My November Column – The First Commandment – Full Text

This article was published in the Scottish Catholic Observer on the 1st December 2017.

The First Commandment

Last month I set myself the task of looking at the Ten Commandments as a guide to human happiness. This is harder than I had imagined. How do we know that we are happy? We find it easy to know when we are unhappy but I don’t go about thinking how happy I am. I think it is when we are unhappy that we can see how happy we had been before.

Now the Commandments were given to Moses when the Israelites were so unhappy in their wanderings in the desert that they began to reject God. They were so unhappy that they began to pine for the good old days when they were slaves being mistreated by the Egyptians. They had been told that God would lead them to a new land where they would have all the good things they wanted. Now they couldn’t see any sign of this Promised Land and they felt that God had failed to provide what He had promised.

Does this sound familiar? Sometimes I hear people complain that they have prayed to God for a solution to a problem and they have seen no answer. Why doesn’t God give us what we ask for? In the first commandment God sets out to clarify the nature of our relationship. He says, “I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt not have strange Gods before Me.” You might notice I’m using the old fashioned ‘thou’ rather than the more familiar ‘you’. That was deliberate. Thou is a singular form. God is making it plain He is talking to me, not just the whole group; this is means me. He is telling me that he is the one who will decide what to do and when to do it. I don’t call the shots.

If we look at where we get this commandment from we go back to the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy we find,

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

That’s a much stronger version than our modern instruction. If we are going to get along with God we are going to have to understand the true nature of the relationship. We didn’t elect God and we are in no position to dismiss Him. God is making it plain that if we do then we will not prosper.

God is also pointing out the folly of worshiping some other ‘gods’. His list would seem to prohibit worship of animals but that is not really the whole story. We can understand the folly of worshiping an animal. Our understanding of the nature of living things precludes the possibility of them having any special powers. Praying to a horse will get you nowhere. Bookmakers understand this and make lots of money from it.

We may be at risk of worshiping other ‘gods’ though. Our attitudes to God today might betray some similarity with those of the Israelites wandering in the desert. We now seem to have a tendency to blame God for things. I think the New Testament may have given rise to this. We are told in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus could command a storm to stop.

“They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down! And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ and the wind dropped and all was calm again.”

Mark 4:39, 40

Now some of us think we can call on God to sort out anything that threatens us. They question where was God when the earthquake struck? Why was my child allowed to die? They even blame God for causing disasters as a punishment for our bad behaviour. Do we really believe that God sent AIDS to punish the wicked?

In the first commandment God tells the Israelites that He decided to lead them out of Egypt. It was not their idea. God intercedes in human events when He decides to. It is not our decision. The Israelites could only see the desert that surrounded them. God has a much wider vision and he is not bounded by time. Our big mistake is that we think we can understand God. I can’t really understand what God is never mind understand His plans.

God knows we can’t understand what he is so he is making it simple for us. God is in charge. He is not Santa Clause, bringing us the things we ask for. God gives us what we need for our place in his plan. That’s why He doesn’t let me win the Euromillions; it’s not what I need to follow His plan. I can’t really see that it would do me any harm but just as God led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, I have to remember that he is leading me out of the bondage of sin. My vision is just as restricted as that of the Israelites so I have to trust that God can see where he is leading and trust to His mercy.

In western society we seem to have decided that God has it wrong on so many issues. We have decided that sanctity of life is inconvenient. God’s idea of all human beings being of equal value does not fit with our modern world. We don’t see life as a gift from God but something we control. In a sense we could be accused of going beyond the worship of false gods. We could be accused of thinking of ourselves as being God. We can decide when life begins and ends. We can now decide whether we are male or female, or something else.

Of course our transition into gods is incomplete. We are still limited in our length of life. Research is proceeding to ‘switch off’ the gene that tells our bodies to stop repairing itself so that we can live for hundreds of years if not forever. This idea of living forever has great support from some very wealthy people. If you have more money than you can spend in a lifetime immortality is very attractive. Who knows what the State Pension age will be if that comes about.

History shows us that human beings who think they are God have never brought us any good. I might be of being old fashioned but I’ll stick with the belief that there is only one God. That job is taken and they are not recruiting anyone else.

