The Golden Rule
As I was driving down the freeway in the minivan the other morning, our young son was babbling in the backseat about one of his varying fantasy existences, in which he cavorts with Donkey Kong characters, Digimons, space pirates and Samus, the heroine of Metroid Prime. Suddenly, reality crept into his conversation, and he was describing how he would protect himself from other children by punching them if they did X, Y or Z and I felt it necessary to remind himself that there were other ways to resolve or prevent conflict besides clobbering someone. In fact, I tried explaining to him that if he didn't like to be punched, they didn't either, and in fact, he shouldn't do to anyone else what he wouldn't want done to himself, and that he should treat people the way he wanted to be treated by others.
Half a mile down the road I realized that I was trying to teach the Golden Rule to my four year old. Okay, so there's nothing wrong with the sentiments expressed above, and unless there are asides relating to the killing of first born sons, the lower place of women in society or the godlessness of homosexuals, this is a part of Christianity I can relate to.
Still, my atheistic nature rebelled at this pablum I was feeding my son. But was it pablum? Wasn't it just a nice way of explaining good manners? Different, yes, than my wife's occasional "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" advice regarding childhood conflicts, different also from the conscientious objector stance of "violence is never the answer", but then again, I can't picture our son as the type who will sit quietly in the face of violent opposition.
Fortunately, the Unitarians have pointed out that the Golden Rule exists, in some semblance, in many religions, so I can appease my Christian-phobic brain.