Fixing America In 500 Words Or Less


Chapter 49

IS THE GOLDEN RULE
REALLY THE BEST IDEA?


       What is today known as the “golden rule”, ¹  is found in similar form in at least 37 often non-connected cultures. ²  Thus, the laws of God are clearly written on the conscience of humanity, as the Bible claims and as Jefferson echoed in the Declaration of Independence.

       According to Jesus, “Therefore, whatever you want people to do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets”. ³  The added, “for this is the law and the prophets” in the society of Jesus, meant similar to as if today someone said, “this is the foundation of human rights and the sum and purpose of all reason, wisdom, philosophy, science, education, morality and ethics.”  Is this really the best idea for achieving human rights in the modern age?

       Upon closer examination, most of the so-called “golden rules” found in other societies, including the one attributed to the Jewish teacher Hillel, are considerably different than that taught by Jesus.
4  A similar one to Jesus is found in a saying attributed to Mencius. 5  But unlike Mencius and all of the other known sages of history, only Jesus gives this positive, pro-active version the all-important status of being the foundation for all that matters towards positive human enlightenment and achievement.

       So-called “golden rules” found in most societies instruct us not to harm others as we do not wish them to harm us.  But Jesus teaches us to reach out and help other people, even if they do not first help us.  Consider how much less effective it is to tell a child not to harm someone, than teaching the same child to pro-actively treat others as they like to be treated.  For example, is a homeless widow better off if someone just doesn't harm her or, if someone provides her food and shelter?  Isn't it far more effective to teach us to help each other than just saying we should do no harm?

       Some modern intellectuals claim we should instead, treat other people as “they” wish to be treated.  This supposed “improvement” contains at least two significant flaws:  1) It is rather difficult to know how another person wants us to treat them unless we first befriend them as we wish to be treated.  2) If we treat others as they wish to be treated without any measurement against our own well-being, we will soon be extremely tired, penniless and destitute.

       Today, the term “empathy” is favored by many, apparently because it is less religious sounding than the idea of loving our neighbor as ourself. Although it is a good idea to empathize with others, is this idea really an improvement over teaching us to pro-actively love our neighbor as ourselves?

       Is the Jesus version of the golden rule the best idea?  Does anybody else have a better idea for curing what ails a race called “human”?  Do we want less than the best for our children?
6

       You decide.
7


{ See Does Science Really Know What is True? for related information. }



NOTES:

1. The term "golden rule" is a later invention and does not trace back to Jesus.  The term is used here so that what is being referred to can be easily understood and in doing so, it is not intended to imply that this is a historically accurate term.

2. A list of "golden rules" can be found at this link.  It should be noted that the content of various golden rules listed here varies among sources and as such, there is no general agreed to historical consensus of exact cultural language.  A slightly different wording for the "golden rule" of Jesus can be found in Luke in comparison to that found in Matthew (links to both in note #3 below) and likewise, variations in wording attributed to various "golden rules" found in other cultures differ among sources: Golden Rule Source Link.

It should be noted that the meaning of human language as used in various cultural sources is a study unto itself known as "philology".  Definitions of the same words in various languages often change over time.  For example, the terms "religion", "church" and "Creator", as well as the concept of "deism", had dramatically different meanings to Jefferson, Paine and other thinkers of the 18th Century as the same terms are commonly understood to mean today.  As such, what is critical in terms of historical accuracy, is what various language terminologies used most likely "intended" based on the historical cultural timeframe, as opposed to what the same terms may generally mean here in the 21st Century.  A common mistake among poorly educated Americans (including many educators and pundits) is to entirely misrepresent a person of historical prominence by assuming that the language they used translates today into the same exact modern English definition, while often this is very far from being historically fair and accurate.

