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Our existence could not be what it is apart from these sustaining relationships. This is more than simply the physical needs. My wife very obediently one might say fixes my breakfast and my dinners takes care of my clothing provides for me the sexual experiences and outlets that are required for my manhood. She takes care of my physical needs but she does much more. I began to rely not only on her particular sustaining acts but I really began to rely upon reliability itself. That is to say that I can be an individual a person because there are a sustaining pattern of relations of reliance and reliability which make my life possible. Reliability not in a sense of boring constancy but reliability. Which affirms in changing conditions. The possibility that I do not need to face every day as an absolutely new day. I do not need to face every relationship as an absolutely new relationship. I am being cared
for. I am caring for others. And this order of care and this order of reliability is what makes life bearable. I do not need to create each day my own order of care. I rely on their faithfulness to me. They rely on my faithfulness to them. I live by their love for me they live by my love for them. I respond in gratitude to them. They respond in gratitude to me. The family is a network of sustaining relationships within which there is an ongoing process of human interaction. But one sees the arbor side or perhaps it isn't the other side of this relatively swiftly. That is to say these relationships which are sustaining to me are also restraining. To me those to whom I am related not only sustain my being and my existence but they restrain my being and my existence. I am restrained in part because
I have a wife and I have children. I am restrained strained by the fact that being in this pattern of relationships having a particular role in relationship to them I have obligations toward them which I necessarily must meet if the well-being of each of us as individuals or the family as a whole is to be maintained. I have an obligation to meet their physical needs. I have an obligation to meet their educational needs. I have obligations and responsibilities for their general well-being and I use the word obligation because these things I must do. I ought to do I am required to do even when I do not feel like doing them. Even when I do not get immediate rewards of self satisfaction in fulfilling these things. The family then is a community of restraint as well as a community of sustaining powers. It is a community in which I begin to learn and recognize each day that life is
made up not only immediate occasions of immediate self fulfillment but life is made up of a series of commitments responsibilities and obligations. That I exist within and live in relation to by virtue of my role as a parent. My role as of a member of the family that I live in in as a result of the relationships that are there. It is within the family then that I begin to learn the meaning of both being restrained and being sustained. To move swiftly down from this example of the family to a very general point. To be a person is to exist in a pattern of relationships. A pattern of relationships which are not closed and forced upon one but a pattern of relationships which change in the course of time and events. But it is nonetheless a pattern of relationships. That is to say there are persisting requirements for my life and for our life together that must be met by virtue of our common life. And this
pattern of relationships begins to be seen to have moral characteristics as well as economic characteristics and psychological characteristics. I am part of an interacting unit which is within an order. And this order provides a context within which responsiveness and responsibility action and receptivity can take place. I am part of an order of interaction which is an order of responsibility not only in the sense that I have the capacity to respond to others but in the sense that I have I am accountable to them for what I do for them in the sense that I have obligations to them by virtue of being in relationship to them. I am accountable to others. For what I do. I am a response of actor and in my response of activity I seek to do what is required for them. I have obligations to others by virtue of the relationships within which I again exist. Others are accountable to me.
