Pentecost 145

Pentecost 145
My Psalms 145

Problematic Faithfulness

Yesterday loyalty was discussed; actually, it was introduced. Today’s post continues on the theme of loyalty, in part two of what will most likely be a three-post discussion. It is a fitting topic and one that resounds through most spiritual and religious writings. Loyalty is not a one-way street. It is a relationship, a give-and take action. At a time when murders are being committed both by those who have been bullied and those who would bully, the key component in all is loyalty.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has discussed this subject in articles published in 2007 and updated in 2013. Loyalty is described as a problematic virtue. “It is constituted centrally by perseverance in an association to which a person has become intrinsically committed as a matter of his or her identity. Its paradigmatic expression is found in friendship, to which loyalty is integral, but many other relationships and associations seek to encourage it as an aspect of affiliation or membership: families expect it, organizations often demand it, and countries do what they can to foster it.”

While there is much panic and hysteria concerning the recent Ebola virus outbreak which has spread from Africa to countries that sent doctors to assist medically, the numbers of those outside the African continent who have died from the disease is small. Certainly even one death is one too many. One life lost diminishes all mankind. However, while one person in the United States has died from the Ebola virus in the past year, almost three thousand percent more have died from gun violence. That number includes those in the process of committing a criminal act, those who have committed suicide, and those who were victims of another. It also includes school shootings. This is not, for this discussion, a matter of gun ownership. It is a matter of the heart of the problem. People feel a loyalty to friends and do not speak up when another is being bullied. People want to “fit in” and so participate in senseless acts of violence to earn “street cred” or gang affiliation. Still others have become addicted and lose all rational thought except for one – obtain the object of their addiction.

The student who has seen another bullied, who knows another’s claims of retaliation but does not speak up is putting their loyalty with their peers and not with their future. The kid whose only family is the gang on the corner has misplaced loyalty in thinking the group actually cares about him or her when, in reality, they only see him or her as a means to an end, a commodity and not a person. The addict knows only one loyalty and that is to his or her drug of choice. The criminal who cheats, lies, or steals and ends up using a gun to defend himself has put loyalty in either material things or an over-inflated ego.

The fickle nature of man is what the entire Torah or Old Testament is based upon and very little has changed as man has evolved through time. Called fealty in the Middle Ages, where one put one’s loyalty often determined one’s status, one’s very future – if there was one or not. Align with the wrong clan leader or tribe, later king or dictator, and death was a certainty.

Quoting again from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “As a working definition, loyalty can be characterized as a practical disposition to persist in an intrinsically valued (though not necessarily valuable) associational attachment, where that involves a potentially costly commitment to secure or at least not to jeopardize the interests or well-being of the object of loyalty. For the most part, an association that we come to value for its own sake is also one with which we come to identify (as ours).”

The argument regarding loyalty and whether it is a value or a sentiment is also longstanding. Are we loyal because of the ethics and morals behind our decision? Are we loyal because we believe in that to which we have pledged our loyalties? Does one become loyal based upon the benefits of such a decision? Does loyalty become displayed in preferential treatment and behavior?

Stop ten people on the street and ask for an example of loyalty and you will get answers ranging from religion to sports. Ask those same ten people about the most loyal animal and you will probably get ten similar answers – a dog. Is a dog loyal because of its nature or affection with its owner or does the dog realize that loyalty will provide it with a better and safer life? If a dog is swayed by a burglar and a thick t-bone stone, is the dog being disloyal to its owner or has the training been lax? Perhaps the dog is swayed because of his/her nature in being a carnivorous animal that likes to eat steak?

To what do you pledge your loyalty? Is it you faith, a sports team, or a brand of six-inch fashionable heels? Where do we draw the line at how loyal we are? What about our misplaced loyalties? Can being loyal mean giving up good judgment? When we do exercise our good judgment, is there a price to pay and will we be seen as disloyal? When is it okay to be a “snitch” or a “whistle blower”? Again, from Stanford: “…The case of whistle blowing illustrates not only the importance of loyalty to many organizations but also the care that needs to be exercised when it is claimed that obligations of loyalty are justifiably overridden or forfeited.”

As a humanitarian, loyalty can be a tricky thing. Those who gave up vacation time and traveled to Africa to assist medically with the Ebola epidemic have returned home to a less than hero’s welcome. The have followed their Hippocratic oath, thought of their [global] fellow man, and shared their wisdom and loyalty to mankind only to return home and be labeled thoughtless, stupid, putting others in harm’s way. Their loyalty to living and refusal to panic has not given them the country’s support. Have we been disloyal to them?

Those who are loyal to a religion or spirituality, expect that loyalty to garner them something in return. The whole concept of prayer is a loyal relationship between one’s Great Spirit or God and the individual. Is that an equal relationship? Are we as loyal to that Creator as we expect Him/Her to be to us? Do we then share that loyalty with our fellow man? Where does responsibility enter into our loyalty?

My Psalm 145

You are greatness, Lord.
You are goodness, O God.
You are worthy of my loyalty.
And yet …..
There are those who mock my beliefs.
There are those who ridicule my behavior or lack of certain ones.
I cannot touch you.
I cannot see you.
Is believing enough?
The faithful know the truth of who and what you are.
The wind blows your mercy to all.
The sun reflects your goodness.
The world blossoms as your love and forgiveness do for those who know you.
You believe in me, Great Spirit.
I believe in you.
Help me to live a life responsible to such beliefs.
Let me not follow the world but your teachings.
Let my every breath whisper your name
And my every action be a reflection of your love for all.
Help me to be loyal to what I believe and responsible in my living.

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