Friday, February 16, 2007

Gospel and Biblical levels of individuality

I often hear that the early Christians practiced a very communal and "socialistic" lifestyle, sharing property. And the overwhelming emphasis on the Gospels of Jesus is on charity and sharing with the poor and on a non-judgmental view of the accomplishments or station in life of others. It seems as if the social injustice of different economic and political classes in Roman society in the Holy Lands was taken as a given, and did not need to be questioned.

Today, modern liberalism takes a different view. Class social injustices are to be rectified, and then it becomes much more plausible to view individuals as responsible for their own station in life. But both liberals and conservatives, for different reasons, want to put the brakes on carrying this kind of objectivism in "measuring people" too far. The blood family, or the community or union or other social unit demanding loyalty becomes a moral intermediary.

Today individualism faces challenges from all of those "inconvenient truths" like global warming and pandemics, which could force individuals to place much more personal value on familial or communal relationships in the future than in the past. The path to liberty is not always a straight line. It can backslide, too.

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