It is fair to say that the so-called "golden rule" found in Matthew and the one found in Luke intend the same thing, although the example in Matthew is stronger because it contains the added "for this is the law and the prophets".  It is not surprising that one biblical author would include this added phrase and the other would not, as even trained reporters today with cameras and notebook computers in tow, often provide differing and sometimes conflicting accounts of the same events witnessed in real-time.  So-called 'scholars' who do not grant the Bible a similar latitude, even though biblical events were written down much later after the fact and there were no pencils, pens or paper, let along modern communication technologies available, are plainly liars mis-representing what is in fact, quite reliable history based on considerable internal evidence demonstrating authenticity rather than deliberate invention. On the contrary, if the four "gospels" did agree word for word and fact for fact, that would be a clear sign of deliberate invention, rather than the other way around, as pretended by Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and several other poorly educated pop pundits, apparently out to make a buck on the best seller lists at the cost of fair and unbiased historical analysis.

3. Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31.

4. Hillel: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.  That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

5. Mencius: "Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence."  This statement attributed to Mencius is perhaps the best "golden rule" example known other than that taught by Jesus.  Again many modern 'scholars' and pundits, as noted in #2 above, in their extreme bias and haste, are quick to point out that Jesus is not the first person to propose the "golden rule" and that other things Jesus said are also not unique to him and can be found elsewhere in historical civilization.  What they fail to grasp is, when the teachings of Jesus are analyzed in context, it is fair to say that Jesus used existing ideas when they already were the best ideas, improving on them when possible and otherwise, presented unique and new information when a better idea was needed.  Unlike many modern intellectuals, Jesus was not about pushing his own ideas and personal agenda but rather, he was about teaching and underscoring the best ideas, whether or not they were unique to him.

For example, the idea of the golden rule and the similar "love your neighbor as yourself" pre-date the birth of Jesus and thus, Jesus underscored and rephrased what were already the best ideas. On the other hand, it is fair to conclude that Jesus is the founder of free public education for the masses and as such, he presents a unique and entirely new foundational basis for education; "you will know the truth and the truth will make you free".  Jesus likewise presented the greatest and first known foundational statement for environmental awareness, which was not even an issue in his historical timeframe.  When one examines the teachings of Jesus in complete context, it is fair to conclude it is impossible to improve on his fundamental teachings; as historian Will Durant concluded in "Caesar and Christ", the four "gospels" taken in context represent a singular highly advanced mind far superior to any other known human being.  Someone who really wants to teach the truth to their students would never replace an existing idea with their own unless it is a better idea; a lesson in true humility often lost on modern so-called 'educators'.

6. American educators have developed the very bad habit of placing human knowledge, understanding and experience into neat "categories", thus teachings of Jesus typically end up in "religion", those of Socrates in "philosophy", those of Shakespeare in "literature" and those of Martin Luther King, Jr. in "history" and "political theory".  This paints a very false picture of human cultural knowledge and identity in the minds of our children, often teaching them as truth the entirely erroneous conclusion, that what scientists, historians and key historical personages personally believed is somehow irrelevant to their contributions to human knowledge.  It is more accurate to place Jesus in "ethics", "philosophy", "political and social theory", "behavioral science", "education theory" and several other categories than it is to place him in a category of "religion", although far beyond all known people of human history, Jesus completely and entirely defies category definition.  And, his teachings and example quite rationally apply to every so-called human knowledge "discipline".  To not teach American children the collective wisdom of Jesus is to deny them an education entirely and altogether and even worse, to openly invite WWIII to occur sooner rather than later.

7. See also Are Americans Well-Educated? and Are People Really Sinners? for related information.




Click Here to Go Back to Contents

Click Here to eMail the Author

Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.
Copyright © Jaunary 7th, 2014 by Richard Aberdeen.
Copyright © February 1st, 2014 by Freedom Tracks Records.

No part of this material may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher and signed by the author. Inquiries: Freedom Tracks Records or requested via eMail.  Essays entitled Revolution and Revolution ~ Side B are open copyright and may be reproduced and distributed as desired.