It was one of those pleasant days like they always are for me, I guess. My Tuesdays begin at Dudley’s with a conversation which today was about the Declaration of Independence. It was read aloud in its entirety and then we discussed it and the application of those principles to today’s general political situation.
If you are ever a facilitator of a general discussion group meeting, this subject will probably lead to a good conversation. My participation was totally taken up with observing the people and their interactions and their realization that they were talking in depth about something that was very important. I only tried, with some difficulty, to insert one word into the conversation and that was that I had read somewhere that in Jefferson’s early rendition had been given to Franklin for his suggestions. Franklin changed, “… life, liberty and the pursuit of property.” to ” … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
That wasn’t discussed further, but I drifted off into a reminiscence for a while on the subject of how a single word embedded in a grander statement had changed the whole world. My favorite one is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount; his Golden Rule makes sense when you have read the opening Beatitudes, as it is written in the King James Version – “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” The word should is of key importance because it challenges the person to move to a higher state of being as is defined in the Beatitudes.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the various modern translations change the word should to would. Thus you are by that view recommended to treat others as you would have them treat you. That is okay, but it doesn’t challenge the person to move to a higher state of moral and spiritual being, and only asks them to operate at the level of development that they already inhabit. That isn’t asking much; it is easy to explain, and easy to do. It is so easy a child can do it.
But, by my view, that is totally degrading Jesus’ message to a mundane farce and not the foundation of a great moral and progressive religion. It certainly isn’t such a profound message that an intelligent man would sacrifice his life to get it published locally to his friends. He would know that that easy message is probably in the thoughts of every human being even in the most remote hunting communities. Treat others well and they will probably treat you well, and don’t treat others badly and they will probably not treat you badly.
Jesus’ message was infinitely more profound and I suspect that even Theodore Parker, the Unitarian Heretic may have missed its essence.