As God says in the First Commandment, those who reject Him will suffer and those who love Him will be loved in return. I know whose side I’m on.

Advertisements

The Guide to Happiness – My October Column in Full

This article was published in The Scottish Catholic Observer on Friday 27th October.

I’ve almost given up watching the news on television and after a quick scan of the headlines I tend to turn to the crossword. The reason is that it’s all bad news. Think about the big items on the news recently. Asia has suffered from terrible floods, mudslides and earthquakes. The Caribbean has been hit by one hurricane after another before they moved on to hit America. Then California went on fire. The vineyards were burned down. No more Californian reds; that is really depressing.

Politics has been no better. Right wing extremists are on the move everywhere and nobody likes this government; not even the politicians themselves. Nobody is happy. Even in the Church we have dissent and distrust. We have cardinals telling the Pope he has got it wrong. We have a Catholic hospital in Belgium offering euthanasia. Is it any wonder people are unhappy?

Surely God didn’t intend us to be unhappy? He could have given us some advice on how to avoid unhappiness. Luckily he did. If you think back to the Old Testament story about how the Israelites escaped from Egypt you might remember that they wandered around the desert for years. They became very unhappy with their leader Moses. He was taking them to a promised land but they couldn’t see an end to their wandering.

Moses was sent off to consult with God and returned with a guide to happiness that we call the Ten Commandments. Now, not everyone would agree with my description of the Ten Commandments as a guide to happiness. Today many people think of the commandments as a prescription for unhappiness. They stop us doing things we might want to do. They are said to emphasise the negative rather than the positive. Can commandments like these really be a guide to happiness?

If anybody should know what it takes to make us happy it must be God, he made us after all. God is in a unique position to know what makes people happy and what makes them unhappy. If I had the job of sorting out people’s unhappiness I would probably start by looking at what makes them happy. Winning the Euromillions draw could really boost my happiness levels. Being famous or staying in luxury hotels should really boost my self-regard; maybe even being able to buy a pair of shoes that actually fit would help.

However, looking at the facts seems to undermine my conclusions. People who win large sums seem to experience a hard time. Some even claim their windfall has ruined their lives. Looking at celebrities and the ultra-rich I seem to see people who are really unhappy. A few years ago, when I wrote the Missio column for this paper, a former editor complained that the pictures of children in Africa that I submitted were good but the children were always smiling. Perhaps some sad faces would paint a better picture of their plight.

I did offer to provide pictures of sad faces but I warned that I would need to go around Scotland to get some miserable looking faces. The African children were happy that they has something to eat that morning or that they could go to school that day, simple things. Here we take it for granted that we will be fed but we might not be happy with what is served up for us. I never saw children in Africa complain that they didn’t like the food.

It would seem my understanding of human happiness is less than useful. I think I need to have a look at God’s ideas of happiness and try to understand why He sent Moses to lead the Israelites to a happier place.

So, who was Moses and why did God choose him to lead the people? We all remember the story of Moses being put into a basket and floated down the river to be found by Pharaoh’s daughter. In this way he was to escape the slaughter of Israelite children by Pharaoh’s soldiers. He grew up as an Egyptian prince but had to flee after killing an Egyptian who was mistreating Israelite slaves.

Moses was a killer, a poor orator and wasn’t very confident. I would not have thought he was a good choice as leader of the people. When God called Moses he was afraid and when he was told what God wanted him to do he was reluctant to agree. God persisted and gave Moses miraculous powers so that he could convince the Israelites that he had been sent as their leader and to convince Pharaoh to free the slaves.

As we recall, Moses did manage to free the slaves and led the people into the wilderness; taking them to the ’land of milk and honey’ that God had promised. If he had led the people straight to this Promised Land I’m sure they would have been contented. Unfortunately they wandered through the wilderness for forty years. The people experienced hunger and thirst, scraping an existence from very poor land. No wonder they were unhappy. They began to think that God had sent them there to die. They complained to Moses and that’s when he went off to the mountain to consult with God.

Why did God make the Israelites wander for years before coming to the Promised Land? I think He might have known that if the journey was quick and easy the people might not have appreciated God’s gift. They would soon forget what God had done for them and assume that it was all their own doing. He wanted them to remember that all the good things they had were given by God.

