Friday, June 23, 2017

I don't think "pride" means what you think it means

You've probably heard it said before that "pride goeth before a fall." Pride is a tricky thing; it's one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and yet one hears and uses it constantly. We're proud of our children, our nation, our accomplishments. Most of all, we're proud of ourselves.

There's a pride festival going on this weekend in the city in which I live, and quite frankly, I'm not really sure what there is to be proud about. We all know what it is that one is supposed to be "proud" about, so I'm sure I don't need to provide any further explanation there. There are many things about it that puzzle me, though. For example, if it is true that homosexuality is genetic, as many seem to believe, then what is there to be "proud" about? It's not as if you've done anything yourself; you might as well hold a festival to celebrate your pride in being tall, or having five fingers, or being born with blond hair. You can't do anything about being tall - it's all in the genes - and unless you're willing to do some messy work with a table saw, you're stuck with five fingers as well. And while it's true that you can change the color of your hair, you can't change what its natural color is.

Ah, there's a point. If you can change your hair color, then it doesn't matter that you were born with blond hair; it all becomes a matter of personal choice. You can choose to identify as a redhead or brunette, to use the vernacular of the day. You can be whatever you want to be - it's a simple case of free choice. But if that's the situation, then it goes without saying that you can also be taught not to make that choice, and once you go down that road you're sure to get caught up in more ideological brawling, as is the case in California. And if homosexuality is something that is freely decided, then it opens one up to the unwelcome possibility of having to suffer the moral consequences for one's actions. I suppose you can have it both ways - that does seem to tie in to our desire to have freedom without having to pay the piper.

At any rate, pride. C.S. Lewis called pride "the anti-God," Jonathan Edwards linked pride to the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The ancient Greeks called it "hubris," and rated it as one of, if not the greatest, crimes. Alexander Pope once wrote that "What the weak head with strongest bias rules, Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools." As you might have gathered from the syllogism above, this whole "pride' thing seems to me to rest on emotions rather than logic, which is what makes it so hard to discuss, let alone debate. Dante saw pride as "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor," which certainly seems to describe the reaction that these proud citizens have to anyone who disagrees with them, so maybe the phrase fits after all.

Regardless of how one feels about the subject, it seems to me as if pride is entirely the wrong attitude to have. If pride is as bad as the philosophers and the theologians say, then we ought to avoid it at all costs. Pride invariably leads to boasting, and this continued hammering away about being proud of the homosexual lifestyle; an old Jewish proverb says that "pride is the mask of one's own faults." After all, nothing undercuts a proud crusade more quickly than self-doubt. (Although self-doubt can lead to self-reflection, which can turn you toward the truth - and if that isn't the direction you want to go in, you're sure not going to engage in that.) It's all easier said than done; Benjamin Franklin wrote that "even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome [pride], I should probably be proud of my humility."*

*Humility being one of the Seven Virtues, along with Chastity.

Even if one agreed with the aims of the pride movement, the use of the word "pride" (which has now been corrupted in the same sense as the word "gay") would seem to be the wrong way of going about it, and I've gotten sick to death of seeing it spring up around the city over the last couple of weeks. One can say that in truth there is nothing in which one should take pride, for fear that such pride will wind up reflecting back on you (directly or indirectly) rather than the focus of your attention. The Book of Sirach speaks of honor rather than pride, and contemplates who is worthy of honor, so that would seem a more appropriate feeling than pride. (Of course, in this case, is the homosexual lifestyle really honorable?) The author of Sirach goes on to say that "The beginning of pride is sin. Whoever perseveres in sinning opens the floodgates to everything that is evil." One might note, in this case, that the end result of pride is also sin.

Lust is another of the Seven Deadly Sins, and this would seem to go rather well with the type of pride we're talking about at the moment. Again, just a personal observation, but it's bad enough to be mixed up with one Deadly Sin; to be involved with two seems to be a bit too much tempting fate. After all, things are bad enough as is; do we really need to compound it by celebrating one sin with another?

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