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.
- 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)