Here's a better list:
- To feed the hungry;
- To give drink to the thirsty;
- To clothe the naked;
- To harbour the harbourless;
- To visit the sick;
- To ransom the captive;
- To bury the dead.
- To instruct the ignorant;
- To counsel the doubtful;
- To admonish sinners;
- To bear wrongs patiently;
- To forgive offences willingly;
- To comfort the afflicted;
In the real world, those acts of mercy can take many, many forms. Perhaps you'll find him ladling soup in a homeless shelter. That would be an easy one to spot. Or maybe he's the young medical student who circles back after a long day of work to read stories to the pediatric patients. Maybe he's the guy who listens patiently as his grandfather goes on and on about a distant memory not quite still within his reach. Or maybe he's the one who's working fulltime and getting his degree because he dreams of a large family and wants the means with which to support them. Is he the guy next door? The one who "only" goes to Sunday Mass, but who also cheerfully picks up two young soccer players and drives them to practice three times a week because their mom is bedridden? And all the while, in the car, he is their friend. Their real friend. A strong shoulder to lean on in a time of crisis at home. Just a real good guy. Look for a real good guy. Someone who will journey with you.
This is somebody who did not grow up where there are street gangs. Which means there are either no streets, or there are cops and/or soldiers who pacified them. Aside from the annoyance such people provide me as they luxuriate in the convenience of all that is, there is a significant problem with this philosophy: it requires a vengeful defense. It requires a hegemonic overlord. It requires the extermination of rebellion without which, the Morlocks win.
I am not saying that these are improper values, but I'm disagreeing with Shakespeare when he says that the quality of mercy is not [con]strained. Mercy does not come cheap. It comes out of the goodness of a well-fed heart. And we must always be aware of how to feed those hearts, and at what price they are defended. When it comes to the care bear extremes, we enable the defensive Beast.
I remain in the middle of my re-reading of the Baroque Cycle, just having finished a Tom Clancy and the new Seal Team Six memoir of Wasdin. I know why I'm harsh. But I wonder if such nosy moral dainty people know how much they need harsh troops.
We know what causes people to doubt the existence of God, or grace, or human kindness. But we should also and equally understand what give people strength from those same things. We are naturally reactive and accepting of all of the qualities of human character. What's troublesome is the idea that we can engineer it for any size society, when in fact we cannot.
I want you to think about nationalism and patriotism, and I want you to doubt it for a moment. In fact, I want you to understand how a built-up aversion to nationalism and patriotism works in your favor. It's a bit counter-intutitive, but it depends upon your actual independence. I want you to imagine that you are a millionaire and that you don't care about patriotism - rather like George Soros but not so extreme. Some terrorist destroys the Statue of Liberty. Your reaction is indifference. What you will be is one vote in favor of not engaging the wrath of 150 million Americans. Do you get it? The Statue of Liberty means nothing to you because you don't need it. You need almost nothing from those things America promises to Jane Doe. Your identity is not wrapped up in such small gifts. Your byline is 'What do you mean we?'
You don't want Sam Jackson to torture the terrorist. You don't want the state to execute the murderer. You don't want the cop to shoot the bank robber. You don't want the vice principle to swat the bully. You don't want any part of any of that violence that gives the masses any sense of cohesion or safety. You want nothing to do with that world that delivers small comforts to small people. You've got your John Donne twisted.
Do you see how this kind of individualism works in the world? I see it as the same sort of extreme philosophy that asks for only mercy, gentle forebearance and kindness. I say we must be judgmental in all things large and small. We must be prepared for the whole man and so we must be whole men. We cannot disengage when things get ugly, there is not always some proxy to defend us in principle.