Showing posts with label love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label love. Show all posts

Friday, 2 May 2014

Loving the Lovely and Unlovely

It has become commonplace, at least among young idealists, to talk about "always finding the good in someone." No matter what the person is like, they always have something good in them, they say, and we should love them because of it. Whether it is true that all people have something good in them, I do not know - probably, but perhaps not. In either case, this is not a Christian approach to loving people. Christians love as required by Jesus, who says to us:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt. 5:43-48)

I have written on that before, now I want to bring out a crucial point here: nowhere does it talk about finding something good in the person to love. It just asks you to love them regardless. In fact, loving the good in others, like loving those who love you back, is easy and it comes naturally. Christian love is special love because it is predicated on the assumption that we should not love people because they are good, but simply because they are people, and it is hence supernatural rather than natural, because it is modelled on the love of God.

I have found over the months a quote from Martin Luther to be insightful into this point, from the Heidelberg disputation, thesis 28:

"The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it."

It is all very well and good to love the good in people, and the good in people certainly makes it easier to do. Nonetheless, that is no sufficient. We must love the most horrible of people, not because they are horrible, in fact, quite independently of this. For whether a person is good or bad is not a direct matter of concern when the Christian asks whether or not to love them - the Christian does so, without asking that question.

So the Christian is called to love the person. Very well. This does not at all render whether someone is good or bad irrelevant in general. In fact, as Luther pointed out, the love of God does not come into being because it finds something pleasing to it, it comes into being because God is love, and yet it creates the good in the other person. This is important, it means that Christian love does not seek that the person remain as they are, it requires change.

It can be hard to make this point clear because we are so used to the "love of man" which Luther refers to, and that adores that which is pleasing to it already. If some attribute is already pleasing, and our love comes into being because of it, then it stands to reason that this should not change, that changing it might well make it less loveable, or that changing it implies that we did not really love to begin with. However, if our love comes into being simply because the object of that love is a person, as is the case with divine love, then love might well entail the transformation of that person into that which is good.

I think this is, at least to some extent, intuitive - it is just really hard, by the same token. For instance, we might love the alcoholic, despite them being a rotten drunkard and not so nice a person when sober, and yet we try to transform them, not despite our love but because of it. Or take the greedy person who is thrifty with giving but generous when it comes to gifting themselves - we can love the person, but not because they are greedy, quite in spite of this fact. We can love them, and so desire to transform them. In short, when we love people, we want their transformation, because people are imperfect, and love seeks the perfection of the other.

We cannot love some people for what they are (personality wise), because what some people are is often not very lovable naturally. But we can love them simply because they are, simply because they exist. They have human dignity, whether or not they have human goodness. For us who take the divine example to love all, this is what we must do. We must dissuade ourselves from "love" being "liking a lot" - we may not like whatever it is we love, because, once again, we must not simply love what who we like, but also who we do not like. I hardly imagine Jesus expected us to find something very likeable in our enemies, and then love them.

So next time someone says to me "everyone has something good in them", I might say "sure, but who cares?" Or perhaps "excellent, that will make it easier to love them." What I should not say, or think, or assimilate unconsciously is "Oh, that means I should (or could) love them." I admit, I mostly fall in to ruts of loving only those that are easy to love, and for that matter, when they are easy to love. This is just not good enough.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Christian Vegetarianism? A Reflection and Review of "For Love of Animals" by Charles Camosy

Book finished on January 2nd, 2014. Disclaimer: I ignore some parts of Camosy's treatment of the issue in this piece, and expand on it with my own thoughts - please read the book to understand what Camosy writes on the topic.

I heard about the argument of this book a from a brief news article that I read in late October, 2013. I thought to myself, "hey, there might be something in this", added the book to my rather long booklist, and I suspected I would get round to it within the next few years. Something tickled my curiosity, though: did a consistent ethic of life really include animal life? Surely by "life" one meant "human life", after all, even bacteria are alive, and nobody argues for duties towards bacteria (unless they benefit whoever has them).

Near the end of November, a friend who had it messaged me telling me that the book was great, "very challenging, definitely going full on veggie now. Will bring it next time I see you." This chap certainly seemed to have been changed in a quite meaningful way by the message of the book, and even though people seem to be convinced by all sorts of oddities, I doubted he would be altered by any old nonsense - so, given that he was going to lend it to me, I thought I would bump it up my list. It could hardly hurt to explore the idea of vegetarianism inspired by Christianity.

