Open Thread on Favorable Interpretation

Long-time readers know one of my favorite Catechism sections is #2478:

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

The second paragraph is lifted out of the Spiritual Exercises, #22.

On the last open thread, Max locked in on Muslims. I know a lot of Westerners treat Islam with great suspicion. And many people in the world, including Muslims themselves, have been gravely harmed by the actions of those who claim to follow Allah and his Prophet.

On the other hand, other people mistreat Muslims simply because they are strangers–part of the great unknown. Blacks, women, women religious, immigrants, rich people or poor–you name it.

Max surprised me slightly with his vehemence on Muslims. I thought he just had a thing on mass murder. I also know Max no longer professes Christianity, but Saint Ignatius seems to have a highly moral approach that’s cited in the Catechism: interpret favorably rather than condemn.

A friend of mine once criticized a mutual friend, calling her passive-aggressive and another label or two. This would be an example of what CCC 2478 isn’t about. To be accurate, I would say my two friends had a feud. My favorable interpretation is that they were both strong, opinionated women who didn’t listen very well to each other. But when they got engaged in a shared project, it was successful.

This thread is open for people other than Max, too. How do you engage favorably interpreting people in your life? What about events? Where do you stumble on this?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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15 Responses to Open Thread on Favorable Interpretation

  1. Liam says:

    I am most likely to stumble when I feel my attempts to maintain a charitable interpetation are being abused intentionally. I am way off the charts N in Myers-Brigg speak, but I compensate by waiting for data, as it were. Often, I wait too long; most typically when dealing with avoidant/passive-aggressive types are are skilled a manipulating the dutifulness of others – unfortunately, such people are often well represented in churchy things.

  2. Atheist Max says:

    “Max surprised me slightly with his vehemence on Muslims.”

    Vehemence? Where is this coming from? no fair.
    I have never been vehement against Muslims. I am supportive of Muslims and I shall continue to be so. My question directed at you was “why should anyone accept the assertion that Yahweh and Allah are the same?”
    I pointed out according to Islam Allah is directly opposed to Jesus and therefor Yahweh. I am not taking a side. You somehow interpret this as vehemence against Muslims? Gosh.
    The religion of Islam comes with directives from Allah (I didn’t make them up) – I merely point to them as evidence of indication Yahweh is opposed to Allah. I seem to ruffle feathers no matter how gently I try to phrase things or ask questions.

    As for favorable interpretations, I apparently can’t be seen favorably even when I lob the most softball of questions.
    I however, see the people who post here rather favorably, even Todd.

  3. Atheist Max says:

    “Max surprised me slightly with his vehemence on Muslims.”
    I don’t want to keep commenting here. But I cannot let you accuse me of something I am not doing.

    I never expressed vehemence against Muslims, Christians or any other believers. You will not find it!

    I fully support – without exception – a Muslim’s right to their religion. During the ongoing migrant crisis in Syria I have offered MY HOME to SYRIAN Muslims.

    Every single muslim who wants to come to the United States should be welcomed with open arms.
    Muslims only comprise 1% of the American population – yet they are 5% of professional class. We have room for MILLIONS more muslims to come here and I fully support immediately aiding them and giving these muslims all the help we can.

    Beliefs need to be challenged:
    love my uncle. But he believes in Sasquatch! I think his belief is ridiculous and I have no problem telling him so. I have too much love and respect for my uncle to let him run around repeating a crazy thing without challenging his evidence.

    To welcome Muslims in my home does not mean I agree with all their beliefs. I think all religions are dangerous – To hate a prison is not to hate the prisoners! Quite the opposite.

    And I find it ridiculous to be accused of bigotry or ‘vehemence’ by a Christian who chooses a religion whose doctrine claims non-Christians are automatically flawed! I have surrendered to no such auto-pilot.

    To me, NOBODY is automatically flawed for their belief….OR for non-Belief.
    I wish you would apologize.

  4. charlesincenca says:

    “I have too much love and respect for my uncle to let him run around repeating a crazy thing without challenging his evidence.”
    Oh my goodness, Max, are you aware that sentiment virtually refutes your very own raison d’etre and credibility as a respectable poster here? What you deem as “love and respect” is manifested as the action of an imperious despot masquerading as a benevolent, well-intentioned meddler. You have manifested the persona of all the willfully ignorant believers you condemn for their proselytizing and its resultant discord. In the immortal words of Mick Jagger, “Hey, You, get offa my cloud.”

    • Atheist Max says:

      Charles,

      “What you deem as “love and respect” is manifested as the action of an imperious despot…”

      How am I an “imperious despot” to call belief in Sasquatch a crazy idea? His belief is harmless enough and I don’t give him any trouble about it – but I don’t go along with his claim when he repeats it I remind him he must provide evidence if he wants other people to agree with him. But when people like KIM DAVIS are out there pushing their religious ideas on the world I see no scenario whereby my objection to her hollow claims makes me the ‘Imperious’ one. Good grief.

  5. charlesincenca says:

    Max, really you can appear quite dense with great frequency.
    “to let him run….”
    Who the heck are YOU to determine what your uncle ought to believe in the end of the day? Is that really, to you, an “act of love?” if you defend this, for any reason or rationale, your may or may not be an imperious despot, but you certainly will prove yourself a hypocrite.

