Monday, January 17, 2005

Ethics, Virtues, and One Man in the Name of Love 

I was doing some reading for my Ethics class today when I came across St. Augustine writing on the four cardinal virtues: temperence, fortitude, justice, and prudence. St. Augustine writes that "temperence is love keeping itself entire and incorrupt for God; fortitude is love bearing everything readily for the sake of God; justice is love serving God only, and therefore ruling well all else, as subject to man; prudence is love making a right distinction between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it." Another author, Karen Lebacqz posits that all of these, but especially justice, have to do with right relationship with and to God, self, and others. I really liked these ideas, but all the while reading them, I could not help but think how my younger brother Brennan would disagree with regard to the virtue of fortitude.

The scene is many years ago; Brennan is something like ten or eleven years old. Our family, minus Brennan, is sitting around in the living room watching TV or a movie or something when Brennan comes bounding out of his room. He posts in front of the TV and announces, hands righteously on his hips, "I have testicular fortitude!" I said, "Brennan, do you even know what fortitude means?" He replied indignantly, "Having to do with the balls." My favorite part of that was how he phrased it in the way a definition would actually be phrased. We all got a good laugh out of it and I chuckled as I remembered it this afternoon, which utterly distracted me from my studies.

Then, in the final reading for Ethics tomorrow, Sidney Cornelia Callahan holds forth on the ideal of patience and its use in bearing wrongs done to you. In principle, I agree with Callahan, but I think there are times when action is required, and not just the kind of action which flows from inaction. As I was reading her paper, I had just returned from the celebration of the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Seabury. Now, if he had borne with patience the wrongs done to him and his fellow Americans, we might be looking at a very different America right now. (I agree with out preacher tonight - Rev. Hickman Alexandre - that although we have a ways to go to fulfill Dr. King's dream, we are some significant steps closer than we were.) Had Rosa Parks borne with patience the injustice done to her, a movement may not have gotten started that rocked America right where she needed to be struck. Had Dr. King not been so convicted about the cause of justice in America, self-reported land of the free, then millions might not have been inspired by his passionate addresses to seek justice in their own towns in their own ways. But then again, he might not have gotten shot either. If he had borne with patience all the wrongs done him Dr. King might be alive today, but we wouldn't even know his name.

U2 says it well: "Early morning, April 4, shot rings out in the Memphis sky; free at last, they took your life, they could not take your pride."

May we be so convicted by a pride for life, for truth, for justice, for love that we may boldly answer the question, what more in the name of love, by calling out 'whatever is required', as scary as that is.

Thank you for your example Dr. King; thank you for showing us what the four cardinal virtues looked like and how they pointed to Christ. May you and all the faithful departed rest this day in peace and rise in glory at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.



U2 says everything well, Ryan. :)


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:58 AM  

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