Shame in the Public Arena

In 401 AD, twenty-nine Saxon “slaves,” strangled each other to death with their bare hands in their prison cells. They chose this death rather than being forced to fight one another in Rome’s arena. Better death than shame. Their “owner,” the Senator Symmachus (famously known as the “Last Pagan”), wrote of them that they were a rebellious “band of slaves, worse than any Spartacus.” In the pages of the New Testament we…

Over Come Evil By Doing Good

Drawing on the Book of Proverbs, St. Paul offers a simple admonition to his readers: “…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20) He then adds: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. It is a very simple statement. However, when anyone begins to suggest what…

“Make It So!” vs. “Let It Be!”

Abba Poemen said, “Teach your mouth to say that which is in your heart. +++ Some years back, while driving through the mountains here in Tennessee, with an out-of-date GPS system in my car, I was instructed to take a particular turn and cross a bridge. Something inside me (guardian angel?) whispered a word of caution (it was night as well), and so I took the turn carefully and slowed. It was…

The Ladder of Your Daily Life

Perhaps the most prominent ladder in our culture is the one associated with careers. It is an image of the American road to success. We begin at or near the bottom and, step by step, make our way towards the top. It is a metaphor that works well with our modern notions of hard work, persistence and reward. It also serves as a justification for many of the structures in our society…

Christianity in a Plain Brown Wrapper

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2Co 3:18) Among the many losses within modern Christianity has been the place of transformation. Nineteenth century revival movements and theology emphasized a single experience that was associated with salvation. Those who concerned themselves with what came…

Healing the Inner Pharisee

I cannot remember the name of my kindergarten teacher. I cannot remember the names of any of my first grade classmates. However, I have a very vivid memory of the only word I messed up in a first grade reading group: cupboard. I read, “Cup board.” Old Mother Hubbard would have been dismayed. In the same manner, I remember the word that brought my spelling bee prowess to an end in sixth…

A Deeper Morality

“Not guilty by reason of insanity.” Such a ruling in a modern court-of-law makes complete sense, even if some would argue that the bar for measuring insanity is rather unclear. It carries with it an understanding that we are not always responsible for our actions. In modern thought, we consider that the exercise of free-will is an essential part of wrong-doing. In that sense, a crime is a misuse of the will. There…

Put the Dickens Back in Christmas

In the late 1600’s in colonial Boston, the celebration of Christmas was against the law. Indeed, anyone evidencing the “spirit of Christmas” could be fined five shillings. In the early 1800’s, Christmas was better known as a season for rioting in the streets and civil unrest. However, in the mid-1800’s some interesting things changed the cultural response to the feast and, in 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday (which is to…

Guilt and Shame – What’s The Difference?

There is a very handy saying that differentiates between guilt and shame. Guilt is about what I have done – shame is about who I am. They are not unrelated, particularly in a culture in which what we do is often given as an answer to the question, “Who are you?” Traditional American culture has often been described as “guilt-based,” in that Protestant religious thoughts centered on goodness as responsibility for our…

Morality, Shame, and the Acquisition of Virtue

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” (Matthew 6:3) The experience of shame has many dynamics, permeating the larger part of human behavior. Though some psychologists have dubbed it the “master emotion” it is often unacknowledged and unrecognized. It should come as no surprise that much that is described as “morality” has little to do with the acquisition of…