  6. charlesincenca says:

    Typos: “If.” “….you may….”

  7. charlesincenca says:

    And for the umpteenth time, your schtick is tiresome. If you wanna pose yourself as the world’s most enlightened atheist now that C. Hitchens assumed room temp and Dawkins wears a plastic red nose, please at least be funny or otherwise entertaining. D*mn, if your brand of atheism is so tedious and onerous, I don’t understand why you just don’t go all DaDa and party on, Wayne. I mean, according to you, we believers are a deluded lot no matter how we behave at the wedding feast of Cana. But you appear to be most happy when you paint life as something akin to Stephen King’s MISERY. Oh wait, I forgot. You have opened your home to 10K Syrian refugees! You are magnanimous ergo all atheists are magnanimous. D*mn-squared! We believers (at least the HRCC) have no charitable history on your Franklin chart that you’ve ever found. And don’t yammer on about KIM DAVIS to us, I’d wager that you’ve been to less gay homes and services than any one of us lay guys who comment or post here. Yeah, really.

    • Atheist Max says:

      My gay son will be surprised to hear I don’t know anything about the suffering of gays.
      And Kim Davis is no joke. And all Atheists are rancid as Hitchens? That’s tedious.
      I was accused of vehemence against certain people – it was baseless.

  8. Atheist Max says:

    My question:

    “Since the days of John the Baptist…..the Kingdom of God advances with violence and violent men seize it by force.”
    – JESUS (MATTHEW 11:12)

    The message I get:
    Jesus is saying John the Baptist was the beginning of a surge in violence. And this violence should be understood as an inevitable consequence of John’s preachments (as well as those of Jesus).
    Furthermore, it is peculiar because “Since the days of John…” necessarily means within a few months because Jesus was himself baptized by John only a few months prior to this statement by Jesus.

    In other words, “since the days of John..” would be exactly like saying “since last year.”

    My theory: This is a phrase planted by a militant Christian who was trying to tell his soldiers that violence was approved of by Jesus and that violence was simply a fact of how things get done.

    Does someone have a better theory about why Jesus appears to be endorsing violence?

    • Todd says:

      The note in the RNAB reads: “The meaning of this difficult saying is probably that the opponents of Jesus are trying to prevent people from accepting the kingdom and to snatch it away from those who have received it.” It likely deep-sixes your theory. There were no militant Christians for centuries after Jesus.

      My other suggestion, Max, is to cite the difficult passage in its entirety. Why replace two words with two or three dots?

      • Atheist Max says:

        Thanks, for your attempt but Jesus does not mention any ‘opponents or objectors.’ Instead Jesus celebrates John’s link to violence. So the RNAB can only be wrong.

        Matthew 11:11-15
        11 “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven advances with violence and armed men seize it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

        JESUS says:
        1. Armed men have seized Heaven at times.
        2. The Kingdom advances through violence.
        3. Jesus celebrates John the Baptist linking him directly to that violence (‘since the days’)
        4. Jesus goes out of his way to say The Kingdom of Heaven is full of people who are superior to John the Baptist – apparently even the violent men who seized it.
        5. “If you are willing to accept it” refers to the inevitability of force under Elijah’s direction.

        There is no evidence Jesus disapproves of violence. Quite the opposite.
        Matthew 11:12 sounds like a pep talk to Christian soldiers. Could it be another forgery like the stoning of the adulteress?

      • Todd says:

        The Kingdom is not congruent with heaven. Jesus preaches the Kingdom is here on this Earth, in part. Jesus doesn’t say the Kingdom advances “Through” violence, but because of persecution. Next, read verses 1-10. Then dial back seven chapters and read verses 38-48.

        I’m not saying you haven’t found a difficult passage, but it was written two generations after Jesus by people who remembered it, then it passed muster 1700 years ago to be included in the Bible. You don’t have a gotcha! moment, Max. You’re just an anti-religionist looking for fun. Still not a bad guy, just looking for a little attention. Thanks for coming clean on the dots, by the way. Why did you omit just two words? Still waiting on that answer.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Thanks for taking another attempt but “Violent men seize it through force” isn’t adequately clear to me. Your point that the Kingdom of God is not congruent with Heaven is interesting but I’m not sure I’m buying it – how could ungodly things be under God’s rule when Satan is the supposed ‘ruler’ of this world?

        Anyway, I never claimed I had a ‘gotcha’ with Matthew 11:12. There are dozens of better gotchas from Jesus elsewhere. My questions are genuine. To answer your question, I omitted “til now” and replaced it with dots for brevity because I wanted to focus on “Kingdom advances with violence” and “violent men seize it.”
        But getting back to “until now” it is strange Jesus would refer to John the Baptist in the past tense. He says, “Since the days of John the Baptist until NOW” sounds ridiculous because Jesus and John are contemporaries. It would be like saying “since the days when Donald Trump ran for president” – It is kind of obvious this part of the passage was put in Jesus’ mouth many years later. just as at the scene of the Adulterer: “let he who has not sinned throw the first stone” is a known forgery.

        First, if we can’t know what Jesus really said we cannot determine whether his overall message is good, bad, right, wrong, helpful or unhelpful.
        Second, when we interpret Jesus to make him sound more decent or useful we are doing what the Gospel redactors appear to have done, which is to invent a Jesus we can more easily be a fan of.

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