A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, June 18, 2012

Of Puritans and Parallelograms

I know what you're thinking - what do religious movements of the 16th and 17th century have in common with geometric shapes?  Hopefully I can explain what's going on in my head on this topic.
(Puritans.  Duh!)

Here's what I remember from my 11th grade US History class about Puritan theology (and apologies to my teacher, who probably taught me to know better).  Puritans were believers in predestination and election.  There were certain signs whereby you would know if you were destined to be saved or not.  So, if you were blessed by God, that was a sign you were called to be saved.  None of your actions could affect your eternal destination.  The example I remember is that if your house caught fire, puritans believed that was a sign you were not predestined to be saved.  In my mind, this is taking true principles and turning them on its head - we do believe that blessings come from God, but if blessings are withheld you can't then condemn that individual as unrighteous.  Likewise, if something unfortunate happens to a person, that does not necessarily mean they deserve it.

Christ taught this principle in John Chapter 9 when he and his disciples saw a blind man and the disciples asked "...who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"  Christ answered that neither had sinned!  Just because sometimes misfortune is the consequence of sin, does not mean that all misfortune is the consequence of sin.  This can be aptly expressed in the phrase: "all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares."  Thus, bad choices never really lead to lasting happiness, but sometimes even good choices can lead to unhappiness in life.
(and yes, I am enough of a dork to love this chart)

I've been noticing recently how we tend to ascribe the worst characteristics of humanity to those people we don't value.  This is easier to do if you assume that they deserve their fate - it's much easier to dismiss people as worthless if they are lazy shiftless bums. This has been most noticeable recently in the effort to require drug screening of welfare recipients in several states. This seems to assume that maybe, because some welfare recipients have used drugs, they all must use drugs. So this becomes an excuse to invade their privacy and assume the worst about the most needy people in our society.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Poor Pee-Ple
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Frankly, this assumes that those who are unfortunate deserve to be unfortunate, and we shouldn't help them. It's antithetical to one of my favorite scriptures in Mosiah 4: "Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God."

Now, I'm adult enough to realize that we don't live a theocracy, and I can't impose my religious will on the people (also, I am trying not to assume that there is only one right answer here, and leave room for dissent).  But I think a little charity could go a long way in politics - don't assume that because some poor people are poor because of bad decisions, that all poor people deserve to be poor.  Let's remember the principle of innocent until proven guilty.


  1. And of course, even if someone is poor or unhappy because of their actions, i.e., it's their fault, we should still be charitable to them. Last I checked, we are all imperfect, so part of forgiveness and charity is helping others that are imperfect like ourselves.