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The ‘I’m a Good Person’ People
How do you know you’re living in a post-Christian, neo-pagan society? How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m a good person,” or even, “He’s a good person?” This is essentially a judgment about the state of someone’s soul, which we Christians believe is only discernable by One Judge, and He ain’t you or me.
The “I’m a good person” people are mainly, although not always, on the secular Left. Their piety is put into practice with woke-ism rather than Protestantism or Catholicism, for example, although sometimes Christians stray so far left, you’ll hear the same self-assessment coming from them. Secularists on the Right who say such things are generally people who assess themselves good because they’ve mainly avoided disordered behaviors (in religious terms, “sins”) they’re not terribly attracted to, while carrying on with the ones they prefer, guilt-free. These are the “I may regularly sodomize the person I ‘love,’ but I believe in your right to your freedom of religion and free speech and, oh, incidentally, I haven’t murdered anyone” people. Let’s just say the standards they set for themselves could be a little higher, even if they go unmet, like in the case of, oh, 100% of Christians.
Faithful Christians, while recognizing the value of every human life made in the image and likeness of God and made to be good (made to share in the Beatific Vision), will address each other as “my fellow sinner” as Bishop Barron does in his sermon on the Prodigal Son. We know we’re falling short of the good God intends for us.
These thoughts on “good person” people, neo-paganism, and ancient paganism contra Christianity come from the appended videos, which I think you’ll find worth your time, wherever you are on the religious-pagan spectrum. The Joe Heschmeyer clip includes an amusing reflection on the title of this post*. Namely, if you ask an “I’m a good person” person if he deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom or the Nobel Prize, he’ll say, “obviously not.” But, if you then ask him if he’s going to heaven because he’s a “good person,” he’s pretty comfortable answering “yes,” with no sense of irony that he believes himself deserving of nothing less than eternal bliss! Oh, really? Huh.
Gary Michuta’s book Revolt Against Reality sounds like another one I’ll have to buy and be too distracted to finish (squirrel!), but it addresses the ethical hinge of history that was the Incarnation. In his conversation with Cy Kellett, he starts by saying the effects can reveal the cause. How did the world change by the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? The ramifications are too many and too profound to cover in a reasonable length post, but start with how women and children were viewed with the advent of Christianity. Rather than being property of men, as pagans believed, women and children became valued as other children of God, with all the inherent dignity that entails. Christians (especially Catholics) are accused of oppressing women and wanting to keep us “barefoot and pregnant.” The opposite is true, and in the case of Catholics, it’s most evident in the devotion to the Blessed Mother. Women were elevated by the Incarnation, not diminished.
Take also, science. Science developed in the Christian West because of the belief that God is coherent and consistent within Himself — and that He made the world intelligible. Why bother to try to understand it otherwise? This realization was one of the prime motivating factors for my reversion to the faith of my fathers.
No examples that could be given of the radical change in ethics with Christianity will be exempt from Christians acting badly (we’re all sinners). As apologist Joe Heschmeyer says, the sins of individual Catholics are not the result of them acting “too” Catholic, but rather not Catholic enough!
*Joe has some profound thoughts on the built-in need for humans to make sacrifices that still pertain to the secular Left today (pssst — human nature is unchanging, pass it on). Their sacrifices just take the form of recycling or putting a COEXIST sticker on their bumper.
.Published in General
They are also the ones Who state, “Don’t judge Me!” when calling everyone Who disagrees with Them “nazis, racists, bigots…”
My lefty Catholic friends love to tout socialist solutions. I respond that wouldn’t it be great if there were some global movement and organization dedicated to the spiritual and material well-being of all mankind from within which efforts could be made to help and serve?
“How are you?”
“Good teacher, what must one do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me ‘good’? No one is good, but God alone.”
The Left does not admit of the existence of Evil, and believes that Humanity, and Society can be improved (by them, of course) so that no one does bad things to anyone else. How totally deluded they are.
Unless it’s someone who disagrees with them or holds to conservative/traditional values.
I watched a great video clip sometime in the last couple of years in which an average middle-class, really awesome lady was arguing in the street in front of Parliament with a member of Parliament. They were arguing, politely, of course, about the continued lockdowns in England and Great Britain.
The woman kept reminding the MP that the people had voluntarily cooperated with all of the recommendations. They did so for the sake for their fellow country men and women. It was if she was saying, “You are not over us. You are with us. We are all together.” Awesome moment in British politics, I thought.
The same is true in U.S. politics. If we could argue as equal sinner to equal sinner, then we might actually be able to talk about how to make things better for everyone.
That comment slides by almost unnoticed?
No. They notice. I don’t think Jesus advised his disciples to urge Caesar to expand welfare so they would not have to be bothered by the poor –then expect moral credit for doing so.
Joe does a good job accusing me of being very bad at evangelizing our Catholic faith. He argues that the thirst is there – but we’ve failed to quench it. BTW – that was a very good video; thanks for sharing it. (Haven’t listened to the 2nd one yet).
And BTW #2 -your writing on our faith is very good – you should be on CA.
Sheesh, Scott, I’m blushing! Thanks.
There’s much to like about this post but let me just quibble with one point. I don’t think the divide on “I’m a good person” mentality is a conservative/liberal divide. I think there are plenty of conservatives that have the same mentality. We live in a therapeutic age. We all console ourselves with our apparent self worth. We all pat ourselves on the back for having the “right” opinions. I would say I know religious people – yes devout Christians – who would have this view of themselves. I would say that I find this view in myself! It’s a result of pride. I think if you look closely you will find we all think of ourselves as a good person.