At only about 150 pages, it only took a few hours to read - some late at night (or the morning of the 2nd) and the rest after I got up from bed. It seems to be one of those books which are easy enough to read, but one has to think about whether or not the thesis is as sensible as one was lead to believe as one read. At its core, I think For Love of Animals is, whether fortunately or unfortunately, quite compelling, even if I disagree on some points.

The book could be divided into two parts, the first being a look at Christian views on non-human animals in the past, in the tradition, and the second half looking at now, today, and what we should do about the current situation.

To begin a book about a moral relationship with other animals, however, Camosy has to step back a bit and ask: what, as a Christian, constitutes an ethical treatment of anyone, be it dog, a woman, a black person, or even oneself? So he starts with something which is central to Christianity, and it is justice. He notes flat out, "perhaps one reason why questions of justice are often so difficult to discuss - and provoke such strong reactions - is that a genuine concern for justice means that we might risk rethinking our familiar and comfortable ways of seeing the world." (p. 3) Uh oh. That sort of sentence always seems to preface arguments with conclusions that would be highly inconvenient if true - think of the slave traders or owners being confronted with anti-slavery arguments. It's not enough to appeal to one's legal rights, or the majority concensus - it is the heart of rationality that sound arguments have true conclusions, and true conclusions must be followed. Whether it be the misguided language of slavery "rights" or abortion "rights", justice makes demands on our liberty and autonomy which are very often inconvenient.

Whilst I think the last sentence as an add-on is a bit awkwardly phrased as a definition, and I would prefer justice to be couched in terms of duties and not rights (or being "owed" something), this definition does seem to be the correct product of a Christian deliberation on the justice made manifest in Jesus Christ: "Christian justice means consistently and actively working to see that individuals and groups - especially vulnerable population on the margin - are given what they are owed. It will be especially skeptical of practices which promote violence, consumerism and autonomy." (p. 7)

And so he turns to animals: what does justice towards animals entail?

He knows that justice for animals sounds like a strange concept to most, and probably associated with anti-Christian animal rights activists. But, he says, we already have a basic intuition for the duty of kindness towards animals, for instance, when we hear of horrendous abuse of pets (just google images for "animal abuse" if you have never heard of such cases) or other animals, we intuitively respond with compassion, with moral outrage.

Still, he knows he has to dedicate a chapter to defending the idea that non-human animals even make it to moral status. He goes through the Christian tradition briefly and notes all the sorts of creatures who have moral status, yet are not human - angels, for instance, and that mysterious reference to nephilim might refer to non-human animals with moral agency. Moreover, people are beginning to consider the hypothetical of aliens - a little bit crazy at the moment, but not outside the imaginable - and they may too have moral agency. The point is not so much a defence of the existence of these beings, but that it is still conceivable that non-human animals be accorded with moral status.

Sure, so we do not exploit angels or aliens or whatnot. But animals? They were given to us to eat, right? Well, yes and no. The Edenic state appears to be quite pointedly a vegetarian (probably even vegan) one, and it is not until after the Fall that eating animals is acceptable. Is this total permission, or accomodating permission - by which I mean, is it like the permission to eat from any tree in the garden (except one), or is it like the permission to own slaves? It is unclear, and although Camosy spends a little more time on it, I think his argument will ultimately be unaffected by the distinction.

He makes an important point about creation, though, which is worth pausing for a moment to consider: whilst we frequently think otherwise, creation is not about or for us. All of creation, including animals, are said to be good entirely independent of humankind. We are to have dominion over it, be caretakers of it, subdue it and make it fruitful - that is to say, with all these activities we are to partake in the creative nature of God. I will write elsewhere about the clear Temple and Covenant motifs which appear and re-appear in discussions of creation (Genesis and elsewhere), but the basic point is a rather obvious one, that just because we live on God's green earth, does not mean we have absolute property rights. We are stewards entrusted with creation. We have broken this covenant of care, and so Christ has had to redeem not only us, but the whole of creation, which now "waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8) And that was before the industrial revolution!

This is a part of the Catechism which is likely to be expanded in the years to come with new encyclicals and the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium as it addresses the destruction humanity unleashes on the world, not least to do with our effects on the climate, on natural treasures and the conservation of natural habitats - but nonetheless, the Church is not silent on care for creation. The relevant section is CCC 2415-2418 (bold mine): "The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.

Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.

It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons."

