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When is stealing not stealing?
Moralist will argue that we don’t always have a choice, they love to use the example of a man caught stealing bread. The moralist will say that if the man was stealing to feed his family than the act of stealing was justified. But the moralist would be wrong. Society does not allow for, nor could it survive with a sliding scale of morality. Stealing is steeling, wrong is wrong. The objections are noted and the circumstances duly noted, but stealing is stealing.
The Bible does not allow for a sliding scale, Jesus did not state that all must follow me, unless this or that happens. No Jesus said all must follow me, let the dead care for the dead. Jesus did not say follow only the commandments that meet your current social/political needs, he said I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He told the rich young man to follow the commandments, and give up all he had to follow him. The young man was not willing to do so, and Jesus did not say, well that’s ok, follow me anyway, he, Jesus, told him to be gone.
Morality must be and should always be constant. It is only with consistence that humanity will stand a chance to survive. The greatness of a person lies in there moral fiber and the strength of that fiber lies in the constancy of its weaving.
The basic argument for a moralist is relativity, everything is relative to the person and circumstances. That each and every person and each and every moment has unlimited moral options, some grater that others, but all are still moral options.
Right is Right, Wrong is Wrong….
The Catholic Church teaches this, the actions of abortion are always wrong, regardless of reasons. Now the culpability of the individual may slide on a scale between total cooperation with the even act with full knowledge of its morality too involuntary cooperation in the evil act with no knowledge of its morality. One may be culpable or not, but the act it self is intrinsically evil.
Some will argue that abortion and steeling bread are not the same. But the logic is. The person my be less culpable if they were stealing under extreme mental stress than if they were stealing under normal circumstances. But the act of stealing has not changed.
We use this logic daily in our lives. We look at the situation and make judgment calls. Between choice “A” and “B”, A is the less evil of the two. Example:
My family is with out food, I have no job nor money;
A: Steal bread to feed my family
B: Let my family go hungry
To the hungry man who wishes to care for his family the stealing of the bread is the lesser of the two evils. Yet this does not change the act of stealing in to a morally correct choice. It just served as the catalyst for the act of stealing.
In the modern world, one that is driven by a need to always be on the side of political correctness, we have taken the moral truths and designated them the moral guidelines or the moral sliding scale. Allowing the individual the responsibility of determining there own moral standards.
Yet we seem to be at a cross roads with this concept, with moral truths and the sliding scale of morality in a constant struggle for public acceptance. The moralist is pushing for a stringent adherence to personal morality, unless it interferes with the moral reality, than the moral truth, as they see it, should take precedence over the moral truth of the other.
We see this in our everyday life. The current controversy over the Ground Zero Mosque. The moralist think it should be built at Ground Zero, or at lest allowed to be built. But the same group that wishes to allow this under freedom of religion is the same group who wishes to prosecute the Christians who were passing out information at the Arab festival in Dearborn Michigan a few weeks back. You see the morality of the Mosque fit in to the truth of the moralist at the time were as the morality of the Christians did not.
Now some may say: well your the same, you think it is ok for the Christians to pass out information at a festival but not ok for a Mosque to be built, your in favor of only Christian moral truths. Not so… I Agree that they that the right to build the Mosque, I only question the location and the motive of the location. To me it is like adding salt in to the wounds of the nation. My moral truth remains the same, each group has the right to do what they are doing, and each group is protected by law to do so.
Morality is not an ever changing target, it is a constant. It is not a personal thing, it is a human thing. Stealing is Stealing, regardless of the reasons.
7 thoughts on “When is stealing not stealing?”
I note that you did not address the issue of private property at all. The concept of theft cannot survive if private property is unjustified. And since the Catholic Church used to be against usury… well, you can add one and one together.
yeah my dad will like this
“I Agree that they that the right to build the Mosque, I only question the location and the motive of the location. To me it is like adding salt in to the wounds of the nation.” – Yes, but you didn’t question the location of the Christian phamphlet distributors in Dearbourn or their motives. If all you are saying is that the distribution wasn’t illegal, then that’s fine. But if you’re implying that it’s not in poor taste to show up at a religious festival and disrupt it by distributing the material of another religion, then I have to disagree with you. I don’t know the specifics of the Dearborn case, but if the Christians were trespassing on private property then their actions would have been illegal if they were asked to leave and then did not.
The Dearborn case was at a “open to the public” event. It was not a “religous” event. It was the “arabic/middel east” event. The Christians had the same right to be there are the people who want to build the mosque do. It is a quetion of what is right. Passing out information at a street fair is not the same as building a mosque at ground zero.
The idea of Les Miserable is that given the right circumstance all would steal. Not that stealing is moral or guiltless but that there is more than hard and fast laws of right and wrong. There are extenuating circumstances, mitigating factors which can in some cases mitigate the sin down to nothing. If your grasp on morality is so fragile so as to desperately argue only the truth of whether stealing can ever be justified, maybe you do not know it in the face of this emotionaly mitigating special circumstance? Now would you suffer a man to steal bread from you to feed his family or hold him in contempt saying only a man can never steal? The priest of Les Miserable taught a higher lesson you missed and the movie says correctly you are a miserable sod to condemn Jean for this.
My point is, stealing is still stealing, for whatever reason. That moral argument has been used, and yes I have heard it before. I do not condemn nor judge any man, that is for God alone.