Seeing Our Responsibility For All

Responsible For All

By J. David Franks, Ph.D

[This is part of a blog series, entitled ReVitalize, and is a project of the MCFL Lincoln Forum's Certificate Program in Human Dignity. Curious about our next reads? Look out for the next post, or consider joining us in December, or January. More details on registration can be found here. This reflection is specifically Christian, but its reflection on the question of human dignity and solidarity as rooted in love is universal. ]


The moral danger in serving a noble cause is that we are tempted to become self-righteous. None of us who thirst for justice puts this danger behind us. Dostoevsky with supreme art shows us this predicament in those incomparable chapters from The Brothers Karamazov, "Rebellion" and "The Grand Inquisitor," both of which we will be exploring on December 1st, for the third session of the Social Ethics and Solidarity Certificate at Massachusetts Citizens for Life, which will also approach the question of the American experiment through the writings of John and Abigail Adams. What are the conditions for justice, for an ordered whole? Is not love always the ground? We will also meditate upon W. H. Auden's Horae Canonicae.
Dostoevsky shows through the Elder Zosima the humane (because divine) path to justice and universal reconciliation: love and joy and substitutionary suffering. If we see the suffering of children (so graphically recounted by Ivan Karamazov in "Rebellion"), if we pro-lifers see it, what is the true response: righteous fury, or an ever-greater love?
"Brothers, have no fear of men's sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals; love the plants; love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love."
To see the sense in this darkling realm, we must love. And love means encompassing that darkling realm, absorbing its ponderousness within ourselves, swallowing the darkness in the morning star that has dropped from heaven into our hearts. Only in the Cross of love do we attain to the wonder of cosmic harmony, so crucifixion and joy are inseparable.
"My friends, pray to God for gladness. Be glad as children, as the birds of heaven. And let not the sin of men confound you in your doings. Fear not that it will wear away your work and hinder its being accomplished. Do not say, 'Sin is mighty, wickedness is mighty, evil environment is mighty, and we are lonely and helpless, and evil environment is wearing us away and hindering our good work from being done.' Fly from that dejection, children! There is only one means of salvation, then: take yourself and make yourself responsible for all men's sins; that is the truth, you know, friends, for as soon as you sincerely make yourself responsible for everything and for all men, you will see at once that it is really so, and that you are to blame for everyone and for all things. But throwing your own indolence and impotence on others, you will end by sharing the pride of Satan and murmuring against God."
Total, radical solidarity is knowing that our responsibility for others is endless.

Come join in the discussion! #Revitalize our world with the tools of great literature, and the human relationships and respect they engender. We invite you to respond, or post your own reflections on social media, with the hashtag #Revitalize and #MassProLife.

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