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Learning how the world works

From the September 1989 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Religious reformers have usually been convinced the ways of the world weren't right. From the Old Testament's Jeremiah to the eighteenth century's Jonathan Edwards to some of today's spiritually discerning clergy, they have told people—usually outspokenly—to forsake worldly ways and adopt spiritual and moral values.

Honesty in business dealings, fidelity in marriage, nonaggression toward others. Most of us want to go along with these basic virtues, at least in theory. But when it comes to real-life situations we may feel it is turning out to be much harder—and more complex—than we thought. Our choices don't usually come wrapped in simple, black or white packaging.

Isn't it old-fashioned, overly simplified, outmoded, for example, to be thinking of things like selflessness and honesty and love as having more than minor significance in comparison, say, with knowledgeability, drive, self-assertion, astuteness in politically reading a situation? Isn't a certain amount of "bearing false witness" and intimidation a fair expression of force of character?

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