I can’t help drawing comparisons with our western society today. We assume that everything we have is entirely the result of human genius and man’s labour. We have rejected any idea that God had a hand in our good fortune and many reject any suggestion that there is a God at all. Our sense of values is distorted. We value an iPhone8 above a real apple because it can enable us to communicate. You can eat an apple but not an iPhone8. We talk of growing our own food as if we make the plants grow. We didn’t invent plants or any other form of life. We have written God out of the story. Fake news is nothing new. We have been steeped in fake news for years . No wonder we are unhappy.

Over the next few months I’ll be looking into God’s guide to happiness.  What is it about the commandments that can bring us back to recognise what’s real and what’s fake news? Do they contain the truth about me as a human being and help me understand why I’m here? How many of us can remember what the Ten Commandments are? My investigation of the Ten Commandments will not have a cast of thousands or the booming voice of Charlton Heston. It will not have a budget of $13 million but I hope to take a serious look at something I’ve taken for granted.

The problem with this is the danger of showing up shortcomings in me and how I live my life. Will that make me happier?

What’s Happening in the Catholic Church? – My September Column.

This article was published in te Scottish Catholic Observer on 22nd September 2017.

So what’s happening in the Church?

I was recently asked by the editor of this esteemed paper, “What’s happening in the Church, Joe?”

My immediate response was, “I don’t know.” Well, I don’t have any contacts in the Vatican and the Archbishop has never called me up to explain what’s on the agenda. So how would I know what’s happening in the Church?

On further reflection I wondered just what the question really meant. What’s meant by ‘the Church’ and where is it all happening? Reading the Catholic press and social media I hear of calls to return to our old ways. Latin in the Mass, the priest facing east and losing the Vatican II stuff, it all seems to be in the air. Young people are flocking to the traditional rite. There are calls for us to go back to the Mass as it was before Vatican II.

To be honest I’ve just been dismissing all this as the older generation refusing to move on. I can still remember debating the use of Latin in the Mass with my grandfather back in the early sixties before Vatican II. My grandfather argues that Latin was the language of the Universal Church and the Mass was exactly the same all over the world. We could go to mass in the farthest corner of the world and it would be exactly as it was at home. I argued that we could go to Mass anywhere in the world and not understand what was being said; just like at home.

The problem is I’m now the one who is old and it seems the call for change is coming from the young. Confronted with this revelation (am I really an oldie? – Yes you are.) I’m forced to revisit the old arguments and see if I think we need to change. I grew up with the traditional rite. I well remember the solemn dignity of the Latin Mass; the silences when the priest, facing away from us, recited the Latin prayers and we looked on in awe. We didn’t all sit in awe. I also remember the wee ladies who sat and recited the rosary all the way through Mass. That did strike me as strange.

It has to be said that the Mass is the Eucharist and it is Christ’s sacrifice which is at its core. The language we use does not change that. So what’s the big deal? Have we lost some of the dignity of the Mass in the modern rite? Are we not showing the respect that the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist deserves?

A few years ago I was at Mass in the traditional rite. To be honest I felt that I had lost something that day. I had lost involvement. I was a spectator in a rite that was being conducted by the priest with his back to me, quietly going through the words of the mass in a language I don’t understand even if I could have heard what he was saying. There was great dignity and we knelt at the altar rails to receive the Eucharist but I felt excluded.

I have also heard people of my own age complaining that the Mass is too busy and we don’t get time to kneel and pray in that important time after communion  with Christ within us. That is surely a serious complaint?

That brought me to the core of the matter, prayer. Why do we go to Mass? Many a lapsed friend has pointed out to me that they can just as easily say their prayers at home. Is there more to it than that? It seems to me that we have misunderstood the nature of prayer. Is prayer all about telling God what we need and giving Him the praise He needs? That can’t be right. God knows our needs better than we do. Who are we, with our very shaky understanding of what God is, to reassure Him with our praise? No, when Jesus taught the apostles to pray the Our Father He was teaching a prayer that reminds us of God’s greatness and tells us what we can expect from God. When we say “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” are we implying that God would lead us into temptation if we didn’t ask Him? I think we are being reminded that God is leading us out of temptation and has delivered us from evil by His sacrifice on the cross.