Others have obligations to me. Now this order of life and this order of response and responsibility this order of interaction is not merely an external order imposed upon me without its own forms of fulfillment. It is within this order of interaction and response and responsibility that some measure of my own fulfillment and identity of a as a person is forthcoming. My own sense of well-being is an effect in part of being in a pattern of relationships in which I am not only sustained but I have some gratitude some joy and some meaning by virtue of being the participant in these relationships the goodness of life that is mine comes through what others do for me as well as what I can do for others. The well-being of others the goodness of life that they have comes in and through these patterns of relationships of which I am a park and of which we are all a
part. To be a person is to exist in patterns of relationships. Patterns of relationships that are. Somewhat moral in character. Patterns of relationships which are patterns of obligation and responsibility as well as patterns which are the occasion of self-fulfillment. Both moral restraints and the sustaining fulfillments of life. Are grounded in our relationships in the human community. Indeed you see to a considerable extent my identity even my liberty as a person is dependent upon the reliability and fidelity of others. Is dependent upon my meeting my obligations to them and upon their meeting their obligations to me. My very liberty and identity as a person is dependent upon the fact that I can rely upon others to be playing the game according to certain established rules among us. Rules which fulfill their obligations to me rules with which I
fulfill my obligations to them. Morality then it seems to me. These can be described in park as that human behavior in which there is a mutual acceptance of responsibility an obligation that makes life livable orderly rewarding. Morality is a pattern of life which does both sustain and restrain. Now what is the significance of religion in this kind of descriptive analytical enterprise. Religion at its best. And I'm only speaking of it at this moment at its best. Religion at its best expands to a considerable extent our awareness of the divine dimensions and the extents the extensions of these relationships. Religion at its best suggests to us that there is some being some other beyond the multiplicity of life in which we are involved. Who calls us or which
calls us to an awareness that we are there is a universality to our participation in the human community. And that there is a sense of obligation not only to those to whom we are immediate related in the family but a sense of obligation to life itself as a result of being a participant in this kind of network of life. To move swiftly what the instinct religion suggests is that one's network of relationships within which both obligation and self-fulfillment come into being are extended to all of life. And extend also to the giver of life itself. I am sustained not merely by my family. I am sustained also by other communities of which I am a part. I am sustained by the order of civil law and the political order of life. I am sustained by the gift and power of life itself. I am sustained in religious language by God and His gifts of life. In more traditional language one can say I am loved and I can be because
I am loved not only by my family but I am sustained and loved by others distant from my family. I am finally and ultimately sustain and have my being. Because life itself is loving because I am loved by God that I am sustained and even come into being because God's love has brought the world into being and has bought all the forms of goodness which I enjoy into being. Similarly I am restrained not merely by my family but I am restrained by other communities of which I am a part. I am restrained by the civil law I am restrained by the order of the general society of which I to which I belong. There are obligations which are thrust upon me by virtue of being a member of this universal human community. And I am accountable to others. In religious language then I am responsible not only to others in this network of relationships of which I am a part but I am also responsible for what I can
do to maintain life itself with some kind of qualitative dimensions to it. I am responsible to God who created life in such a way that its preservation and its meaningfulness for me and for others is depend of the pendant upon my acceptance of my responsibility for others. My responsibility to him. Now the facts of experience I suppose testify to something else. That is to say the facts of experience testify to the fact that particular communities. Family moral communities and religious communities can be not only restraining but repressive. But family moral communities religious communities can be stifling of creativity. Can be inhibiting can finally become unbearable. Because what they do is foist upon us some set pattern to which we are being conformed to which we are presumably commanded to be conform
which is a pre established order rather than an order that emerges out of our extensive relationships of actions and interactions. Certainly everyone in this room has had some moments when he has believed the family to be tyrannical. Maybe the tyranny has been located in one member maybe it has been located in another and maybe we have generalized it so that we can say that the family is a tyrannical social unit. Certainly we all recognize that the mores of a middle class the conventional mores of middle class can be highly uncreative indeed they can be destructive of support self fulfillment and responsible and creative action. They can be destructive of individuality. Certainly certainly we realize that in so far as our nation in some sense is the bearer of values and is in some sense the socializing socializing agency through which we make these values our own values that the nation and its values can often become demonic if they are the wrong values.
And in many more subtle forms we ourselves find ourselves sort of sucked into the kinds of mores and values that exist around us which ultimately are stifling inhibiting repressive and unbearable. Morality. Rather than be liberal being liberating for a life of response of this and a life of activity can be crippling. Can be killing. Of the life of the human spirit which in its nobler forms looks towards the future and responsible action. If this is true of morality it is certainly true of religion. We recognize that religion in its historic forms and in its institutionalized forms can be intellectually stultifying. Often confusing myth and some rightful meaning from myth for scientific information. Often taking literally what perhaps should only be taken symbolically. Religion is often tied to
authoritarian institutions with their institutional demands for conformity and behavior to pre established codes. It is often tied to authoritarian institutions which require that we sign creeds and dogmas as marks of our belonging to the in-group which finally is the ghetto. Rather than motivate for effective service to God and to man. Rather than liberating man to become a responsible participant in the human community. Religion very often creates the fears. Creates excessive scrupulosity creates dogmatic mentalities and is destructive of what is best in the human spirit. Thus we can see that the facts. Of experience with reference to historical forms of morality and religion. Very often deny what perhaps the best impulses and direction of both morality and religion ought to be. Both religion and morality to provide liberation and direction to human
