In a market economy such as ours which relies upon business acumen and the power to persuade people to buy what the shopkeeper has to offer, there is always a well-meaning attempt to satisfy needs and to improve the life-style of the customer. But there is also a tendency to extol the virtues of the goods for sale to a dishonest and extravagant level which may bring about a sale price quite out of keeping with reasonable demands and involves the unwary in financial hardship. Some advertisements come from dishonest and unscrupulous sources, and make a mockery of honest practice, especially those that pander to the "must have" syndrome or the "everyone has one these days" attitude.
It is easy, especially if we have children, teenage or otherwise, to fall into the trap of being "conned" into buying what we feel at heart is not conducive to true peace and satisfaction - indeed for the sake of peace we might even consider by hindsight that we have been, if not feckless, at least unwise. Life is full of pitfalls if we are not constantly alert, (and not all, but some people, are dishonest)!
This is a tragic affliction which demands our most serious consideration because it afflicts already millions of innocent sufferers. This is something which bids fair to ruin the lives and families of people world-wide. Self-discipline is the only sure way of combating this scourge of mankind while our doctors seek the means of curing, if they can, those who possibly have contracted the virus quite innocently and our nurses bring comfort to the victims.
For those in Britain, the solution lies not in personal discipline but rather in responsibility insofar that the solution to the problem consists in loving care and making possible expensive treatment that can be administered to the sick. We may not be guilty, but we are our brothers' keepers!
Those starry-eyed idealists who fail to read the history of our country correctly will fail also to understand that the problem of alcoholism is not something new. Particularly in the wretched conditions of the poor in the Industrial Revolution there was recourse to alcohol, particularly spirits, to bring some comfort and even joy to the lives of the oppressed classes of society. Alcohol is a gift of God which has medicinal properties, but since we are aware of its dangers, it is something to be used if not with fear and trepidation, then with discipline and discretion. Its effects are such that we must by example and teaching make it plain that to allow excessive alcohol to be consumed by minors and adults is totally irresponsible and reprehensible. Conduct and responsibility are both involved in the use of alcohol.
Perhaps it is because of our close affinity with the animal kingdom that we, particularly in this country, feel so concerned about its well-being. In the Creation Stories of the Bible, Man is quite understandably, because of his rational understanding, made responsible for the creatures of the earth, sea and sky, and responsible to God for them. Those we have tamed and used to help us in our labours we have naturally favoured and used their products and bodies for our use. Although there is a modern and increasing trend towards vegetarianism, most people feel no sense of guilt in taking the lives of animate creatures for food. To a certain extent this is due to repugnance to taking life even of the "lower" animals, but there are many other factors involved. How far down the scale should we go? How do we justify killing? If we personally had to kill the animals, how many of us would have the heart to accept the task of killing them? The only considerations on which all are agreed is that wanton and needless pain should not be inflicted upon the animals, either in raising them or in killing them. In this way, (even perhaps with a lurking feeling of guilt), we make our decisions and hopefully satisfy ourselves that we have fulfilled our moral discipline and sense of responsibility in farming, killing and eating animals.
"The camera does not lie" Many people wish it did, especially as they grow old and fight shy of the ordeal of being photographed; but our concern is with the beneficial aspect of the laws of the land. We must have all noticed the salutary braking of motorists as they suddenly observe the approach of a police car or speed camera. Are we never guilty of breaking the speed limit or causing a near accident by impatience, discourtesy or lack of attention to safety rules? Are we honest enough to confess that we are not blameless in this respect? As our roads become more crowded, tempers shorter and delays longer so the tragic toll of casualties increases steadily and inexorably. We are surely not so blind or foolish as to join the ranks of those who blandly call the internal combustion engine the infernal combustion engine. It is true that the internal combustion engine has deleterious effects upon our peace and threats to our safety, but it is na´ve to suggest that we wreck our means of transport by banning the use of it. God has given us not only the ability to design our modern travel with all the risks involved but also the will to use his gifts with discretion. As life becomes potentially more hazardous so much more vigilant we must be to acknowledge the risks we incur, our shared guilt and our need for strict self discipline and a sense of responsibility towards our fellow travellers. Until we have designed a satisfactory method of taking our children safely to and from school we must regretfully continue to protect them by the provisions we now make.
