Monday, December 26, 2005

Golden Rule in Reverse

In my youth, I was taught the Golden Rule is the end-all and be-all of ethical rules. Indeed, the Social Gospel movement tried to apply it to society. But after lifelong observation of Christians, I don't believe my teaching. At bottom the rule is very individualistic--it governs one's actions as they affect others, so you are the actor. It says, don't torture your prisoners if you don't want your military children tortured. What's lacking is a rule for the reverse.

A Christian might object here that they do have such a rule: turn the other cheek. But that rule applies only to the receipt of bad. How about the receipt of good?

My proposal: allow others to do unto you what you would do unto others. Such a rule would stop a
"Lady Bountiful", who lives her life doing for others, but would resist any efforts by others to do for her. For example, in the wake of Katrina many foreign countries tried to offer aid to the U.S. The impression I get from news accounts is that many of the offers failed, because the government was not used to the idea of receiving help from foreigners. If we're to make this a better world, help must be mutual, not one-sided.

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