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Opening Arguments


It seems like just yesterday (oh, wait, it was) when I did a post about the Pew study showing how little people know about their own religions, noting that people who come late to something usually know more about it than those born to it. Well, oops. This is President Obama:

"So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead — being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me," he continued.

"Treating others as they would treat me" doesn't quite get the Golden Rule right. It's "treating others as I would have them treat me." The idea is sensitivity and humility, using our own sense of being treated fairly to behave fairly with others. Perhaps he just misspoke, but Obama's version seems to invite a reciprocity capable of all sorts of mischief is possible. You treat me like a dog? Well, then, I treat you like a dog.

Anyway, I've always thought the Golden Rule was just a start, not the be-all and end-all of civilized relationships. Suppose I like to argue (which you know I do), so how I want to be treated is to be challenged so we can get a good debate going. Do I suppose everyone I meet wants to be challenged argumentatively, or should I realize that some people don't like verbal sparring and treat them accordingly? We all have different tastes and temperaments, and the trick is trying to figure out what those are, using our own merely as a guide.


Wed, 09/29/2010 - 9:54am

The mischief of interpreting the Golden Rule too literally reminds me of a bit a comic did about how a woman's minimum expectations on a date exceeded a man's wildest dreams. I forget how he put it, but it had to do with how happy a guy would be if a woman asked him out, paid for everything, then tried to get him drunk so she could have sex with him.