We come to Mass as a body, not as individuals making our own contact with God. The Mass is reinforcing the message of who we are. We are all parts of the Mystical Body of Christ. That is reaffirmed in our communion when we are united with Christ, and logically with each other through Christ. We are not kneeling down here with God somewhere up there. Christ rose from the dead and the living Christ is with us and we are part of Him.

My vivid memory of my visit to India is of an old man in a loincloth greeting me, hands joined and bowing. The explanation I was given was that he was paying homage to the deity within me. That seems to be something we have not fully grasped in the West. We were always taught that we are temples of the Holy Spirit but it didn’t seem to sink in with me. If the Holy Spirit is within you how can I behave towards you with anything other than love?

In our modern rite we have the ‘Sign of Peace’ where we greet our neighbours. It can seem like an incongruous break in the formality of the Mass. In reality it is an opportunity for us to formally recognise that deity within our neighbour as we greet the God within them. It is a formal recognition that we are one body. When we are commanded to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ you are not being told to treat others as you would wish to be treated. You are being told that your neighbour is part of yourself. We are all one body.

I’d like to make one last comparison between old and new rites. I remember Canon Rooney standing on the pulpit giving the children a translation and explanation of what was going on in the Mass. The priest would face the congregation and say “Ite missa est.” The Canon would translate as “Go the Mass is ended”.

However that’s not what the priest said at all. A better translation would be “Go on your mission”. Today we are told to “Go and love and serve the Lord.” That’s a bit more accurate. The Mass isn’t ended. Mass is going on somewhere across the globe as you read this. Leaving the Church is not the end of the Mass it is the beginning. We go out on our mission to spread the Gospel in our everyday lives, recognising Christ in our neighbours be they locals or refugees on the other side of the world.

The Mass is the Mass in whatever language you celebrate it. I’m happy to go with the vernacular when I have a better chance of deepening my understanding. I’m for facing east to await the coming of Christ because He is all around me.

Saints? My July Column – Full Text

Do you have a favourite saint? Some are very popular. In our parish, Saint Patrick’s, the patron saint of Ireland is very popular. He is seen as encompassing everything that is Irish and his feast day is a cause for celebration for almost the whole month of March. Irish folk the world over take him very seriously. Saint Andrew, our Scottish patron, does not attract the same devotion. I wonder why? Is it because the Catholic population of Scotland leans heavily on the Irish immigration of the last two hundred years and saints are a very Catholic thing?

Saint Anthony is another great favourite and he even has his own collection box in our parish, money for the poor usually as a result of his helping us find lost items. I can confide that he makes a good income from our household, usually concerning lost earrings or keys. He is another saint with worldwide following. Many years ago I visited his tomb in Padua. The tomb is plastered with photographs of those who have benefited from his intercession and notes of thanks.

Patron saints are puzzling. Ireland has chosen Saint Patrick who was not Irish rather than some other, Irish saint. Scotland has Saint Andrew, not Scottish and never came her in his lifetime. England has Saint George of dragon fame who never had anything to do with England. Countries in the Americas tend to have Our Blessed Mother in one or other of her appearances as a patron. Our Lady of Guadeloupe is particularly popular in Latin American places. I imagine that countries adopt a patron as a guardian. I wouldn’t be surprised if the patrons resigned in protest at the behaviour of some of the countries. I suppose we will never know.

It is in the Catholic tradition to adopt a saint’s name as our Christian name. We also adopt a saint’s name at confirmation. This seems like a wise move. Choosing an influential saint as a personal patron can have beneficial effects. Having Saint Joseph as my saint makes me feel that I have an influential intercessor working on my behalf. I have been reliably informed by some in the missions that when in a difficult situation they have prayed to Saint Joseph and their problem has been quickly resolved. Of course you don’t need to be named Joseph to get his powerful help but I still harbour a hope that it counts for something.

This brings me to the question, who are the saints? There are saints the Church has formally recognised by canonisation, some from long ago we are not too sure of (Saint Christopher for example) and there are people we know who lived very good lives and we have no doubt they are in Heaven. In the early church Christians were often referred to as the saints. Since we have adopted Christ’s teaching and follow his commands we expect to get into Heaven too. Relying on God’s infinite mercy, we can rightfully think of ourselves as the saints.

