Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chesterton's Racehorse

In a free society we get used to negotiating, settling, bargaining, haggling, meeting-in-the-middle and reaching across the aisle. These are great skills in the right context, but do not help anything in the framework of objective truth.
It’s easy to understand the difficulty with compromise when applied in the wrong situation. Gravity pulls us down. Can we work out some negotiation where gravity can pull us a bit to the left or a bit to the right? How about pulling down Monday thru Saturday, but then pulling us up on Sundays? After all, we can always take a vote, achieve a majority, and change the law. In this case, we change the law of gravity; it’s only fair.
Suppose a terrorist says, “I’m going to kill you.” How do we negotiate that position? Can you please kill me at an agreed upon future date, instead of right now? Can you just beat me within an inch of my life, but leave me alive? We need to be fair to the desires of both parties, don’t we? Be reasonable.
The above paragraphs sound absurd, but we do the same kind of bargaining with spiritual realities:
Perhaps the youngest humans can be declared “non-persons” and then killed. You don’t agree? Okay, how about just until the end of the 1st or 2nd trimester or some other subjective threshold? Can you agree now? No? Are you some sort of extremist wacko?
Let’s redefine marriage as any two people. How about any three people or four? Why not? Can’t we work this out?
Jesus is perhaps one way to heaven, but there must be many different ways we can agree upon. Be realistic.
Catholics need to compromise on this HHS mandate thing. Everyone knows that pregnancy and fertility are akin to diseases.
In the big-picture, looking at thousands of religious denominations in the world, we say that it is impossible for only one of them to actually be right. We try to negotiate all these beliefs somehow. The truth is always somewhere in the middle; we must diligently search for the middle-ground.
I once heard a very brief, but profound reflection from G.K. Chesterton about a horse race. Suppose there was a race with 20 horses and each horse owner was completely convinced, without a doubt that his horse will win. Must we then conclude that no single horse can possibly win? We’ll need to settle on a 20-way tie somehow? Of course not, one horse will win.
If you are Catholic, you are on the right horse and this horse will ultimately win. The question becomes, will you run the race with her? In the face of (perhaps) a brand new era of more direct attacks on religious liberty in this country, understanding this becomes especially imperative.

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