Thoughts on “Uncle Harry”

February 7, 2014

Poor Uncle Harry, having become a missionary,
Found the natives’ morals rather crude.
He and dear Aunt Mary swiftly imposed an                arbitrary
Ban upon them shopping in the nude.

Now they all considered this silly
And didn’t take it well.
They burnt his boots and several suits
And wrecked the mission hotel.
They also burnt his mackintosh,
Which made a disgusting smell.

These lines are from “Uncle Harry,” by Noel Coward. While the treatment is humorous, the story, about a family that “loved to go off on missions to rather peculiar climes and lead the wretched heathen to the light,” illustrates something serious about conflict. Both sides believed they were right. Uncle Harry and Aunt Mary knew how the natives should live. And the natives resisted their correction.

In the story of Adam and Eve, after eating the forbidden fruit, Adam hides because he is ashamed to be seen by God naked. But God is his father. Who would be ashamed to be see naked by his father? Possibly this story is a myth attempting to show that the evil in this world comes from people being taught or convincing themselves of false standards of morality. The “knowledge of good and evil” that Adam and Eve supposedly gained by eating the forbidden fruit, was in reality a false knowledge. Did the writer of Genesis intend this meaning? I have no way of knowing.

But it is apparent that when the Nazis murdered four million Jews, they thought the were doing something good. Does this excuse their acts? Certainly not. But when Jesus hung on the cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” and I, as his follower, must say this same prayer for all those I perceive as doing evil in the world.

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