Last week, I ended with a mention of the Golden Rule, and the possibility that applying the rule before it would solve a lot of the problems tackled in the post. Well, first off, I messed up. The passage I was thinking of doesn't have that golden rule, per se, but it's pretty close. "Do to others as you would have done to you" is Matthew 7:12 or Luke 6:31. I was thinking of "love your neighbor as yourself" from Matthew 22:39, preceded by "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Matt.22:38. The lesson here, always double check your references, even if you're 100% positive that you are correct and have known said reference for ages. So with that little misappropriation cleared up, onto the train of thought.
Whether we say it as treating others like we want to be treated or loving others as we love ourselves, either way it is almost universally accepted that doing so makes the world a better place. If I don't want my stuff stolen, I shouldn't steal from others. If I don't want people to talk nasty about me behind my back, I shouldn't talk nasty about other people. Yet that preceding rule, the greatest commandment as Jesus called it, generates much more debate. The debate comes from many directions. People have trouble defining love anymore. Western culture has love and sex so intertwined that those Biblical concepts just go completely over our heads.. We have our concepts of parental love so far askew that we don't do parental things like discipline kids or set expectations for them. People have trouble defining God anymore. We get into the Bible and find out exactly who God is, and what loving Him entails, and we don't want to give up those worldly thought patterns and habits. Or we don't get into the Bible, and get inaccurate definitions of who God is and what loving Him entails, and can't reconcile those wrong ideas with that innate vision of Him that is somewhere in our soul, whether we pay attention to it or not.
My not so humble opinion has long been that the Old Testament nation of Israel was intended by God to be, among other things, an example of what can happen when a large group of people truly do follow that greatest commandment. When Israel was standing on the Law, not out of responsibility and in action only, but had God first in their heart, mind and soul, the nation experienced unparalleled prosperity. I'm sure that even in those high times, there were dissenters and people who fell short, but that is what the Temple sacrifices and the Day of Atonement, with it's scapegoat were for. When they, as a group, fell from grace and lost sight of that love, the proverbial stuff really hit the fan. Does any of this sound familiar? While the U.S. has never been a theocracy, Christian morals and values have (contrary to the revisionists) been the foundation of our ideals and laws for the majority of our existence. The Declaration of Independence cries out that we are endowed by our Creator with those unalienable rights. For two hundred some odd years the United States was, for the most part, a bastion of prosperity. Yes there were hiccups in there, yes bad stuff still happened to people, that's why I said for the most part. It has been in recent history, as attacks on those founding ideals grew, that the prosperity has slipped away.
I'm not saying we need to turn around and enforce a Christian faith on every American citizen to dig us out of the pit the nation is sitting in socially and economically. A forced faith is no faith at all. I'm saying that we all need to admit that when we were proud of our Christian heritage and acknowledged it instead of trying to bury it or deny it for fear of offending some folks, the country was in much better shape. I'm saying when anybody, but specifically teachers, politicians, cops, and other folks who happen to work for and in the government could freely talk about their own faith and how it shaped decisions they made without fear of accusations of harassment or bigotry, those decisions seemed to be a bit more productive and positive. Even the most vehement "wall of separation" folks should be honest enough to admit that.