Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Problem with Shaming: or, Christ "Drenched the World in Grace"

A Roundabout Response to Rosalynde Welch's "Shame, Stigma and Social Engineering" - Jacob (By Common Consent) 

Rather  than just link to a post today, I want to provide the link but excerpt one specific part of it here.  I have added paragraph breaks to make it a little more readable, and I added a little of my own opinion in parenthetical comments: 

Shame and guilt are natural consequences of the violation of eternal and social norms, and such would not be the case if they were not norms. That these must be actually communicated to community members is no doubt critical (since they will not be understood otherwise). But this communication also naturally occurs through traditional practices and institutions–class instruction, reading sacred texts, hearing testimony, observing how families and relationships function, listening to teachings and warnings of apostles and prophets. (Thus, they need not be stressed in order to be taught - and they certainly need not be preached nearly non-stop.)

(For example) There is virtually no member of any LDS religious community who does not know about the importance of marriage and therefore the undesirability of divorce. In such a family-centric community like Mormonism one can easily anticipate the natural consequences of ending a marriage, regardless and apart from social stigma–effects on children, parents, covenants, church standing, etc that are unavoidable. Applying additional social pressure and dishonor, even through trying to artificially reinforce teachings about marriage (as if the violator of the social norm simply didn’t quite understand what she was doing) is in essence taking on a mandate of re-revealing the law over and over, ensuring its lawfulness by insisting on justice outside the normative force of the law itself. This happens when we insist on some kind of punishment or judgment beyond which the law already metes out as the law.

Consequently, (in most cases) I think we should completely jettison any kind of mechanism that we might attach ourselves to that sees any good in providing additional shame and opprobrium beyond what the sin in question naturally dispenses. Shame should quite simply be not a part of our expressive vocabulary, nor seen as having any social utility that we must point to and reinforce. Kierkegaard, interestingly, combined the law and love in his phrase, “dutiful love,” that it is our lawful duty to love God and neighbor because Christ’s existence and sacrifice fulfilled the Law and drenched the world in grace. The law that concerns us then, as far as our neighbor is concerned simply (yet more demandingly than anything else) is the law of love.
 (Rosalynde's post can be found here: "Shame, Stigma and Social Engineering" - and I recommend reading it, as well.)

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