God Weighs In re Virtue Signalling

The virtue of virtue is humility; for, all the virtues derive from a prior proper recollection of the true order of things, in which God is foremost of all. Overweening pride then – such as we indulge whenever we worry about our selves, or their reputations, or form our acts first in respect thereto – is the vice of vice.

As to the ostention of virtue, then:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:1-4

Humility is social chastity. Humility lies not in a recusal from the assertion of the truth as one sees it, but rather in a refusal to preen.

Also this: alms that cost you nothing are not alms in the first place.

17 thoughts on “God Weighs In re Virtue Signalling

  1. Here is the updated translation:

    “But when thou doest alms, let thy left hand take the selfie of what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be live-streamed: and thy Fans which seeth on-line shall reward thee through Patreon.

    • It’s even worse than that!

      But when thou makest pretense of doing alms, let thy left hand take the selfie of what thy right hand doeth: That thine artifice of alms may be live-streamed: and thy Fans which seeth on-line shall reward thee through Patreon.

  2. It bothers me when people want other people to give alms and then regard THAT as being virtuous on their own part. E.g. Germany should take in more refugees. (See how caring I am about refugees). There should be universal healthcare. (See how much I care about everyone’s access to healthcare that I personally will also benefit from). I am happy about instrumental harm (someone else paying and suffering) ergo I am a good person, when you have demonstrated quite the reverse.

    Conservatives care about the group and put their money where their mouth is in the form of soup kitchens and charitable giving. Liberals care about themselves but virtue signal ersatz group concern that must never cost them anything.

    Incidentally, possibly one reason I have never participated in protest march is because it closely resembles a lynch mob with an implied threat of violence.

  3. I have taken to praying the rosary more and more often when doing walks, whether at the mall, or out in the woods.

    If I do it in church, I’m very careful to stand in the back and hold the hand grasping the beaded rocks behind me so nobody can see it.

    But out in public, I’ll hold it to my side, in plain view.

    I’ve been thinking a bit over whether this is some form of virtue signaling.

    I justify it by knowing that, if I’m not doing the rosary, I’ll be going over frivolous things in my head the entire time, which will eventually lead to a form of insanity, and also in the hopes that it’ll strike up a conversation with someone (love conversing with random people I’ve never met) or that it’ll inspire someone even if they say nothing.

    Its like, the enemy owns all the media companies and broadcast their propaganda and demoralization onto the populace 24/7, me doing the rosary at my side, in view, rather than in my pocket, is my small form of counter-propaganda and counter-demoralization.

    At least that’s what I tell myself.

    • Seems more like a little bit of evangelisation to me-come to think of it, you maybe you ought to make it more obvious in your church, too.

      • There’s a story–the source of which I can’t find at the moment–that said a King had a rosary on his belt. He never prayed it, and cannot be said to have been especially virtuous in life, but the mere fact of having the rosary on his belt inspired his subjects to pray it, and the value of those prayers sanctified him. Not something you should hang your hat on, but there’s definitely something to be said for visible (but not showy) acts of pious devotion.

      • There’s something weird going on with the comments here. I want to reply to Scoot because he’s the last in the sub-thread, but the reply button is never on the last replier, only the second-to-last, Mickvet in this case. Its like that on all the Orthosphere essays.

        Anyhow, there’s no real need to be “more obvious” at my church because its ROCOR lol. Literally the most hardcore denomination– although, there may be more hardcore one-off churches EG certain Protestant home-churches, but I’m speaking of the Big Churches.

        Scoot’s story is very interesting and brings up a good point.

      • It’s a WordPress limitation. We can only nest comments so many layers deep. If you hit the most recent “reply” button, you get appended to the string of comments one layer in from it.

      • That’s a pretty good essay that you linked. It makes a nice distinction between judgement simpliciter – which the plain text of Matthew 7:1, read plainly, would seem to rule out absolutely – and the habit of being too judgemental, or habitually, excessively judgemental, of others; of judgementalism. The latter being as you suggest what our Lord was really warning against.

        There is a tight analogy here to the salubrious urge to holiness and the spiritual disease of its vicious excess in scrupulosity, which is an insane obsession with chasing out the slightest suspicion of any jot of sin, in exactly the way that a woman suffering from an eating disorder starves herself because she is terrified of any jot of obesity.

