, I felt that what I did on Kairos was representative of sharing the Good News with others as Jesus did. We also tried to put a great emphasis on loving one another. I do not think this retreat would have meant so much if the team had not been truly genuine in the giving of their time to help other people experience the love of God and the affect it can have on their lives.

This experience has helped me to better understand what I personally believe in regards to Christian Humanism, because it has tied a real life example to the information and ideas we have learned in the readings and lectures. It reminded me of Bro. Rob’s lecture on salvation and his three conditions for salvation. By using his format, the state of need for many of the people who attended Kairos was for love and acceptance. Their fulfillment then would be a sign from other people that they are accepted and loved. We accomplished this task on Kairos for many people by providing them with encouragement and support with their struggles, words of encouragement through the talks and meditations, the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation, and most importantly with letters of praise and love from family members, friends, and Kairos alumni.

This service project also emphasized the ascending Christology we discussed in class, because we were able to bring Jesus into our midst as someone who is still affecting us here on earth today. Our discussion of him was in relation to how he directly taught us through his actions that he performed as a fully human person, instead of focusing on his more divine power. What was taught on Kairos was the idea that the purpose of our life is to grow in love with others and Christ. It is undeniable that people will make mistakes, but God’s mercy and forgiveness helps us to not lose faith in the things we do, just because we mess up along the way.

One of the activities was to create a symbol of God out of Play-Doh. When we discussed symbols in class, the first thing I thought of was this exercise from Kairos. People created many different items to symbolize God and their idea of religion. These creations ranged from eyes, stars, and even a taco. These Play-Doh creations symbolized the ability to see Christ through another persons eyes, the infiniteness and mystery of God, and the conglomeration and all encompassing love that God has for us.

Overall, being at Kairos at this time had a profound affect on the way I see many of the issues we discuss in Core 9. This service project brought some of the loftier, philosophical ideas down to a tangible level, and I think if every person at Saint Joseph’s College were required to attend Kairos, they would at least walk away with a better understanding of themselves and their own beliefs and ideals.

The Nature of Humans: Core 9

In order to fully appreciate and enjoy life, human beings must strive for something greater than material and superficial achievements. Humans can find this fulfillment by recognizing their freedom, finding a loving union with God and within the community, choosing God’s love in favor of sin, and accepting God’s grace. “Christian anthropology must emphasize the dignity, freedom, equality and mutuality of men and women” (Sachs 43).

Freedom is one of the most important aspects of human nature because it is unique to human beings alone. We have freedom to make choices and act according to moral standards, and it is our choice whether or not we have concern for other people and their well-being. Freedom lets us commit to one choice and “In many respects, we are freest when, no longer torn in different directions by a multitude of possibilities, we can at last surrender to one of them whole-heartedly” (31). One of the choices we can make is whether to love and serve God in our lives, and this choice determines not the amount of freedom we have in our lives, but can also be a measure of the quality of life that we lead. For biblical faith, freedom is the central characteristic of human nature. The essence of this freedom is the capacity and responsibility for self-determination in community with other persons and with God” (47). Freedom does come with a certain amount of responsibility, and thus freedom can be affective at bringing us closer to God, but also in leading is away towards sin and a self-centered idolatrous life style.

God gives us this option though, in order that we might see what great gifts and extended freedoms come from choosing a life with him. “Free-will” is somewhat of a gamble on God’s part, because he is putting his faith in us, that we will return his love and have faith in him. “[O]ur human “nature” is to a great extent something which God has empowered us to freely imagine, create and shape” (47). God has given us the ability to determine our own set of rules and ethics to live by, and we govern the world we inhabit with the restrictions of freedom that we have placed ourselves.

By being able to make choices we learn not only about ourselves, but also of others and our relationships with them. This also leads us to ask deeper questions about life, and what we should strive to make of it. “These are the questions of desire and they are fundamental to our understanding of freedom…Freedom is the capacity to desire” (31). Desire is also a unique trait to us, because it allows us to determine priorities in our life, and also what we strive for in terms of commitment and our ultimate happiness.
This ability to think openly and freely is essential to our understanding of human life and our purpose. This “real freedom of the world is what God most intensely desires and is its greatest good” (27). However, it is only through a loving union and commitment to God that we can achieve such freedoms in life.