To be canonised and formally declared a saint we have to meet conditions laid down by the Church. We could be martyred for our faith and I’m sure there are many who have been murdered by extremists in the Middle East recently who qualify on those grounds. Alternatively you could live a life of ‘heroic’ virtue demonstrating Christian virtues. Both of these categories depend largely on documentary evidence and proof of miracles. The lack of documentary evidence is the main reason why some older saints are now thought to be doubtful.

There is also a process whereby the Pope can declare a person to be a saint, bypassing the usual procedures because he is sure they are in heaven as a result of a very holy life. Two recent examples of this are when Pope Benedict declared Hildegard of Bingen a saint, as did Pope Francis with Peter Faber.

The Holy Father has just introduced a third category for canonisation. This category is for those who heroically give up their lives for others through Christian charity. They must freely give their life to save others. There must be the practice of Christian charity to the point of death and there must be signs of sanctity after death and the need for a miracle as a result of their intercession. One example of such a case is that of Fr. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan friar and New York Fire Department chaplain who rushed to the scene of the twin towers following the 9/11 attacks, and was the first recorded death that day.

The thing I find curious about the saints is the things we ask them to intercede for us about. Take Saint Anthony of Padua. As I mentioned earlier we are often praying to him for help in finding lost items. In his life Saint Anthony was known as a great preacher, spreading the word of God. There is no mention of him finding things. Now I wouldn’t want to put anyone off asking his help in finding things as I continue to do that myself. However, it does distract us from what he did in his life. He was a great preacher and surely that is his great example to us.

Saint Patrick was a great missionary, bringing the Faith to the pagans of Ireland. He was not renowned as a carouser as we might expect from the Saint Patrick ’s Day celebrations. His love for Ireland was a love for the people whose souls he set out to save. As a final example I can tell you about my wife’s prayers to Saint Rita. Whenever we arrive at a car park that is obviously full she has a quick word to Saint Rita and within a couple of minutes we find a space.

Last year we visited Saint Rita’s shrine where we learned about her work with the dying. We saw the little chapel at the top of the hill in a place where she went to pray. There was no mention of cars or parking in her life although there was a large car park with plenty of spaces.

It seems to me that praying to the saints to intercede for us when we have a problem is a good thing. However I think we should find out more about the lives they lived and the works they accomplished to really understand why they are saints. Their lives should be an example to us that we can use to make our own lives more pleasing to God. Finding out more about them will take us beyond the wee plaster statues with beatific faces and help us to see people who lived in our world; faced difficulties just like us and managed to make their way to Heaven.

They can put our difficulties and concerns into perspective and show us how to live a holy life in the real world. We should not be waiting until we get to Heaven to start a saintly life. It might be too late then. We are the saints and we are challenged to make our normal lives saintly. Just like the real saints, not the plaster statues, we can follow Christ’s teaching as our guide to daily life.

I’ve just realised that means I’ll have to stop being grumpy around the house. This is not going to be easy.

My June Column – Who’s Standing on Your Shoulder?

The recent General Election produced some surprising results. The government hoped for a large increase in its majority but expectations were not met and the majority was lost. How could this happen? What caused the voters to cast their votes in the way they did?

I was one of those who reasoned that I should cast my vote for one party but decided in the end to stick with my normal voting pattern. What influenced me to make that decision? I would like to think that I thought it through and came to a logical decision but I suspect that my eventual vote was the result of emotion. I wasn’t able to desert the party I had always supported.

This has made me think about what influences our behaviour. Whether we are truly logical beings or respond to our feelings we experience influences from everything around us. I started to think about the possible influences on my behaviour. Which of the many influences is steering my thoughts?

An obvious influence on me is my family and upbringing. As a child I absorbed values and opinions from parents and relatives. These must be imprinted on my brain, even if I have moved on, determined to think for myself. That’s not to say that I’ve been programmed to copy my parent’s behaviour. Perhaps I’ve been moved to rebel against their views and act in a completely different way. Whether I’m moved to copy or oppose their thinking I’m still influenced, one way or the other.