        We cannot get from one moment to the next except by passages of judgement on courses of conduct, so as to decide upon the proper way to go – for us, and so by a straightforward implication for others (indeed, passage of time *just is* passage of judgement (it is lots of other things, too, but it is certainly that); time is a network of concatenated judgements, and of the decisions that depend upon them). E.g., God abjures us to judge whether a given tithe is due to Caesar or to him [Matthew 22:21], and to comport ourselves accordingly. So God cannot be saying in Matthew 7:1 that we should never evaluate conduct morally *at all.* That would be stupid. Because why? *Because it is not possible to free creatures, who face choices about the best way to behave,* and therefore *have no option but to pass judgement upon those choices, in the very act of making them.* Action *just is* judgement.

        And after all, scripture is chock full of divinely sanctioned human judgements – viz., the Epistles of Paul, shot through with them (sc. especially Romans 1).

        Paul is an Apostle, and therefore divinely sanctioned. His judgements – and his mandates to us, to judge – are not merely human. But they were at least, and so, fully, human. In no other way might we have come to know about them, or to consider them relevant to us.

        What is human is animal. But it is not only animal. Humanity is nowise derogated by the animality that it supervenes, and so transcends. O my gosh; don’t get me started on improper reduction.

        So, Paul was human, and so an animal. But humanity and animality nowise rule out theosis (what could, forsooth?), or therefore access to ultimate truth. On the contrary: theosis, as the basic condition of beings more or less aligned with the Reality of the Most High, so that they can continue to exist together with him, is the basis of creaturely existence per se.

        The moral law then, which cannot but subsist from before all worlds and so operate throughout them all comprehensively (so that on account of it they can cohere as worlds in the first place), can be of no use to us whatsoever, or then therefore no good to us, or indeed even relevant to our predicaments, if we are forbidden to employ it in our quotidian operations.

        God must in Matthew 7:1 then have been getting at something else, and you might well have put your finger on it.

        The Fathers mostly agree with you about this passage, in one way or another. They all suggest in one way or another that Jesus was saying something like, “For heaven’s sake, don’t get carried away with your condemnations.” This is right in line with the admonitions – of all religions and of all spiritual traditions within them – that it is spiritual death to mistake our preferences – and, so, judgements – for those of Reality, and of the Most High, or to get carried away with anything other than the love of the Most High.

        The clearest of those various agreements, and the one most and most simply in line with Tradition, is this: the term translated as “judge” in this passage is “krino,” which in ancient Greek jurisprudence involved – as it does for us today – not just ascertainment of responsibility for some fault and thus of guilt, but condemnation: sentencing to punishment, and mandation thereto. The general idea, present through the whole history of orthodox reflection on this passage, is that while we may certainly judge – and, indeed, for the sake of spiritual and moral health, of ourselves, of our fellows, and of our culture, ought (on pain of judgement of ourselves) to judge – that an act is wrong, and indeed inflict mundane punishment and penalty upon those whom we adjudge responsible for such acts, still we may not take the ultimate step of declaring that those whom we have judged guilty of such acts are condemned *before the throne of God,* and eternally.

        That final judgement is his alone, and taken in virtue of his omniscient Providence. This, despite the provision that what the apostolic ministers of Christ bind or loose on Earth is bound or loosed also in Heaven [Matthew 18:18]; the judgement of the ecclesia, being the judgement by proxy and under the inspiration of Christ himself, is nowise a violation of the proscription of Matthew 7:1. Indeed, on Matthew 18:18, the bindings and loosings of the Church *just are* (in virtue of his inspiration of his Son’s Body, which is the Church) the judgements of El Elyon, the Most High. So, when the Church judges, El Elyon judges. And so does his son, YHWH.

        I find I wander far afield, albeit not (for me, at any rate) unprofitably. Bringing this all back down to brass tacks: I judge that I am not engaging in judgementalism; for, I love my many friends and family who are persuaded that my ideas are evil, and I want rather their salvation than their condemnation. So, I’m OK. You needn’t worry, Winston. I am – and, I trust, we are here, all – not extraordinarily subject to the sin of judgementalism.

        Which has not much at all to do with our honest judgement of the insanity of our adversaries noticed by implication in the OP.

      • Kristor, I appreciate you and your thoughtfulness. Please know that. I think the tell I see often in the comment section of this blog and elsewhere is the delight in judgmentalism as a means of puffing up the ego; superiority perhaps. This I believe is a trap. It is a by product of shame (or one having been shamed) and it’s intent is to shame others. Or perhaps it’s intent is to mask the shame of the self. Anyway, I believe it is related to shame. I say this with no intent to shame anyone. It’s tricky because your reaction to my original comment was “are you judging us?” (I’m going off memory). So it’s hard to point out without being accused of the very thing itself. It’s so ingeniously crafty that way. But I do want to point it out so that it (not necessarily the person possessed by it) can be revealed and rebuked and cast back into Hell where it belongs.

