Spirituality for Today – Spring 2020 – Volume 24, Issue 3


Reverend Raymond K. Petrucci

We are familiar with the statement, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Is it true that the judgement of an action being either good or evil is merely a matter of perspective? Let me start this article by saying that I believe that the answer is no. The circumstances igniting the act in question should be approached by applying the appropriate principles in determining what resolution expresses a moral rectitude. Diplomacy and a sincere desire for justice ought to fulfill its role. I can hear you now, "Are you kidding me? You expect to apply Christian ethics in a world of divisive and hyper-ideological blindness." Um! Yes, I do.

Before my quest can become feasible, the ability for opposing sides in a question to listen and learn, to share opinions openly and rationally, and to understand the underlying issues of a position needs to exist. I can't provide a clear pathway to bring these attitudes into reality, but we all must try to find it. Perhaps, we need to find those common experiences in life, the "common ground" so often mentioned by commentators and journalists. The very feeling of needing to belong to something, of having a shared identity, which divides us sometimes, may be the ground of camaraderie. Meeting a stranger or one who is estranged from your beliefs, discovering a common interest: fans of the same sports team, enjoying literature, poetry, or music, or even common areas of personal suffering may open a way for talking in a friendly manner about issues where you have differing views.

You might consider my thoughts to be overly optimistic and somewhat naïve. I am cognizant of the fact that there are deep seeded concerns at work. One these motivators may be both justifiable and unjustifiable fear. This type of fear is not merely the 'Phobias" of which our current society is so fond of accusing one another of harboring. I mean fear of not being able to take care of one's family, whether or not one's children are safe going about their normal daily activities, the capacity of trusting friends and neighbors, and fears concerning the environment, war, and societal trends. These are legitimate fears about survival. Some time ago, change was viewed as a good thing – not anymore. And not for those of us who remember when you did not have to worry about children going out to play in their neighborhoods and staying out until mom or dad called them in for supper, when people were able to leave their doors opened during the day, when a child was praised for doing good and punished for doing bad (and they knew the difference), and when people were more respectful about how they treated and spoke to one another. Although all the evils of today also inhabited that life remembered, the general feel of life was far superior to today.

That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles – right and wrong – throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle.

Abraham Lincoln

I presume that there is a reasonableness to people often choosing a negative, low, and debased manner of living over a principled, dignified, and ethical one, but I can't understand why. There is a point, however, to those who are of the opinion that when a God-centered conscience is replaced by a self-centered one, a sense of the pursuit of the virtuous life gives way to the worship of narcissism and hedonism. In other words, the feeling of an accountability and responsibility for the character and the rectitude of your being and employing them in your relationship to others in contrast to the personal attainment of your desires while indifferent to the worth of other people. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." Maybe I am ignorant of human nature, but I am amazed at either the inability or the refusal of people to recognize what is going on or they just surrender their values and "go with the flow."

If we are left with the idea that the rightness or wrongness of our actions are left to our perspective, there is a danger of resolving the issue with the statement, "Who cares!" Right and wrong becomes irrelevant in our decision making and in our view of the world and of life itself. The winners of any conflict can decide the issue for themselves and exert their power and influence over the defeated. Has that not been the lesson of history? Yet, the very depths of my being cannot acquiesce to such a conclusion regarding humanity. I believe in God and that there are absolutes in the way human beings have been created. We have been given a Great Commandment that the Lord expects us to obey. This obedience begets a worldview that defines who we are to one another and the goals of respect and justice for all. We know that the Great Commandment calls on us to love one another. In God's gift of free will, we can either follow or reject the command to love one another and we all have felt the consequences of that decision. Possibly, we human beings still are in a primitive stage of our spiritual development and we have a lot of growth to accomplish before we become who God intended us to be. If this multiplication of words has not moved the ball forward, I pray that we, at least, make God's perspective our perspective and give a lived witness to it to the world.