I have largely skipped over Camosy's discussion of the Christian tradition's engagement with non-human animals, as well as statements from recent Popes, holy people and saints, and entirely omitted almost all discussion of the Sacred Scriptures. These are relevant, and raise some potentially thorny questions, to which proper response must be given in due time. For now, the Catechism's summary of care for creation should be sufficient for Catholics. I want to turn, then, to the practical application of these ideas; of Christian justice, stewardship of creation, and the teaching of the Catechism. Camosy's conclusion is probably slightly stronger than the one I am going to give here, but the weaker version will suffice:

It is quite clear that the Catechism permits eating animals. I need not argue that this is merely a circumstancial liberty (like owning slaves) that will be erradicated later on. I wish to point out instead that the Catechism moderates the claim by pointing out that it is nonetheless wrong ("contrary to human dignity" - that is, a violation of our intrinsic ideal and purpose) to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. One must ask, given the quite deplorable conditions from which a substantial portion of our meat comes - not all, and in Australia we are a bit luckier - does spending money to fuel the factory farming industry constitute a real need? I cannot see any justification for it. Note that this is not a conclusion that rejects eating meat outright - it objects to excessive meat consumption (which would constitute needless death) and particularly to the way in which animals are caused to suffer in order to maximise profits for the farm in question. Just because I am well known for advocating that standard logical form be used more often in these discussions, the argument could be expressed:

1. If it is unnecessary to cause an animal to suffer and/or die, then causing it to suffer and/or is morally wrong.
2. The meat that is eaten comes predominantly from animals that have suffered needlessly (in particular, from factory farms).
3. Needless buying and consumption of that meat is cooperation with, and subsidy of, the moral wrong of premise 1.
4. Therefore, needless buying and consuming of that meat is wrong.

The conclusion is not as universal as "meat eating is wrong." It is far more measured: supposing that eating the meat does not constitute a need (which, for most of us, it does not), and supposing the animal did suffer and die needlessly (highly likely, but not guaranteed), then such meat eating is morally wrong.

Not eating meat is hard, and no matter how many reasons are given (sustainability, an eschatological observation, personal health, environmental, et cetera), the social structures that exist in the world, in our families and in our wider communities do not favour vegetarianism. Particularly for men: vegetarianism is seen as effeminate and hence negative, a violation of our proper steak loving manliness. Traditional family meals all tend to have meat - Christmas meals, for instance. The argument I have given, however, demands either our assent or the rejection of its soundness - although I note again, not all meat eating is made bad by that particular argument. If one can get an animal that did not suffer needlessly, and that did not die needlessly, then as far as this argument is concerned, eat away! Perhaps that means a rather large cost - but that is fine, succumbing to cheap meat qua cheap meat would be formal cooperation with injustice, it would be failing to pay our debt of kindness to animals, and hence, wrong. Camosy would probably want to go further than that, but at present, I am only comfortable assenting this far.

The issue at hand, to conclude, is one of justice. Christians of all people should lead firmly by example into new depths of justice, kindness, and care for what God has entrusted to us.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Though I Walk Through (Fortitude) Valley, I Will Fear No Beggar

Written for Social Justice Sunday, 29th of September, 2013 AD.[1]

I get off at the Valley railway station.

[i]It is a Thursday in the evening, as I walk through Brunswick Street to do some errands. People hailing from all parts of the world, particularly the neighbouring East Asian countries, bustle in the walkway going about their daily lives. The night brings people dressed in more expensive clothes, ready to partake in the Valley's night life. Some are wearing more formal dresses and suits, others seem to be going for sexual appeal - all seem to be getting ready for the entertainment the Valley brings.

Except not quite all. Looking a little more carefully at the people not rushing to get somewhere or huddling in large groups, some people are wearing rather inexpensive clothes indeed, perhaps sufficient for warmth in the upcoming months of Australian spring and summer, but barely enough to survive the ending winter. They seem to live on the streets, making surviving off the waste and generosity of others. Or perhaps they do have some accommodation – still, they barely scrape by the day.

One such person walks up to me now, a lady probably in her early-thirties, but looking closer to fifty years old. Her body looks fatigued, but her eyes dart rapidly around, as if she were paranoid about being attacked by someone behind me. We lock eyes and she, after looking at my chest for a split-second, approaches me with a little more energy.

“Spare a few bucks, mate?”

I stopped.


Someone like me gets asked that sort of question around Brisbane daily and probably every other second somewhere in the world. I suspect that anyone reading this has been asked on the street for money – not just by someone busking, but by someone in financial woes.

When I talk to people about the issue of giving money to beggars, or giving alms in language that is more common in the Bible, what the saying that usually pops up is “give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day, teach him how to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” That sort of logic seems to me to be correct: giving in a way that produces sustainability is better than giving in such a way that produces dependence.

