Thursday, December 03, 2009

Moral Courage---who has it and what does it mean?

Our worship theme for December is "the roles of religious heroes (Jesus, the Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, etc.) and what we can learn from them; this Sunday I am specifically preaching on Jesus and his message to Unitarian Universalists.

Being as how we don't see Jesus as God, we have a different take on Jesus' message to humankind. We see Jesus as a great teacher, a radical, a reformer, a prophet, a preacher, a changer of lives. But not God. (In fact, it's long been a puzzle to me why religious traditionalists are so stuck on the idea of Jesus as God. God's son, perhaps, but also the son of a human mother. Just like I am God's daughter. But let's not stray off into that territory---my topic is moral courage.)

Moral courage, like Jesus had, like Moses had, like Siddhartha Gautama had, like Mohammed had, like the millions of human beings who have died for their ideals, their commitments, their concern for others.

As a child I was taught that Jesus never did anything wrong, that he was perfect from day one, that his little indiscretions (running away from home to go sit with the rabbis in the temple, for example, and scaring his parents to death) were in the service of a higher calling. It was a little hard to accept; all the boys I knew were naughty at times and I could hardly believe that Jesus was any different.

In seminary, I revisited the story of Jesus's meeting the Syro-Phoenician woman, who asked him to heal her daughter. He initially rejected her but she spoke so eloquently and clearly of her need that he relented and did what she asked. Jesus changed his mind about what the right thing was to do! Heavens!

That took moral courage, for sure. It meant changing his mission, from convincing the Jews that the kingdom of God was inside oneself to convincing Gentiles as well, much to the dismay and surprise of his followers.

Who has that kind of moral courage today? Who are the "Gentiles" who need a break, whose lives are of little concern to the authorities, whose civil rights are not important, whose families are not important.

Sorry, I'm off on my favorite rant. I just wish there was a little more moral courage in our world today.

11 comments:

ms. kitty said...

Sorry, Robin. I know it's about moral courage but it's a rerun of your ongoing complaint and doesn't really belong here.

ms. kitty said...

PS. It really belongs on your blog and I'm glad to see you put it there.

Robin Edgar said...

Fair enough Ms. Kitty.

Need I point out that I would not feel the need to repeatedly rerun my complaints* if "less than ethical" Unitarian*Universalists in Montreal and Boston gathered up the moral courage required to responsibly acknowledge their numerous "mistakes" and take steps to correct them?

What is the point of U*Us in general, and U*U clergy in particular. . . "affirming and promoting" justice, equity, and compassion in human relations if U*Us lack the moral courage to actually practice justice, equity, and compassion in human relations by responding to internal U*U injustices and abuses with some genuine justice, if not compassion?



* Please note that complaints plural

ms. kitty said...

I know, Robin. But it doesn't seem to be working very well, since it's been such a long time with only growing acrimony for both you and them. I'm not sure what another answer would be, but it pains me to see you spending so much time and effort on something that's not changing the situation.

craftyrene said...

To me moral courage is living life the way you choose to live it without worrying about others opinions. It is knowing the right way to treat people and act in situations and following through with that knowledge. To try and do things because of what others say or think is not moral courage but a reaction to popular judgement. You have to remember that often moral courage is not appreciated or accepted by those that the situation is affecting. I know I cannot ask our leaders to show moral courage and expect that they do.. It just is not realistic... I hope that by showing my moral courage others will pick up the example and follow. Often that is more acceptable by the masses. Then again... Look what happened to Jesus!

I guess what I am trying to say is that we need to follow what it is we believe and if more of us did that we would see some incredible changes in the world as we know it. I wonder if complaints about others actions dont make a person part of the mass that does not appreciate moral courage in action. Of course I dont know what the complaints are but it seems easier to complain then show a different direction by practicing it.... Just think out loud.

Mile High Pixie said...

I've found that moral courage displayed first in small, then larger acts, then even larger acts. Our behavior changes others' behavior, especially when we refuse to buy into whatever those others are selling. I've had to speak up more and more to my bosses this year (my husband and I call that "tempting fate"), and it's because my own moral courage saw that something wasn't right.

I suppose even moral courage can be debated. For example, if a women's clinic nurse refuses to provide an abortion or information about where to acquire one because she is against the practice, some may see her actions as exercising her moral courage. Others, however, might see her actions as medically and ethically irresponsible. And, it's entirely possible that both views are right. Is that what you mean by the question of who has moral courage? (My intention is not to start an abortion debate on your blog, but merely to ask about the definition of moral courage.)

Robin Edgar said...

No worries about your apparent decision not to post my most recent "rant" Kit. I feel your pain, as you seem to feel mine. Just remember that U*Us at all levels of the denomination, including a couple of "less than excellent" UUA Presidents, bear *some* responsibility for the UUA's negligent and effectively complicit responses to my legitimate grievances.

I wish you well, and thank you for your own efforts to stand on the side of love.

Robin

ms. kitty said...

I just got home, Robin, so I just found the "rant", but you're right, it won't be published. I appreciate your respect and enjoy your presence as a commenter because of your respect.

ms. kitty said...

Good point, Pixie. It isn't just the "good guys" (aka, those who agree with me) who have moral courage. And that's part of the problem---whose moral courage is the standard? Yikes!

kimc said...

Moral courage is good, but the question is "what morals?" We don't all agree on what is moral.
One of the pertinent issues is what Brad Hicks called "single value logic" which is when someone believes that if some of 'this' is good, then more of it must be better, in all circumstances, to extreme degrees, and its opposite is always bad in all circumstances and to all degrees. That's what produces the position, to continue with the issue of abortion, that if abortion is bad, then it is bad at all times and in all circumstances, even if, say, the fetus is non-viable and continuing with the pregnancy will endanger the life of the mother, but abortion is still bad and that mother should sacrifice her life to this belief. It's an extreme position, but there are people who believe that. These are the same people who believe that if you allow abortion at all, people will have them lightly, at the drop of a hat. Perhaps they speak for themselves? I don't know anyone who would do that lightly....

Robin Edgar said...

The equation is quite simple for me Rev. Ketchum. I follow a variant of the Roman poet Ovid's not so well known saying -

"If U*Us want to be loved, be lovable."

If U*Us want to be respected, be respectable. . .

You have behaved towards me in a in a manner that is respectable, if not lovable, after initially behaving in ways that were somewhat "less than respectable". . . You are one of the few U*U ministers who has had the moral and ethical integrity, aka moral courage, to publicly acknowledge that you have, in the past, behaved in a "less than excellent" manner towards me. *That* and a few other things that you have said or done, has earned my respect. Respect is not handed out willy nilly, respect is earned. . . Respect and *reputation* are gained and/or lost as a result of one's own words and actions and this principle extends beyond individuals to whole communities. Amongst the best friendly advice that I can give to U*Us is -

If you want to be respected, be respectable. . .

Because the last thing U*Us want to do is to *earn* the disrespect of The Emerson Avenger by engaging in "less than respectable" behavior of various kinds.