For shame

Only God can set it right

Remember Gomer Pyle, the hapless and saintly TV marine? His philosophical lexicon was limited, but it included two all-purpose expressions: Surprise, surprise, surprise! and Shame, shame, shame! The first of these expressions, along with Golly! and Shazam! expressed Gomer’s childlike sense of wonder. He was a holy fool, perpetually delighted by life’s small and great prodigies. Yet it was with Shame, shame, shame! that the profounder notes of his personality emerged: he was not afraid to pronounce judgment when it was called for, and even to cry doom.

Thus Gomer Pyle embodied the principle that German Lutheran theologian Rudolf Otto established in his 1917 classic, The Idea of the Holy: that the sense of doom is related to the sense of wonder and that awareness of divine mercy heightens rather than dilutes the pangs of conscience.


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