I conducted a class recently with Latin students about the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. Like many cultural ideas, the tenets of Stoicism permeated ancient Rome, and because of that, it still floats in the air of many of those cultures influenced by Rome. Including ours.
One of the values that we considered was dignitas, worth, dignity, honor, respect. I found myself explaining that dignity was a value of worth that we held both for ourselves and for others, and that any social justice work in the world today had its starting place with this idea: dignity–the inherent worth and dignity of every being.
That’s when it dawned on me that this understanding of the inherent worth and dignity of all beings is the beginning point of our faith as well. The reciprocal quality of faith–that faith is always about relating and relationships is deeply encoded into what we mean when we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all beings. No sense of dignity, or a damaged sense of dignity, then, results directly in a wounded and failing sense of faith. They belong to each other.
Too often, faith has been cast as the only hope that otherwise worthless human beings have. If you only believe . . . God might save you anyway–even though you don’t deserve it.
Isn’t that just the reverse or even pervese version of what is much more likely: we are beings of worth, of dignity. We reflect the Universe in it’s beauty and mystery. If we need saving it is because of that inherent dignity which can be found in all beings.
Even those who think they are utterly lost.