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. If you’re examining your conscience semi-regularly, you might struggle a bit with self acceptance. Some Christians even fall into spiritual dryness at times (ahem, reluctantly raises hand) or scrupulosity. It never seems to fail that when I’m feeling pretty good about myself, something happens to bring me back down to earth (humus being the root of the word “humility”).
I’ve come to believe I have the right (political) opinions mostly because I’ve changed my mind about almost everything over time. And if I find out I have the wrong opinion about something, I change my mind again. This is a question I’d like to ask lefties: “have you changed your mind about anything significant in the last 10 years? 5 years? 2 years?” I changed my mind about Donald Trump when presented with new evidence, for example.
But, the deeper into faith I go, the more I see my own flaws and weaknesses and sometimes even cruelty. As Bishop (then Father) Barron said, when you’re looking at Perfect Love through glass, you can’t help but see the spots and smears of your own sinfulness. I’m thoroughly convinced I need a savior, and I think that’s the main distinction between the “I’m a good person” people and faithful Christians.
And, btw, a brother of mine is so convinced of God’s love for him that he almost never, that I can recall, expresses self-doubt, but fairly exudes the joy of Christ in him. That’s the kind of Christian I want to grow up to be.
I think there are a variety of competing ideas regarding what it means to be a good person.
Take a Hindu from India, a physician who provides medical care for children who have cancer.
Many people would describe this Hindu physician as a good person while others would say that “No one is good, but God alone.” (NRSV Mark 10:18, NRSV Luke 18:19)
But you also have people like St. Thomas Aquinas, who argued in favor of putting heretics to death upon their third heresy.
The Taliban in Afghanistan put women who were accused of having sex outside of marriage to death in soccer fields.
I think it would be better if we all would stop judging whether someone is a good or a bad person, and restrict our judgments to the actions committed by that person. In that case you’re passing judgment not on the state of the person’s soul but on the morality of the actions.
We could take that approach. But my bet is that most people think that Ted Bundy, who raped and killed numerous young women in the 1970s, was a bad person while that Hindu physician who provides care for children with cancer is a good person.
Most people are not Ted Bundy or a clone of Ted Bundy, just as most people are not clones of a heroic Hindu physician. And it really doesn’t matter whether Ted Bundy was a bad person or not. His actions would’ve justified the death penalty and I suppose I might’ve been willing to serve on the firing squad. Still, I wouldn’t have been happy about doing so.
Hi Western Chuvinist – if asked (not that anybody is) I would say that I think you’re a good person. Which means that you try to be as good as you can.
Does that make me a bad person? I don’t try to be as bad as I can – though it’s sometimes tempting.
(Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the clips.)
This is true for me too, but I have to completely put issues of the day aside. The more I’m engaged with politics, civil or Church politics, the more my ego comes to dominate my mentality. I can fully appreciate why a monastery is the place to be truly holy.
The other quibble I might have with WC’s post is that most people aren’t trying to be philosophical or psychological or theological when they say so-and-so is a good person. All they usually mean is that he’s congenial. They are not usually trying to see the moral core of a person. When I say my mechanic is a good person, I don’t have a clue as to his moral standing. He’s just never cheated me that I could tell and he’s pretty friendly.
And fixed you car.
It’s possible that my mechanic only appears to be a good person. He’s always done competent work on my car and it seems that he has not cheated me. But since I am not omniscient, it’s possible that when the mechanic goes home from work, he is cruel to his wife, children and pets.
Similarly, when we judge various actions as good or bad, we lack omniscience regarding the consequences of these actions. I think I am doing good when I donate to a charity. But later I learn that this charitable organization was run by crooks and they used my donation to hire attorneys in order to shield themselves from the legal consequences of their behavior.
Regarding heaven and hell, I also lack omniscience. It’s possible that I will go to hell because I am not a practicing Muslim. While Islam appears untrue to my eyes, I acknowledge that I could be wrong.
Still, once we acknowledge our lack of perfect knowledge, we are still inclined to make moral judgements.
I don’t think the point is so much what we say and think about other people. I know lots of “good” people, many of whom are not Christian. The point is, what do people say and think about themselves and their need for a Redeemer? People who think they’re just fine, without need for growth or reform, are tempted to self-deification — “you will be as gods.” And that’s how we end up under the tyranny of relativism. There’s no external Yardstick for many people in secular society.
Would you say that religious believers have an external yardstick to measure how they’re doing while irreligious people do not have that? Would that make it a matter of the religious/irreligious individual rather than a religious/irreligious society?
I’m a non-religious person. I think I will always be in need of growth and/or reform, up until I take my last breath.
This does not mean that I think that Jesus rose from the dead or Jesus was divine. As I see it, the question of whether I am imperfect (I certainly am) and Jesus’s divinity are two distinct questions.
Then don’t judge.
Nope. If I see my neighbor to my left petting his dog and I see my neighbor to my right beating his dog, I am going to judge both actions even as I acknowledge that I lack omniscience.
You lack far more than that.
Have you ever noticed that you primarily comment on posts with a religious bent? Why do you suppose that is?
Have you ever noticed that invariably those comments consist of constructing imaginary moral situations so that you can bloviate on concepts such as good and bad? That in so doing, you judge those whom you think are judgmental? Do you detect an inherent inconsistency in that?