Thursday, February 17, 2011

Self Confessions

I am not totally sure, but I believe this represents the opportunity to watch moral responsibility pass a threshold beyond which it becomes the negation -- if not the assertion of the impossibility -- of moral responsibility:

I am partly responsible for every sin anybody has committed at least during my lifetime.

Here's why. I have sinfully acted in ways that made my prayers less deep, less frequent and less effective. But chief amongst the things I should be praying for is that God rescue me and my neighbor from sin. When my neighbor sins and I did not pray for my neighbor as I ought to have, I am partly responsible for my neighbor's sin—I have at least negligently failed to do something that, as far as I know, would have decreased the probability of my neighbor's sinning.

There are two general ways this has happened. First, there are the many cases where I directly failed to pray as deeply or frequently as I should have. Second, there are many cases where I sinned through something other than neglect of prayer. In the latter cases, I made myself more wicked through the sins, and hence made my prayers less effective—it is the prayer of the righteous that, it is promised, avails much—and made myself be less good at prayer. Besides, often, I could have spent in prayer the time during which I was sinning.
Believers are apparently required to be up in their neighbors' business, if only for the sake of monitoring the severity and quantity of sin, which in turn serves as a gauge of the supplicant's prayer. But note how the requirement to be officious comes attached to a particular, rather narrow duty, namely: pray. If you look around and find that the world continues to be full of sin, the thing to do is to count this a personal failing and pray more fervently. If you look around and see that the world continues to be rife with sin, that people continue starving, going without proper clothing, and dying from preventable illnesses such as malaria, the thing to do is to count this as a personal failing and pray more fervently. If the world is full of sin and countless thousands in Haiti are still living in rotting tents, people are locked in dark cells or killed with rocks for having the wrong political, religious, or sexual thoughts, and cancer ravages the deserving and undeserving alike, the thing to do is to pray harder. You're not praying hard enough.

Wow. Whether you take Alexander Pruss to be abjectly reviling himself or pridefully affirming his significance, it is narcissism on a cosmic scale; either way, he is central to the drama of his unnamed neighbor's unspecified sins. No one asked me (for purposes of this blog post), but I say a single good deed is worth a dozen lifetimes of perfervid supplication to a distant power, let alone one who supposedly made the world and has, by now, been begged more than enough to establish that we have our answer, and it is one of the following: no distant power was ever there to answer in the first place, or no, fuck off.. It seems clear that we are the ones we have been praying for, and that the time spent on mere prayer has been squandered utterly. Hands have better uses.

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