I recently read “1776” by David McCullough, the history of the American Revolution. Early on, McCullough describes the supreme commander of the American forces, our first president, George Washington.
Washington was a member of the Continental Congress, the predecessor to our U.S. Congress, and when members were desperately looking for someone to lead the armed struggle against the British, they heartily supported their colleague, Washington, a wealthy aristocrat from Virginia who had scant military experience.
According to McCullough, Washington was among the most admired persons in the colonies, even though he “owned” around 100 slaves on his estate at Mt. Vernon. It makes you wonder whether Washington, his supporters and other people of the time ever stopped to consider the evil of slavery. It seems so obvious today.
Turned Their Backs
There’s historical evidence that some people understood the evil and condemned it, but the majority of the age evidently didn’t consider it or turned their backs on their consciences. The climate of opinion made slave-owning acceptable.
It reminds me of a recent documentary I watched about a judge in the famous post-World War II Nuremberg trials in which former Nazis were tried and after which many were imprisoned or executed.
After hearing a speech by a defense attorney praising a Nazi official, the judge remarked, “Apart from killing 90,000 Jews, I’m sure he was quite a gentleman.”
People of various eras in human history seem to have shared moral blind spots, leading to the question, “What are the blind spots of our era?”
A Matter of Opinion
Obviously, it’s very much a matter of opinion, even for people who are sincerely searching for God and for those who count themselves among believers. I suppose we all would have a list that reflects our biases, political views and personal tastes. My criteria for such a list: What is most “God-like” as a Catholic Christian, not as a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.
You’ll be disappointed if you expect to see “solutions” in this list because solutions to these problems involve the “change of heart” needed to eradicate moral blindness and precede action.
- Inequality. Often overlooked, it’s the basis for most of the world’s conflict – including, often indirectly, the mass shootings that plague our country. Inequality breeds injustice, rivalry and jealousy. People searching for God should promote equality.
- The environment. As Pope Francis has pointed out, we all have a primary responsibility for our God-given common home, which is in big trouble. There’s plenty of lip service given to this subject, but little commitment or action.
- Immigration. In my view, it’s the result of inequality on a worldwide scale. Poverty and violence drive it, but instead of tackling those problems where they exist, we use violence and intimidation to threaten refugees and immigrants.
- Racism. Everyone searching for God – white, black, brown – must continually be on guard against our own racism and resist it in society.
- Abortion. I believe the vast majority of people who support abortion have good intentions, linking it to the discrimination that women have endured since the beginning of history. But life trumps all else. What other species seeks to destroy its offspring?
- Sexual relativism. To mention this provokes charges of puritanism or hypocrisy, but reliance on the principle “as long as it doesn’t hurt others” is unrealistic. People sincerely searching for God won’t exclude any aspect of our lives from God’s purview.
All of us, including me, have moral blind spots. One of the jobs of people searching for God is to discover them in ourselves and work to eliminate them, and challenge the certitudes of our age.
If you would like to add to this list, feel free to do so in a comment on Facebook or in other venues where this blog appears.