Sunday, May 2, 2010

Humoring Crybabies

Does the Golden Rule require that we humor the whimsies of insufferable crybabies? What if these whimsies stand in opposition to all reason and tradition?

Here's an example: A Muslim whimsy is the forbidding of the portrayal of Muhammad. Western tradition holds that important historical figures, including Muhammad, must be portrayed in art. Another hallowed Western tradition is that sheer idiocy, such as that occasionally exhibited by a few Muslim extremists, must be mercilessly lampooned in cartoons.

Certain Muslims are upset because unflattering portrayals of Muhammad have appeared entirely outside of Muslim private domain, where such portrayals are appropriate. Of course it would be a grievous breach of etiquette to post a cartoon of Muhammad on the property of the Islamic center in Prince Frederick, and neither I nor any civilized person would do such a thing. But in the public domain do we have a duty to violate our own time-honored traditions just to avoid upsetting these crybabies?

Recently there's a Facebook event established for May 20 called Everybody Draw Mohammed Day (deliberately using the traditional Western misspelling of Muhammad that irritates some Muslims). The inventor of this event is trying to wimp out and say, now folks, we really didn't mean it, let's not really draw Muhammad but let's be nice and follow the Golden Rule. So what do you think?

Here's another example: A Roman Catholic whimsy holds that communion wafers be treated with special reverence during the church service. Everyone probably remembers an incident a while back where someone at a Roman Catholic church service took the wafer back to his seat instead of eating it at the altar. This was, of course, a breach of etiquette, which he shouldn't have committed. But apparently somewhat of a mini-riot ensued, far beyond the reaction that would seem to be justified.

So, one of the more popular bloggers on the Internet posted a rather lengthy entry about the event, referring to the communion wafer as "just a frackin' cracker" and suggesting that if anyone could score him a communion wafer he'd desecrate it. A few weeks later he posted an entry showing a picture of a desecrated wafer.

Now, within a church service, decorum is important. But outside of a church service, in your own domain and on your own nickel, you can buy your own communion wafers from C.M. Almy or any of several other sources for about eight or ten bucks a thousand and do anything you please with them. So, do Roman Catholic crybabies have any business getting upset over this blogger's entry?

And now for a hypothetical example: Suppose you have a relative who, by means of a lifetime of horribly unhygienic habits and maliciously hostile attitudes, destroyed her own health and alienated everyone around her, so now she's in the hospital and has no friends. She's making excessive demands on you, wanting you to visit her daily even though you live a couple of hours drive away, and wanting you to bring her things but is never clear about exactly what she wants until you arrive with the wrong thing, and making all sorts of unreasonable demands.

What duty do you have toward this relative? How far do you need to go in catering to her needs? What do you think?

Basically, I think the Golden Rule needs to be tempered by a bit of rational thought. Do unto others what you reasonably might want sane and rational people to do unto you. Oh by the way, I'm perfectly aware that the Golden Rule appears to have been a part of moral philosophy as early as the eighteenth century BC, long before it was ever accepted into any religion.


Anonymous said...

This is Poolie (having a hard time leaving a comment with my phone).

I think it's more about respect than anything else. People need to understand that their strange need to consecrate bread or never paint a picture of a prophet is a totally individual choice that should never be imposed on others. And, if someone believes in these things, I don't think it serves anyone well to make issue on a personal level. For example, my personal spirituality about vegetarianism is my own thing. I don't eat animals and I don't allow animals to be eaten in my home. But that's my deal. My personal moral code. Maybe part of the problem is that people really do not understand their own moral codes on a personal level. They follow the masses. It's hard to respect individuality when that happens. It's still early here on the west coast and I am not making much sense. Sorry! But I love your posts! You should write here more often!

Sarah said...

"Demented Diary" is not allowing comments--doesn't display the security words.

So I'm here:comment: Didn't know you were a singer. Our choir needs some more people...You're welcome to join and you don't have to be a member of the church to add your voice to ours. It is definitely a different experience, trying to do something like hand bells while singing at the same time. We did a triumphal entry last Christmas, with some complicated foot work, singing at the same time. Needless to say, I, who can barely walk and chew gum, had to practice and practice and was nervous the whole time. It took away from the enjoyment. I'm sure your bell ringing went fine and everybody enjoyed the music.

Now, about know the old saying "Measure twice, cut once?" Well, for our church folks, it's cut it twice and it's still too small. The parquet on our sanctuary floor will never be the same, though the patch fits snugly and is hardly noticeable.