BEYOND RIGHT AND WRONG: A New Way of Seeing Ethical Behavior

“Seek good and not evil, that you may live, and so God will be a part of you. Hate evil, love good; and establish justice in the gate. …I hate, I despise your feasts; I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.  Take away from me the noise of your songs, to the melody of your harps I will not listen.  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everlasting stream.”
-Amos, Old Testament, Science and Spirituality, page 387

The above quotation from the Book of Amos in the Christian Old Testament gives a clear statement about the traditional idea of good and evil.  We are to seek good and to overcome evil.  Justice and righteousness are to be sought, and the paths of carousing and ignoring of these virtues are to be shunned.  There is much to be said in behalf of these teachings, and yet there is more.  It seems that in the “more” is where we are getting lost today as we remain addicted to war and violence.

The recently created DVD called “Beyond Right and Wrong” does a good job of presenting an alternative view of justice and forgiveness, brought forward in stories throughout this important presentation.  We were to see the short version of this DVD at Peace Sunday, but circumstances changed the picture and it did not get shown.  I wanted to bring it to your attention and to invite you to see the film for yourself.

Some years ago there was a family in this area of the United States whose daughter wanted to go to Africa to see the countryside and to help with some of that continent’s problems.  She was in her late teens, and she went by herself.  During her stay she was attacked and killed by a group of older men, who for some reason felt that she was a threat to their continent.

Her mother and father were very concerned about what had happened, but instead of being angry and resentful, they also went to Africa to find out more about what had happened.  They eventually found the men who had killed their daughter, and they spoke with them about the crime they had committed.  The men realized how wrong they were to have killed the young woman, and they got to know the mother and father; eventually the two parents ended up staying with the killers, and a whole new relationship was built.

Some of you may have heard a statement from the poet Rumi, where he said that somewhere there is a field which is beyond right and wrong, and that he would meet others there.  It is the same idea expressed in a somewhat different way.  We are not saying that there should be no penalty for wrongdoing, but that beyond the penalty there are the human relationships to be considered.  When Mahatma Gandhi was killed, he forgave the man who had killed him.  When Nelson Mandela was kept in prison for twenty-seven years because of South Africa’s policy of apartheid (keeping blacks and whites separate in an obvious commitment to the superiority of the white population), Mandela forgave his captors and went on to become South Africa’s first black president.

Today we are being called upon to have a major shift in consciousness and to apply the practices of nonviolence to replace war and violence, to re-establish the sacredness of life, and to find diplomatic ways of solving the many problems facing the emerging global community.  War is now obsolete, and it is time to stop engaging in its destructive ways.  It is time to wage peace using nonviolent means, so that moral and spiritual values can once again be in the forefront of our awareness.

The United Nations can help in that process, since its original purpose was to “eliminate the scourge of war”.  Now is an especially good time to get the U.N. to be more active in pursuing that purpose, since next year is its seventieth anniversary.

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