Having a loving union and commitment to God is essential to our lives because we have been created in the image of God and need to accept the responsibility that comes with being given such a great gift. “Humility, trust in God, and obedience to God’s will constitute genuine human greatness” (Malone Lecture). God created us with ultimate love and gave us freedom, but he did ask that we care for the world and treat it with respect. This was not an invitation to “create” the world and oversee it, but to be a caretaker who watches over the world and its well-being. “In God’s plan, as the Yahwist understands it, the original relationship between humanity and the earth is one of responsible care” (22). This care is sometimes taken advantage of by humans because we consider ourselves the driving and ultimate force on this planet. The wasting of resources and extinction of people and animals is a perversion of the authority God originally gave humans. This responsibility was given to us to shape us into responsible people who can aptly make the right life choices that will maintain a loving relationship with God and others. Sachs discusses our relationship with God and his gift to us when he says:

The only mode we have of experiencing God, of relating with God, of accepting
God in love or turning from God in selfishness, is in terms of this world and our
action in it. In all that we do, we are at least implicitly taking a stand with respect
to God and God’s offer of life (32).

Taking advantage of this offer of life is something humans have done in the past and will continue to do because we have a desire for more power and freedom. It is important for humans to realize that their amount of power on earth will not matter anywhere else and that we do not need anything else out of life but to have a commitment and be one with God and others. “If we are really capable of being one with God, then nothing else but loving union with God will make us whole and entire” (32). We can help and support each other to attain this relationship by working as a community to develop a system of trust and love for one another.

We become human through our interaction with others and therefore, it is necessary that we interact with others in order to learn and grow. “The fundamental blessing and challenge shared by all persons: the gift and call not to be alone, to be with and for others and to contribute to the development of the world” (49). We also need a community in order to help us commit to a loving relationship with God, and to keep us from taking a selfish role in life. Essentially, we look for love in other people, and finding this love creates a bond that gives us more freedom and establishes commitments not only to each other, but also to our own will in life and to God. “Throughout our lives, the desire which drives us in our interaction with other people and things is looking for life and love which is full and lasting” (32). This means that we cannot simply rely on ourselves for all answers and ideas. It is important to network with other people so that we may create a set of ideals together that will help everyone to get fulfillment out of life. We need each other to understand our purpose, as well as how we have been created in the image of God. Sachs points out that our differences point to a larger whole that will show us meaning and depth:

[N]o human being can claim to experience or understand the mystery of what it
means to be human only from his or her humanity. The real humanity of each
person, male or female, is something that points beyond itself to a real other. This
is a paradox. Male and female are not simply accidental characteristics of human
being; neither are they two different creatures. They are irreducibly different in
one humanity (19).

The differences between the sexes and how these come together to complement each other is the way we portray the image of God in our relationships.

The idea of male and female is the ultimate balance between two things that are both equal and different at the same time. Created equally to strive for the same common goal, a loving relationship with God, but different in the way we visualize achieving this goal, and our methods for executing this goal throughout life. “Scripture affirms that human nature is shared. Humanity is one nature which subsists in two distinct modes, male and female. Each is fully human but the full humanity of each is a relational mystery which necessarily includes the other in some way” (46). We depend on one another to answer the questions we cannot. This is possible because we each have a different way of viewing the world and this applies to all people not necessarily just male and female. The ability to think freely gives all females the choice to think however they want on any issue, and this conglomeration of ideas should help determine some sort of agreement or answer when coupled with the various ideas that men have.

While at times our choices can lead us away from God, it is always possible to use one another for support in order to come to terms with God and repent for our wrongdoings and actions. This is due in part to the fact that our sins will affect others as well as ourselves, so we need the support of other people to rectify the sins committed.

Free will has often led human beings into temptation for sin and evil, and this conscious choice comes with consequences not only for the person who committed the sin, but also for the community and other loved ones. This is what makes “[s]in…a social reality” (63). It is a reality because it cannot be hidden inside one person, because the repercussions of that sin will ultimately affect others if we have created a strong community with others based on trust and love. “Every sin, he (John Paul II) states…has repercussions on the whole community and in some measure upon the whole man family…it seems that most sin, in fact, is a direct offense or failure of love toward the neighbor” (63). If we have succeeded in building a community, then sin is what challenges that community to come together and renew our relationship with God.

When we deny God in our lives, our entire framework for human nature becomes unsteady. It is only through a solid foundation with God that we can be free to make choices that will lead us closer to him. In addition, it is only through a strong community and our relationships with other people that we can realize our true freedom and maintain a life of love and commitment to one another and God. All things are dependent upon one another, and when our nature is challenged by sin, God will intervene with his divine grace so that we may uphold our quality of life and the relationships we have painstakingly created. Sin is seen a refusal to accept and live according to God’s free gift of love” (63). However, when it is evident that we truly desire and choose God, he will forgive without hesitating, and without resent.