When Caritas International says something to the same effect, I nod my head. Browsing the financial statement for Caritas Australia, I can see that every cent in produces a cent out in targeted and wise relief and humanitarian aid.[2] However, when I talk to the average person about giving to persons such as the lady that approached me on that Thursday evening, I am more than often talking to someone who justifies not giving fish by fooling themselves that they will teach them how to fish.

The brilliance of using that line is obvious upon a little reflection: one is able to justify to oneself one’s lack of kindness by pretending that one is being truly kind. After all, those darting eyes probably came from spending the last merciful soul’s money on drugs, right? One can rationalize the competing desires to give alms because it seems right, and keeping the money because we like money, by making out that keeping one’s money is actually right! With all one’s generosity, one can now abundantly not give.

The utilitarians can stop reading now. Considering only the outcomes of the action, and given that utilitarians are practically obliged to give away the money anyway, their not-giving is more like the targeted giving of Caritas.[3] Though I used to be a utilitarian, I must say I fell too often into the trap of self-deceit and selfishness. I should have known better than to conjure up a rule that justified my doing what I really wanted to do anyway.

The Christian perspective on giving is dramatically different. Of all the numerous parables, discourses and sayings of Jesus about judgement, caring for those in material need is one of the most prominent: be it caring for Christian brethren in need (such as in Matthew 25), or the poor person in the street (such as the parable of Lazarus and the rich man). In fact, Jesus gives us the very clear command to give to whoever begs from us, right after  talking about turning the other cheek, giving one’s cloak after having one’s coat taken and walking two miles when forced to walk one:

"Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you." (Matthew 5:42 – see comments here)

Anyone who refuses a beggar is, in a very real sense, sinning. But the reason we managed to convince ourselves that we were doing the right thing originally is that there was some truth in the fear that the money would just go towards making the lady’s eyes turn red, and it’s distinctly possible that this will be the case now.

Let me say a few words about people in material need who abuse drugs and alcohol: there may be very few people in the world who have more of an aversion to these two substances than me. For various cultural and personal reasons, substance abuse in all its forms is abnormally repugnant to me. It probably is to them, too. These people often abuse substances because forgetting their woes for a few hours, even a whole day, is often far more exciting a prospect than having some food. Particularly those involved in the sex industry, substance abuse can be the only way to get through the day. More generally to the question “what do you do with your pain?” that I heard asked to a group recently, the response was fairly quick: “get drunk.” Another said “Sex, drugs and rock and roll”. This is not a poor investment for many of them: it is an attempt to remedy something deeper, a reflection of the fact that “man does not live by bread alone.”

Suppose there’s a good chance any money given will be squandered on drugs – then is it OK to ignore the beggar? No. We followers of the Risen Lord have the example of Jesus to model our love on. Consider the recklessness with which Jesus graces us: imagine the angels giving counsel to God, saying “you shall give them the grace to do great things, and they shall squander it with sin!” I cannot speak for anyone else, but when God has given me much, too often I have used it all for my own gain. When, by the sheer love that Christ in his forgiveness has lavished upon me, I am pardoned of all my transgressions, when I am invited to dine with Jesus at the Supper of the Lamb, I frequently decline in favour of wrongdoing. So no, the chance, even a high chance, of misuse is not grounds for Christians to refuse alms.

I would go further and say that even the bank note in my wallet[4] is not mine by right, but instead mine by grace. St John Chrysostom famously said "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs." The grace given to me in the form of wealth is in fact a chance to give it away to someone who needs it more. This grace of Jesus is the essence of the Gospel, and grace dies if it is not shared, that is, the Gospel withers in a person if it is not nourished by its proclamation by word and deed.

Money might produce temptation in a drug addict, so if we are fairly certain the person will misuse the funds, then are we justified in not giving? Almost, yet absolutely not. As I said, people in material need rarely take drugs because they are overflowing with cash. It is the rich-though-spiritually-needy who try to fill the holes in the soul with the extravagance of drugs, not the materially needy. So although giving money might produce the temptation which leads to sin – obviously a negative outcome – it is still the lack which ultimately produces the sin. We as Christians are not justified in not giving, now is the moment when we must give the most: now we must give instead our time, energy, mental strength, compassion, and not just our money. For instance, I have at times had the opportunity to go out for lunch and talk – or perhaps just listen – to people who usually get ignored because of the guilt they produce in us.

I, at least, must remember that the added energy that came to the lady after glancing down at my chest came from the hope she saw in the Cross of Christ which I wear around my neck. From there all my hopes come, from there her hope came. I should never disappoint, for I have never been disappointed by God.

