June 28, 2019

THOSE IRKSOME DUTIES:

Cicero's Republic: The Duty to Make Whole That Which Is Broken (Bradley J. Birzer, June 27th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

Whatever his exact reasons for adopting a more Stoical approach to life, Cicero unwittingly (but perhaps gracefully?) prepared Rome for Christianity in ways that other pagans and paganisms could never have allowed or done. That generation of Stoics, including Virgil and Seneca, expected, amazingly enough, the human incarnation of the God of gods. It is little wonder, then, that so many of the early Church fathers--such as Jerome, Augustine, and Ambrose--considered Cicero to be a pagan Christian, more related to Christ and his teachings than not. Most certainly, his martyrdom on December 7, 43 BC, did not hurt his cause among Christians, either.

Cicero begins his treatise, On Duties, by praising his son for having chosen philosophy as a discipline of study, and Athens as the area in which to study. He should, however, never forget that he is a Latin, not a Greek, and he should, accordingly, combine things Latin with things Greek.

Then, Cicero throws down the gauntlet, defining one of the most important aspects of Western civilization. A man, if judged properly, will never be judged by his rights. Instead, all right judgment is judgment of the success and execution of one's duties.

Although philosophy offers many problems, both important and useful, that have been fully and carefully discussed by philosophers, those teachings which have been handed down on the subject of moral duties seem to have the widest practical application. For no phase of life, whether public or private, whether in business or in the home, whether one is working on what concerns oneself alone or dealing with another, can be without its moral duty; on the discharge of such duties depends all that is morally right, and on their neglect all that is morally wrong in life.*

In a modern and post-modern world saturated with our talk of rights, more rights, and still more rights, Cicero seems somewhat antiquated. Yet, he holds his ground. Virtue, by its very nature--that is, "virtue" as the very "power of man"--is the nature of man and at the heart of man and all good, right, and proper living and order. Following the teachings of Aristotle, especially, Cicero notes that man, of all creatures, not only has the desire to procreate and continue the species, but he also has a share of reason.

Reason, when properly employed (the practical Latins always care more about the usefulness of a thing than do the Socratic Greeks), leads one to seek all that is blessed in life. Reason, after all, brings real diversity to life. "Above all, the search after truth and its eager pursuit are peculiar to man," he advises his son. "And so, when we have leisure from the demands of business cares, we are eager to see, to hear, to learn something new, and we esteem a desire to know the secrets or wonders of creation as indispensable to a happy life." As such, there is no greater philosophy, or love of wisdom, than the discovery of what makes life worth living, and what our duties are to one another, to our communities, and to our God.

Moreover, the subject of this inquiry is the common property of all philosophers; for who would presume to call himself a philosopher, if he did not inculcate any lessons of duty? But there are some schools that distort all notions of duty by the theories they propose touching the supreme good and the supreme evil. For he who posits the supreme good as having no connection with virtue and measures it not by a moral standard but by his own interests -- if he should be consistent and not rather at times over-ruled by his better nature, he could value neither friendship nor justice nor generosity; and brave he surely cannot possibly be that counts pain the supreme evil, nor temperate he that holds pleasure to be the supreme good.

In these vital matters, Cicero continues, only the Stoics fully understand. Others come close, but they fail to grasp the essence of goodness, of virtue, and of duty.

Never would God have given man the ability to pursue goodness, truth, or beauty without the desire that we do so. 

The Left is in rebellion against our duties to ourselves; the Right our duty to others; both our duty to God.


MORE:
Christ in the Camps: Migrant children are suffering. Christians need to help. (CAITLIN FLANAGAN, 6/27/19, The Atlantic)

I humbly reach out to the only faction of Americans I know of who have the ear of the administration and who care about children: my brothers and sisters in Christ who attend evangelical churches. It seems clear that we are in the midst of a profound humanitarian crisis and that children are being forced to suffer in terrible ways. Maybe it was never supposed to be this way; maybe the system just got overwhelmed. But this is a disaster. Children are programmed to think that any separation from a parent or a caregiver is a life-or-death situation. I keep imagining one of these children having a dream that he's home, with his mother and brothers and sisters, but then waking up to see he's still in a terrible place. If evangelical Christians stood up for these children, things could change in the camps very quickly.

I especially appeal to powerful evangelical leaders such as Rick Warren who have a heart for the immigrant. Warren famously said, "A Good Samaritan doesn't stop and ask the injured person, 'Are you legal or illegal?'" The political problems and policy debates that brought us to this situation are not the point right now; the point is that children are cold and filthy and frightened and we can stop it, or at least greatly improve their situation.

I ask the pastors to request of the administration that all of us--the volunteers and charitable givers of all faiths and of no faith, the army of us who are so eager to help these children--can have access to the sites. Allow us to bring cots and toothbrushes and blankets and food. Allow us to arrange for carefully screened volunteers to work shifts at the sites, to help with diapers and bedtimes and combing for lice and checking for fevers. Allow us to be there when one of these children wakes up from a nightmare or breaks down from sorrow.

I also want to humbly ask all Americans to expedite getting all necessary aid to these children. A week of adult argument is an ocean of time to a 3-year-old. I respect the workers at Wayfair who are protesting the company's planned fulfillment of an order of some 1,600 mattresses and 200 bunkbeds for one of the camps. Profiting from these camps is not morally acceptable. But this is an emergency, and we need to get those beds to those children as fast as possible. Getting 1,600 kids off those cold floors is close at hand--let's not make them wait a minute longer.

Ever since the most recent round of reports on conditions in these camps came out, I've been waking up at night, thinking about the children and wondering what was going on at that moment. I know that while I lie in my warm bed, in my own home and with all my relatives accounted for, children are lying on those cold floors, desperate for their mother, and crying. At those moments, all I can do is think of the nuns at the School of the Madeleine, and how they believed that nothing--nothing at all--was beyond the reach of prayer. And so I lie there and do what millions of other Americans do when they think about these children and come up against the many brick walls keeping us from alleviating their plight: I pray for them.

We know exactly where Christ is, because he told us. He's with the sick and the jailed and the hungry. He's in those camps with those suffering children. And we need to be there, too.

Posted by at June 28, 2019 12:00 AM

  

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