activity. If they are to do this force we have to learn to make the fundamental distinction between the morality that is. And the kinds of convictions that we ought to have about the human good between the religion that is and the kinds of convictions about being and about life that are worthy of our kinds of commitment. The is no us of any particular morality. And the is ness of any particular religion is never any more the ACOs of morality in the upness of religion than is the is n'est of a political order or the is ness of an economic order. What ought to be in politics and in economics. What we began to see is that we have to move from the actual order of sustaining and restraining that both morality and religion produced for us. We have to often move from that order of what is actually taking place in the
moral and religious community. To an awareness and consciousness about those values and those principles those moral convictions and those attitudes which are worthy of our acceptance in more with more reliability than merely the fact that we have been socialized into them. We have to become aware of the fact. That there is a possibility in religion. Of beliefs about God and about man. Which are not merely the supportive. Mores the support of rationalizations for the orders of life as we perceive them. But can become the fulcrum in terms of providing the intention and direction. For the liberation of our own selves from our own enslavement or liberation from a society for our society from injustice and poverty and forms of oppression. The descriptive question about morality is simply this. What do people do and more like the
existential question of morality is in part this. What are we to do. And the answer to the question What ought I to do is never determined by a descriptive answer to the question what are people doing. But beyond these questions comes that question of ethics. That is to say what values what principles what convictions are worthy of my commitment. What values what principles what convictions ought to be determinative of my intentions and my directions my moral judgments with reference to the particular things that I am required to be and to do. What values give my identity a worth that is really worthy of my allegiance. What values are there that need to be realized with the human community to be fully human. The question of why left in its existential form and the question of ethics is how does one bring to bear upon this ever changing interactive process which both sustains and restrains
us these normative principles these values so that there is in our interactive activity some alteration of the course of events toward some vision we have of human betterment. Similarly in the sphere of religion. One has to learn to morph from religion as we observe it. In its bourgeois institutional forms and from religious behavior as we observe it. In the kind of. Demands that it makes upon us. TO is a sheep being of those convictions. Those beliefs about what the ultimate meaning and power of life are. That also can be worthy of our commitment to them and can begin to give a significant direction to our participate of interaction in the ongoing process of life. The descriptive question about religion is in part what the religious people do how do they worship.
How do they behave. How do they organize themselves in institutions. But we never learn how we ought to be religious from simply looking at what religious people do what they say how they behave. The normative question of religion is what convictions about God what convictions about life what convictions about the ordering and sustaining powers of life are worthy of my commitment and my belief. The normative questions of religion is how do these convictions about the ultimate powers and meanings of life give some direction to my perspective and my intentions to my attitudes and my moral judgments and my deeds. We can answer these questions in traditional terms in part or we can answer these questions in novel terms but they are not esoteric questions the question of morality isn't an esoteric question that only moral philosophers and theologians think about the question of religion is not an esoteric question that only a clergyman and paid servants of religious
institutions think about the questions of morality or. The ends that ought to be seeking the purposes that are out to be actualizing are questions of life itself so that no man is without a morality. No man is without some convictions which give him some more like entity which gives some directionality to his actions which are brought to bear in some measure upon his particular moral judgments. No man is without something that functions in the way in which religious beliefs function for religious man. With some commitment to what is good a commitment to it. Not only a statement about it but a trust in it. The reliance upon it. The questions of morality and religion are not esoteric. They are not outside of experience itself. But reside in what it means to be a human being participating in a human community. Our personal question then as those who
will to become purposive intending actors initiators in the course of events are personal question is is my actual morality. Is my actual religion worthy of what I wish to become worthy of what society needs to be. Our own individuality and identity as individuals as persons as moral and religious. Means is never fulfilled merely by the acceptance of any existing morality or any existing religion that exists that lives around us as authoritative. Either visibly authoritative or perhaps secretly authoritative in the way in which it's or socializes us. Each of us as a human subject. Has to come to his own spiritual and moral identity. And in coming to one's own spiritual and moral identity. We do not simply extract ourselves from these relationships of sustaining and restraining
life. In the human moral community in the religious community in the family. But we come to our identity. To our own sense of purpose and aim. By that. Formulation in our own action and thought of what are the values the commitments and the believes. That are worthy of my respect. That are worthy of my allegiance. And that can give direction then to my behavior to my purposes my interaction and the life around. Me are not called upon to conform to morality and to religion as we see them. Morality and religion as we see them. To be sure can be sustaining. And to be sure can be restraining when we are called upon to remove ourselves from this level to think more clearly about those purposes and direction. And about those sustaining impulses which enable us to become intending acting participating
interacting beings in the ongoing course of history. To do this to become this. Requires that we take seriously not only the fact that we need principles we need values we need objects of commitment. But that we take seriously those values those principles those objects of commitment that have been given to us and our Western heritage. Classical and religious. As ways by which. We can find direction. As principles which can be brought to bear upon our judgments. As motivating forces which lead us to become persons with identity with power and with purpose. Oh. You've just heard the Rev. James M. Gustavsson professor of Christian ethics and chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University speaking on the topic morality and religion sustaining or restraining.