[1] My gratitude to Marc who wrote an inspiring piece that I have borrowed in large part and recast as my own here. See his version:

[2] The Caritas Australia financial statement for the financial year ending 2012 can be found starting page 70 here:

[3] For an understanding of why this is the case, see the "Demandingness Objection" - I would have said I was Singerian, though very poorly:

[4] I am, as a university student, not exactly rich anyway, though I have far more than many and my parents provide for all my basic needs. Every so often, though, I do have some spare money in my wallet.

[i] Source for Image:

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Love for Enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy . (v. 43)
This antithesis, the very last one, is different for two reasons, and here is one of them - "and hate your enemy" is never said in the Law, whereas all the other things that the crowds had heard said were. How can Jesus say this, then? Well, as I have commented before, the antitheses are about deepening the national law of Israel to the fullness of the moral law. In moral terms, the Israelites may have come to the conclusion that the restriction of loving one's neighbour to the fellow Israelite (see Leviticus 19) and the demands on Israel during times of war to be almost ruthless with enemies (for instance, see Deuteronomy 7,20) meant that they were under obligations to their kinsmen to love, and should hate the outsiders (who were all pretty much enemies, since they were in enmity with the God of Israel).

Funnily enough, Christopher Hitchens is in agreement with the traditional understanding of to whom the love should concern: he found it dangerous that anyone would be told to love their enemies, since they must be dealt with. This is, in fact, true - to a degree: at a national law level, it is important that the state be allowed to wage a "just war" or whatever need be. It is important, for instance, that Great Britain not turn the other cheek and love the Third Reich during WWII. Hence, for the United Kingdom, "love your neighbour and hate your enemies" should be the law.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...(v. 44)

Individuals, however, are not nations. With this in mind, Jesus says that we as persons and the Church as a whole (since Matthew often speaks to the disciples as a place-holder for the future Church, for instance see a comment made here)  must love even our enemies.

We will be eternally confused if we persist in our modern day notions of love with this passage. How are we meant to feel nice things about our enemies? Such people would not be our enemies if we wanted to hug them and hold their hands along the shore! It is prudent, therefore, to redefine our notions of love in a Christian context to the underlying Greek agape. Perhaps even using the Latin-derived charity would also do well, though even charity has connotations of mere niceness. At the end of the matter, we must understand that the call to love is self-giving, even to those who we want to give nothing at all: our enemies.

What about prayer? I think this is added to emphasize the point, and accentuate it. This love is not a matter of being polite to one's enemies, or a respect for their human dignity out of common decency. Jesus definition of love may as well be this: love is actively seeking the good of the object of that love. What does one do for those whose good one seeks? One prays for them. One also does many other things, but it takes an odd strain of love (the one we are asked to have) to pray for the one by whom one is persecuted. The (wordly) desire tends to be one of "I shall be nice to them if you want, but I do not desire to have to live with them for all eternity in heaven."

" that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (v. 45)

What does loving have to do with being a son of the Father? I suspect the link is a culturally bound one where "like father, like son" was a lot closer. I think, and I may well be wrong, that what Jesus is saying is "so that you may be like your Father in heaven," but with the much stronger usage of the very powerful similarity between parent and child. This interpretation seems to be confirmed by the next clause in which God is said to bring rain and sunshine on all without partiality, indicating God's love for both the just and unjust.

Note: I'll leave for another time the justice in being impartial between the just and unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (vv. 46-47)

Jesus points out that loving the people it is easy to love, or the ones we have those feelings for, is not actually something of moral worth. What takes real mettle is doing it when one does not really want to anyway. The language is a little different to that, though: "what reward have you?" Well, what reward would we have the other way? It seems much more rewarding to love those who love us back!

We will see in the next section, chapter six, that there is more than one kind of reward, more than one kind of treasure - and we should be aiming to be rewarded from our heavenly Father, and accrue treasures in heaven.

You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (v. 48)

There is two levels of meaning here; first, as an end to this sixth antithesis, and second as an end to all six antitheses.

As an ending to this subsection, we ought to note the Semitic use of the term "perfect." Jesus does not ask us to be omnipotent, omniscient and omni-benevolent, nor is he just asking for us to be omni-benevolent in the sense of lacking imperfections. This is, in a way, a standard we should aim for, but here perfect means "full" - like how "brought to perfection" is synonymous with "brought to completion", even though the first kind is a somewhat archaic use of the term. Our love should be complete, full - in just a word, perfect.

As an ending to the whole passage of the antitheses, this deepening of the law to its fullness is what Jesus began saying he would do (I have come not to abolish, but to fulfil), so that anybody who follows this deeper law to the very letter is indeed perfect, at least in moral terms.

It therefore sets the tone for the moral life - who can do this? Of course, the Christian answer has always been: Jesus alone.