“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of thorns.” ~Charlotte Bronte, Preface to the Second Edition of Jane Eyre~
Charlotte Bronte wrote a wonderful preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre. The daughter of a friend recently pointed it out to me. Somehow I never noticed it in school. See Cultural Blinders Primer, June 4, 2009. Below is a view of the Lost Art of Righteousness.
Conventionality: Conventional behavior, adherence to custom.
Conventional: conforming to artificial or accepted standards of conduct or taste.
People often confuse conventional behavior with morality. Conventional behavior changes in society. It always has. Some societies change very slowly. Think middle ages Europe. Sometimes there are societal spasms which quickly transform a society. Think the French Revolution or post WW II China. A moderately paced program is precisely how homosexuality became accepted behavior in western society. It transformed into normal and accepted behavior over about a 40 year period. There was a very successful planned campaign to accomplish this end. It became accepted conventional behavior here, and those who still oppose it are considered by societal norms as narrow minded, prejudiced, and out of step, at best.
Morality: A system of morals; set of rules or principles of behavior.
In contrast to conventional behavior, morality in Christianity has been unchanging, taken from God’s Word.
Historically only minor differences in interpretation exist among the various Christian groups. If significant differences develop as to what is righteous behavior, the principle of what most Christians throughout history have accepted has ruled.
What contradicts this stable and fixed condition is lip service paid to the proclaimed morality while ignoring the actual moral actions. Immoral behavior also is sometimes sanctioned by the very church group which defines the “new” moral actions in contrast to the established morality.
Religion: A particular system of religious belief and worship. Anything done or followed with reverence or devotion.
Christians often consider that we have a faith rather than religion. In this faith are a precise morality and worship of our God.
Self-righteousness has often proclaimed a specious justification to accomplish an immoral end. Most often it proclaims Godlessness as Godliness to cover up unGodly behavior. Some medieval Christian crusades are in this category. Pograms and religious persecutions have this element.
Extreme examples of such self-righteousness and moral failure can be seen in Christian pogroms against Jews, World War II concentration camps, Armenian extermination, American treatment and theft from native Americans, and radical Islamic atrocities. There are many other examples which can be cited.
What is so sad is that so many people, so often, were so certain they were doing right when the results were so far from God’s plan. What seemed to be proper action resulted in so much immorality and depravity.
There are fine detail differences between different church groups about moral behavior, but broad general agreement. My grandparents were old style frontier Methodists – no alcohol, smoking, or dancing. Only card game allowed the kids was Go Fish (and never on Sunday). Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, most Lutherans, and many main line Protestants were and are more relaxed about those things.
To pluck the mask from the self-righteous Pharisee is to expose immoral conventionality. Such action does not attack Christ, but rather stands with Him. To be righteous allows us to stand firm with Our Lord. Righteousness is best served when accompanied by compassion and love. However, it should never be served with any dash of self-righteousness.