Last Monday my wife and I took our high school daughter to St. Louis, Missouri, for a campus tour of St. Louis University, a Jesuit university.  The day began with all prospective students and parents meeting for an introduction in the student center.  Before the presentation began I noticed several paintings on the walls depicting various people in abstract form.  I was curious about them so, at a break, I looked at them more closely.  There were eight paintings in all and I found them all to be very interesting.  As I reached the end of the row there was a framed explanation of their subject matter and a blurb about the artist (unfortunately I do not remember the artist’s name)(* – See 4/28/13 note in comment below).  Each painting was of someone representing an “Anti-Beatitude”, or in other words, the opposite of one of the Beatitudes. 

I was intrigued by this because I have used a similar type of thought process to demonstrate the ridiculousness of various ideas to my children and to employees.  When teaching my children about principles and virtues I would often explain the goodness of a principle by examining the opposite of that principle.  For example, I would show them how honesty is a good principle because the opposite of honesty – lying, deceit, and thievery – is a bad thing.  Even crooks who may regularly practice these anti-principles know they are bad things because of their reactions when they are on the wrong end of them.  Likewise, I would use this method of looking at the opposite of that which is accepted ethical business practice to show employees the absurdity of unethical behavior.  But, I had never before seen this idea put into visual form.

I wondered, “What would ‘Anti-Beatitudes’ look like in written form?”  I thought this might be a good tool for teaching children about the real Beatitudes.  So, with a thesaurus in hand and using a little imagination, it wasn’t too hard to come up with something to show how ludicrous these appear compared to our Christian morals.  For comparison’s sake, I have listed below the actual Beatitudes first to help illustrate the preposterousness of their conjured-up opposites that follow:

 The Beatitudes (Matthew 5 : 3-11)

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when men insult you, and persecute you, and, speaking falsely, say all manner of evil against you for my sake.

The Anti-Beatitudes

  • Blessed are the proud and self-sufficient who believe they are the center of the earth, for theirs are the kingdoms of the world.
  • Blessed are the content and those who fail to see the suffering of others, for they shall know not of their ignorance.
  • Blessed are the arrogant, and the harsh in attitude, for they shall control the happiness of the less fortunate.
  • Blessed are they who gather expensive things undeservedly and flaunt them in the face of others, for they shall be filled with feelings of superiority.
  • Blessed are the bullies, the unforgiving, and those who force grievance, for they shall cause destruction and keep score.
  • Blessed are the perverted, the adulterers, and the lustful, for they shall be esteemed by Satan for growing his kingdom.
  • Blessed are the warmongers, the agitators and the vengeful, for they shall be the children of Satan.
  • Blessed are they who do evil but fail to get caught, for they shall be considered heroes.
  • Blessed are the liars, the gossipers, and those who make fun of others to cause them harm and embarrassment, for they shall have confidence and be placed ahead of others.

I was certainly not prepared for my fright when I noticed upon completion of this list how I, and just about everyone else I know, at one point or another in our lives, fit perfectly into most of these descriptions.  Some of the trickery I’ve used on others to make a point backfired on me and hit me squarely in the side of the head.  To put it bluntly, it was a shameful and embarrassing, but honest, realization.  I think I will keep this list handy and, from this point forward, pull it out and dust it off from time to time and use it like a litmus paper to check my self-acidity, and as a tool to prepare for reconciliation.  I’m feeling fortunate that my sins were forgiven through my recent baptism or else I would probably be packing supper and a midnight snack for both Father and me when I make my first real trip to the confessional!

(The post The Anti-Beatitudes first appeared on Reflections of a Lay Catholic)