After Mr. Gustavsson is lecturer selected questions from the audience were posed what relevance is religion to a person who feels no need for sustenance from any external source. Well I'd like to meet the person who feels no need for sustenance from any external source. That is I think part of the question here is whether life can be sustained without external sources the kind of descriptive issues is present for us. We can argue over the facts of the matter whether my personal life could exist without sustenance by others or any other person in this room could exist without sustenance for others but I suspect the question relates to the external source probably relates to the Christian's belief that maybe it's useful to have God to sustain your being. And I think I would answer that very flatly that religion
has no relevance to a person who does not feel at this moment the need for any relevance of religion. That is to say. It seems to me it's not very fruitful to try to argue in some kind of deductive express way from experience to an absolute necessity for a god to sustain one's mean. That religion is not quite that kind of enterprise. That what some people find in religion is a way of expressing their gratitude their delight their joy their moral concerns which emerge out of a an understanding of life but also out of an understanding that life as I live it or life has any particular historical this community lives it is not confined in itself but that life is meaningful as we respond to the source of life the giver of life. And I don't think there's any way of making religion
relevant to a person on a particular moment of his life feels no need for God. And I'm not even interested in preaching to that guy. What has religion at its best or even its worst done for the ghetto. You get it. I suspect one would have to honestly say that if the ghetto in mind here is the northern urban negro ghetto religion at its worst has provided the kind of rationalization for patients waiting for for a day beyond this experience to realize the things with which one has then deprived in this experience in one's experience and like. I don't think we can say that religion has morally had a great
positive effect in the ghetto. Certainly it has provided some way in which some people have at least been able to cope with the situation in which their part although unfortunately it has all too seldom provided the motivation to alter the conditions in which they are part. At its best now. It seems to me what one can see is that among other forces and not religion alone but among other forces religion in the ghetto ought to make people aware of what they are meant to be as human beings make them aware of what in Christian terms what love requires of a civil society in the order of life that it has as well as what love requires and personal relationships at its best religion ought to be able to motivate people to be active participants in the struggle for justice and for human rights in the ghetto. Religion now is a highly social socially conditioned thing as Mr. long as pointed out its past is by no
means a glorious past and it takes different forms with reference to different communities. And I think the question unable to me to reiterate Let's never confuse the actual forms of historical or congregational religion as you find them with some of the historic norms which have given life and vitality and direction to religion and it's best when religion is parallel to many other movements in this regard other movements also have their normative and their worst side. You have been listening to lectures by Norton long Professor of Politics at Brandeis University and James Gustavsson professor of Christian ethics at Yale University. Mr. Long spoke on political reality and individual responsibility. Mr. Gustafson discussed morality and religion sustaining or restraining. The next program in a series from the University of Illinois Centennial symposium will feature the discussion of these two lectures.
Mr. Long and Gustavsson will answer questions from visiting professors faculty members at the University of Illinois and students. Ma'am and the multitude is a feature presentation of the University of Illinois radio service. This program was distributed by a national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network 1.
Man and the multitude
Norton Long and James Gustafson, part two
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University of Illinois
WILL Illinois Public Media
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the second of two parts, presents lectures by Norton Long of Brandeis University on "Political Reality and Individual Responsibility" and James Gustafson of Yale University on "Morality and Religion: Sustaining or Restraining?"
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A lecture series commemorating the centennial of the University of Illinois.
Politics and Government
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Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
Speaker: Long, Norton E.
Speaker: Gustafson, James M.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-41-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:46
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Chicago: “Man and the multitude; Norton Long and James Gustafson, part two,” 1967-10-10, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 3, 2024,
MLA: “Man and the multitude; Norton Long and James Gustafson, part two.” 1967-10-10. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 3, 2024. <>.
APA: Man and the multitude; Norton Long and James Gustafson, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from