The Puritan Smile: A Look toward Moral Reflection

By Robert Cummings Neville; Naomi Neville | Go to book overview

3
Social Obligation,
Personal Responsibility,
and Moral Identity

The Preacher said:

Again, I considered all the acts of oppression here under the sun; I saw the tears of the oppressed, and I saw that there was no one to comfort them. Strength was on the side of their oppressors, and there was no one to avenge them. I counted the dead happy because they were dead, happier than the living who are still in life. More fortunate than either I reckoned the man yet unborn, who had not witnessed the wicked deeds done here under the sun ( Eccle. 4: 1- 3).


I. From Social Obligation to
Personal Responsibililty

The Preacher's vision was not new in his own time. Anyone who looks clearly today can see the same thing. What is remarkable is that the Preacher simply saw the oppression and did not say who was to do something about it. He wrote, of course, and his writing itself had the corrective power of a true witness. Indeed, in many respects the Preacher offers the first serious moral reflection from a standpoint appreciative of irony. But he did not write about who was responsible to do something about the oppression.

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