      • Thanks, Winston. I appreciate your participation here, too, and your quiet patient voice. It is not inapposite to ask us from time to time, as you have several times done, whether we are being too extreme in our criticism of our cultural enemies. Beam, mote, eye, and so forth; just what Jesus goes on about in Matthew 7, shortly after he cautions against judgement.

        Still it must be remembered that we here are not enemies of our enemies because we wanted to be. They made themselves our enemies, when we were just standing around minding our own business – being white, or male, or (here) Christian. Or, realistic and pragmatic rather than utopian and – it must be said – simply foolish. Or, familiar with history – or economics, or biology, or theology, or physics – rather than ignorant.

        We evaluate our enemies as inimical. This is a judgement, to be sure, but it is on a par with judging that the sun has come up and the sky is blue.

        They really are our enemies. To render another judgement would be to fall into their own manifest insanity.

        Whatever the Latest Thing happens to be this week – war with East Asia, or abhorrence of female athletes, or the racism of maths, or genital mutilation of minors, or … you get the drift – you can be sure that our enemies the True Believers in the Latest Thing (whatever it is, and no matter what it might be, and no matter how obviously absurd it is) abhor and hate people like us because we are not True Believers in the Latest Thing, but rather True Believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things visible and invisible are made, and without whom nothing is made that is made; and only derivately believers less true in anything less – including ourselves (our deep skepticism about our own understandings, natural to natural conservatives such as we – aye, and, it must be said, to any worthy to be called philosophers – is one reason I doubt we here are much really guilty of the excess of judgement that Jesus cautions us about in Matthew 7:1).

        Because why? Why do such as we hold back from enthusiastic True Belief in the Latest Thing? Why, because the only thing that can possibly be worthy of True Belief is the Ultimate Truth. If you have bound yourself to Ultimate Truth, anything less is going to look like a cheat, and a scold, and a vice.

        It’s not just that our enemies want to shame us (although they do want that, at the very least). They want us dead. They won’t go so far as to start killing us themselves, of course; they are too weak and fearful to undertake our annihilation personally. They want us dead, the same way they want things to be OK with everyone who is ‘marginalized:’ i.e., at zero cost to themselves. So, they’ll do their best to engage the engines, the meat, and the weapons of the state in our annihilation.

        Fortunately for us and for our kind, reality does not work as they wish it did. Thus our enemies cannot win in the end, even should they kill all of us somehow; for, by their loyalties they have made war upon GNON, the Logos, the Tao, against whom no one may prevail. Genesis 11:1-9. They may still do a great deal of damage as they wind down toward their eventual defeat and dissolution. They are in fact our enemies, they want to harm us, and they *do* harm us; this, in virtue of their complete hegemonic control of the engines and institutions of the Establishment. They may succeed in killing all of us.

        But, so what?

        I recur again, as I have many times, to Luther’s mighty hymn, which cries my own final confidence:

        A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
        Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
        For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
        His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
        On earth is not his equal.

        Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
        Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
        Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
        Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
        And He must win the battle.

        And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
        We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
        The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
        His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
        One little Word shall fell him.

        That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
        The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him Who with us sideth:
        Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
        The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
        His kingdom is forever.

        A final word: who judges is judged. Likewise, who lives by the sword dies by the sword; Matthew 26:52. These are both instances of the Law of Compensation, of which the Conservation Laws of physics and economics are instances.

        There is no excuse from action; as Sartre made clear, there is no escape, no exit; for, to act is to be, and there is no way to be other than to act. We act implicitly then before we even begin to act; we act even in realizing that we must perforce act, willy nilly, some way. To be, or even to begin to be, is to be committed to committing some act. And, acts all effect: they wound, or heal (or sometimes, do both). Such is the tragedy of becoming, as Fallen. No matter what we do, we impose some cost upon our beloved fellows, that we would rather have averted, for the sake of charity.

        That inevitable tragedy of choice is the font and reason of the existentialist lament.

        Sheesh; I find that I here wander very far afield indeed. No matter. Every matter, too.

        Thanks, Winston, for providing to me the occasion of these reflections.

        PS: When I asked whether you were judging us, I had tongue firmly in cheek. It was a tease, rather than a challenge.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.