The topic for my Wednesday class was ‘religious ethics’. Since The Dean’s supplied notes gave some weight to Christianity, I followed his lead. If you were to pour out the finest distillation of Christian thought, what would it be? Well, The Dean and I are of like mind, and both bet on The Sermon on the Mount.
Now, I was quite nervous about talking about Christianity at all, since it is my preferred religious ethic and the source of most of my passion. I didn’t want to tip my hand, nor give short shrift to the other religious perspectives which would follow. So I sort of undersold the sections of the Sermon on the Mount which I read, looking up only occasionally. Here’s what I saw:
I saw people smiling and laughing at the image of some knucklehead poking at a speck in her friend’s eye while simultaneously balancing a beam in her own eye.
I saw students physically leaning back in their chairs, jaws agape, as I read about a person so free from lust and anger that he would not even consider acting on these impulses.
And I saw folks at a loss for words in realizing that the heart of Christianity is not some God said it, I believe it, that settles it brand of divine command theory, nor a presentation of justification by faith, nor a collection of four spiritual laws, but rather a highly developed, carefully nuanced ethic of love and self-sacrifice which would change the world.