Grace is God’s gift of friendship, a power to restore or freedom and release us from sin regardless of whether or not we a deserving of forgiveness (Malone Lecture). It is through God’s grace that we can find completeness in life and receive the support that will enhance our freedom. The realization that God is necessary in our lives is a direct result of all the Christian traditions that we have established for ourselves. It is only with God’s grace that we can erase our sin and achieve freedom and a close relationship with God. “Recognized or not, grace is present and active wherever human beings accept themselves for what they are before God and realize their true humanity. For grace leads the human person to that fullness of life which is only found outside its own narrow, enclosed ‘self’” (74). In life, it is necessary to ignore our own selfish desire and work for the greater good and the shared enjoyment of life, not our shallow desires, is what will lead us to true happiness.

The field of law utilizes Christian Humanist assumptions in that it relies on the idea of community between people. The community either supports or rejects the written law and gives feedback on just and unjust laws. It also attempts to reconcile the harmful effects that individual persons sins have had on society and the community.

The field of law is also an area that attempts to preserve the amount of freedom humans have in their lives. This is done by creating laws that can govern as well as guide, and also creates standards that people should attempt to live up to. While these laws sometimes hinder our freedoms, they are most often developed as a result of the standard of human life and ethics that the greater community has determined for itself.

This system of government can be observed in the United States, where we have a democratic society. In Totalitarian governments however, the freedom is often abused by people who are attempting to “play God,” by controlling others. According to the lecture by Michael Malone, the message of the Yahwist describes this as the “greatest sin,” which is “to act on our desire to be God.”

Recognizing Evil: A Reflection from Core 9

Without the presence of evil in our world, we would have no way of developing a system of right and wrong. In theatre, there is no play without an inciting incident to tip the balance of the world and create action. Since theatre is defined as a reflection of life, I think evil serves as the inciting incident in our world. It sets us as humans into action in order to determine our own moral codes and to learn the difference between right and wrong. We discussed in class the idea that everything has an opposite side such as right and wrong, life and death, good and evil. In order for an unbalance in the world to happen there has to be some kind of force on the opposite of good.

The question then is not whether or not evil exists, but how it has come to be such an intense and present force in our world. Before Eve eats from the tree in the garden, she knows no reality of what is right and wrong. Perhaps God was simply protecting us from having to know the evil that was already present in the world. It says in Genesis 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When we chose this, we chose a responsibility that God maybe had never intended for us, but also knew we could handle the consequences if we made that choice.

God created evil, but not for the sole purpose of using it against us. In order for us to truly know the right way to live and to find bliss, we must first experience trials and some suffering in order to fully appreciate what we have earned and been given by God. In terms of what the Jews experienced during the Holocaust, it is hard to find any sort of defense for the evil that existed there. The Holocaust not only generated hatred at the time it occurred, but still does today, towards the people who incited it and also God. The Holocaust continues to affect people of all origins and countries today, but the positive is that it serves as a very good reminder of what happens when power is placed into the wrong hands.

We are told as Christians to hate the sin, not the sinner, which I think can be a hard concept to take hold of (Reuter). However, we must stop and realize that we all act according to our own judgment and that it is our right as people of free will to make both bad and good choices. We cannot hate the person for their actions, but we can learn from their mistakes and go on to teach others to act differently. The only evil we as human beings can control is moral evil, as we chose to know of its existence when we were created. Therefore, we also have a chance to counter act it with good. Physical events in nature, in my opinion, cannot be considered evil in a malicious sense because it does not act with the sole purpose of creating chaos and disharmony. When Bro. Reuter discussed evil, he mentioned that it is never necessary and therefore not everlasting. This places the pressure on us to avoid evil in our everyday lives, and to focus on the other side, which is good.

I believe it is necessary to see people as basically good, because we were created not knowing evil, and in the image of God, who is perfectly good. If we were to see each other as evil, it would only encourage the presence of evil in our everyday lives, and would not benefit us as human beings to find true happiness and love. If God had intended for us to live on this earth in suffering, he would not have created all of the “good” things he did. Instead, he created the good and the bad, so that we may see and better appreciate the good in our lives, each other, and in the world.

When people experience extreme personal tragedy or loss, it is hard to believe in a God who could allow suffering and sadness to exist. For example, when Brandon Hardy and Sarah Augustine died last year, I felt bitterness towards God for taking them away at such an early age, but eventually I began to accept that it was a reality. I think everyone who was close to them learned that we could not continue to live each day without knowing that we will eventually die and therefore should strive to live rightly and up to our full potential.

If the greatest thing we can do is love, then we must know what is not love in order to achieve it. To say that God cannot exist if he is perfectly good and created something evil does not work. When God created evil, it was with a good intention, to help us to realize our purpose in life, appreciate what we have, and become closer to him.