Television has been accused of being a bad influence on children. Other commentators would disagree and point out how our views on third world poverty have been influenced by images of starving children broadcast on our screens. I think there is little doubt that television is an influence on our attitudes. It has been suggested that because the television set is in our home we are more susceptible to its influence that we would be to an outside source. Television is accepted as a trusted family member.

I don’t know how much I’m influenced by television since I find so much of it unwatchable but I’m sure there are subtle influences in the things I do watch. Recognising the influences and thinking about the attitudes they convey is a first step to maintaining some truly independent thought. Radio might be a more insidious influence. It tends to be on in the background while driving or working in the kitchen.

I’m not sure how much we are influenced by music on the radio. Some have described rock and roll as the music of the Devil and blamed the rebellious behaviour of teenagers on its influence. That may or not be true but I don’t find it a problem on Classic FM. Talk radio is a different beast. Opinions are filtered out to us – sometimes dressed up as news. Experts can make reasonable sounding cases for all sorts of nonsense but we may be more likely to accept it if we hear it on radio than if we hear it in the pub.

Celebrities seem to be the great purveyors of opinion today. So important are they that charities and political parties often use them to put over their message. Why should celebrities be influential? This has always been a puzzle to me. Apparently celebrities should be listened to because they are famous. Some are actors or people in the media. Because they are in the public eye their opinions are valued. Some celebrities seem to be famous for being famous. They don’t seem to actually do anything. That’s something I just fail to understand.

Newspapers and books are thought to be influential. The recent election results seem to contradict the idea of newspapers being crucial to election success. Perhaps they have overdone it. Surely you can get to a point where the public can recognise nonsense when the lies are so blatant? Newspapers are transient. We read them today and they go in the recycling bin (did you notice my green credentials there?). Books, on the other hand, hang around. I was once asked what book had influenced me most. I found that one very difficult to answer. I think everything you read has an influence on you, even the back of the cornflake packet.

Having given that question more thought I would have come to the conclusion that the Bible must be the book that has influenced, not just me, but the western world. You might never have opened a Bible but still have experienced the influence of its contents. Over the centuries the teaching contained in that book has produced societies that increasingly hold ordinary people to be valuable. Much of western law is Bible based although recent developments in abortion and euthanasia seem to have moved against that trend.

Every time we go to Mass we hear the word of God proclaimed in the Bible. The great religious feasts of Christmas and Easter that mark out our year are straight from the Bible. How many blockbuster films can you remember that are straight off the pages of the Bible? The great promise of the Bible that the chosen one will come as our saviour has permeated through literature and still forms the basis of Hollywood’s output.

Think of the great movie heroes, Superman, James Bond, John McClean in Diehard. Each is the one person come to save us. Superman is sent by his father to Earth. He, the son, has supernatural powers and uses them to save mankind. The heroes all suffer for us. James bond even dies and comes back again in ‘You Only Live Twice’. They all come to us from somewhere else. The theme of the lone hero who comes, suffers and eventually overcomes to save us permeates much of literature.

Even those who have never heard of Jesus look to a hero to lead and rescue us. Even in politics we look to a leader to be our hero and save us. Has Jeremy Corbyn come from nowhere, suffered and eventually overcome? Alas I feel that searching for our hero in politics is bound to lead to disappointment. I must own up to one of my film influences. Tom and Jerry cartoons always carry a moral message. How often have I seen Tom in a moral dilemma with a tiny angel on one shoulder and a tiny devil on the other? Each whispers advice to Tom. Tom, to the Devil’s delight, always flicks off the angel and goes the way of the other fellow.

Do I experience the influence of these spiritual advisors in my life? Is there an angel, a guardian angel whispering in my ear at times of moral doubt? Is there a devil whispering in my other ear; not urging me to be bad but helping me to see the wrong thing as somehow good? How good am I at rejecting this influence? Was it Oscar Wilde who said “I can resist anything but temptation”?

I need to face up to the fact that I am not totally in control of my thoughts and opinions. I am bombarded daily by influences I am not aware of. If I want to live as a Christian, following Christ’s teaching then I must be open to the whispering of that wee guardian angel on my shoulder and see the other fellow for what he is.