"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof".
Whereas many of the problems we are faced with can be solved by goodwill and in the march of human progress with God's help, there are certain critical areas of life where mankind's folly, pride or greed have wrought serious damage upon a world-wide scale. The most obvious examples of these are the damage to the ozone layer, the deforestation of the land, the depletion of earth's resources and the resultant global warming which appears to be irremediable and irreversible.
It seems to have taken a long time for the truth of what is happening to sink into our minds, longer for us to admit the truth, and even longer to take steps to deal with the problem and to accept responsibility for the damage already done, and to make amends for desecrating the wonderful world in which we live.
Who is to blame for the mess we are making of God's world? Without a doubt, we are the guilty ones to whom the world has been entrusted. We must all acknowledge our responsibility and share the guilt and shame. As polluters and despoilers of the earth and its resources we must at least confess our sins and shortcomings and try to make amends by our future conduct and self-discipline and by proving that we can act more responsibly in our future care of the world.
Jean-Paul Sartre said that "Hell is other people". Such a statement is cynical, even blasphemous, and no one but a confirmed misanthrope could possibly hold such a belief. Personal relations are the very essence of our loving relationships with other people. In the Biblical book, Genesis, we are told that God created man and wife to live together as "one flesh" for it is not good that we should be alone but enjoy the fruits of human society and intercourse. On many occasions we may hear the elderly married couple say with a smile "you belong to me, and I belong to you", and really mean it. This is what "fidelity" is all about; but unfortunately, the converse is all too common. There are far too many couples whose marriage ties have been broken by their infidelity to one another. It is not meet and right that we should condemn them because unless we can replicate their lives and experience, who are we to judge between them? God alone is our judge and he is merciful and compassionate and Jews and Christians trust in His judgement.
In all our weakness and sin in all our failings and shortcomings, we know we have one who judges righteously and in mercy and compassion. This does not mean that we are given licence to maltreat one another, to neglect the poor and needy, the old, the bereaved, the orphans, the disabled, those who lack the ability to order their lives aright, but to show self-discipline in our own personal lives and responsibility among our fellows. Our duty and privilege is to help and love them and to minister to their needs.
On a much lighter note we pass now to the consideration of the state of sport in our country and how the dual themes of "discipline and responsibility" play their parts in the leisure we enjoy.
First we must take note of the positive, helpful and enjoyable facets of sport which have enhanced the physical and emotional prowess of our people and brought joy and happiness to millions of people who either participate in the sports or watch others doing so. Having paid credit for this, we must in all fairness acknowledge that there are occasions when indiscipline and irresponsibility have marred sporting occasions on the field and amongst spectators. Discipline and responsibility are key words on and off the field whatever the sport, and must be observed. One of the saddest incidents reported was seeing at a football match a middle-aged spectator clapping a member of the visiting team on a brilliant piece of footwork and receiving a rebuke from the "home fans" amongst whom he was seated. Such an unsportsmanlike incident brings no credit to anyone, and shame to the offenders. It is true that this sort of thing is rare, but partisanship if carried to an excess, has on occasions ruined not only matches but led to indiscipline and breaches of the peace around sports stadia and escalated into running fights especially when alcohol has been drunk to excess.
It is said that sport has been ruined by too much money changing hands in transfer fees, wages and the paraphernalia of sport. Who is to blame for this? We think that the answer to such a question is that we are collectively guilty but what do we do about it? As with such questions the answer is that we don't want to be involved and can find many rational excuses for doing nothing. As said years ago, "All that is needed for evil to flourish in the world is for good men to do nothing".
Many of the world's great religions are concerned to combat the teaching of their adherents who fall into the blasphemous error of worshipping overtly or secretly idols. In common parlance today we still find people, old and young, intelligent or otherwise, worshipping "pop idols" or false and unworthy objects and personalities instead of God. By the first century of the Christian era the Jewish people had received by tradition and teaching many salutary warnings about the dangers of idolatry and many admonitions to follow "the way of righteousness" in their daily living (c.f. Halakah).
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