culture ethics politics

rights and responsibilities

Three recent events, a complaint about a sermon, a movie about Margaret Thatcher and a FB conversation about gun laws, have me reflecting on the tendencies of ‘left-wingers’ and ‘right-wingers’.  Both left and right folk will express concern for both ‘rights’ and ‘responsibilities’, but at different times.

On the topic of social welfare:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of the poor/unemployed
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of the poor/unemployed

On the topic of gun laws:
the right emphasise the ‘rights’ of gun owners
the left emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of gun ownership/use

On the topic of war:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of all humans to have peace
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of defending peace

On the topic of abortion:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of the woman
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of the man and woman

On the topic of ‘the environment’:
the right emphasise the ‘rights’ of individuals and businesses
the left emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of individuals and businesses

In all of these scenarios, I am interested in embracing the tension between BOTH rights AND responsibilities.  I’m interested in BOTH short-term practicalities, AND long-term wisdom.

I’m interested in social policy that is both generous and sustainable – that avoids the extremes of too much or too little assistance, which (ironically) both end up cementing the poor in their poverty.

I’m interested in gun laws that are both practical and wise – that avoid the foolish extremes of taking guns away or assuming that no regulation is needed at all – both of which will end up causing harm.

I’m interested in a military policy that is both prepared to use force, and seeks to be accountable to human rights – avoiding the extremes of an idealistic and passive pacifism on one hand, and a short-sighted/arrogant agression on the other.

I’m interested in an abortion policy that is committed to the quality and quantity of life for both the pre-born human and the mother (and father, family…) – avoiding the extremes of an idealistic, legislate-heaven-to-earth, fantasy on one hand, and a careless, inhumane, abortion-as-contraception nightmare on the other.

I’m interested in environmental policy that uses both legislation and education to motivate people and businesses to care for creation – avoiding the extremes of avoidance and assumptions that all is OK on one hand, and aggressive, undemocratic pushing through of eco-laws on the other.

christianity culture ethics politics

prophecy & politics

…funny how most (not all!) American Christians are happy to ‘get political’ when it comes to abortion and gay marriage (‘Oh yes, let’s fight for godly legislation!’), but scream ‘socialism’ when it comes to issues like benefits for poor, out of work, or infirm people – or (shock, horror) free health care…

Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims—
Laws that make misery for the poor,
that rob my destitute people of dignity,
exploiting defenseless widows,
taking advantage of homeless children.

What will you have to say on Judgment Day,
when Doomsday arrives out of the blue?
Who will you get to help you?
What good will your money do you?

Isaiah 10:1-3 (The Message)

christianity ethics politics

fiery survivor of abortion

Here (I don’t know if you have to have a Facebook account or not).

On emotion. This morning an abortion-activist (pro) was on TV – then this evening I get forwarded this.  My wife’s comment about the activist this morning was that she seemed far too ‘clinical’ about a very sensitive issue.

On free speech. Both sides (and various positions in between) have reasons to say that emotive statements from the other side are offensive, and hurtful.  Whilst I strive for an approach that tries to respect emotions and protect life, when push comes to shove, life is more worth protecting than emotions.

On reality. The reality is a rainbow of varied circumstances.  In the mix of those considering abortion will be a tiny percentage of women who’ve tragically suffered rape, incest, or a combination of the two.  Also in the mix will be a less-than-tiny percentage of women (and their absentee male partners and absentee community/family/friend support) who just don’t want to be bothered with the responsibility of parenthood (not to mention a sexual relationship).  It is naive to say that selfishness is not part of the picture, and non-PC to say that it is.

On relationships. Abortion is one part of a problem with sexual ethics, which is one part of a problem with human relationships in general.  Sadly, modern/western (read: over-convenienced, over-entertained, over-bandwidth-ed, over-socialised, etc.) people have few friends/family that they have a deep/trusting enough of a relationship to be able to a) get the support they need (before and after the unplanned/unwanted/inconvenient pregnancy), and b) have loving truth spoken to them when needed.

On urgency. Whilst screaming ‘murder’, ‘genocide’ or using phrases like ‘silent holocaust’ are maybe not advisable, this is still a freaking life & death issue.

On law. If you know me at all, I’m not for Christians trying to enforce our beliefs through law.  But if the role of government is not to protect life (survival first, quality of life and personal ‘rights’ second), then I don’t know what government is for.  This is one hairy beast of a problem, and I don’t claim easy fixes.  In isolated and short-term cases, an abortion of a 3-day old foetus may look ‘better’ than a drugged-addicted teenage couple being non-parents.  Though there has to be some form of legislation to protect life and people from their own selfishness and indifference, merely making abortion illegal wouldn’t solve the problem.  Whatever one thinks about free abortions or free contraception, etc., hopefully we can agree that families, communities, and yes, even nations need to stop band-aid-ing the problem and address the sexuality and relational confusion that underlies all of this.  “To each their own” (or “live and let live”) is so indifferent and uncaring a philosophy it might as well be hatred.

On increasingly moralistic society. Has anyone else noticed how moralistic society is?  Ads telling people to confront each other about their drinking, and warning people about speeding, and a host of other examples.  This is surface stuff that belies a deep uncertainty about just what to do about some issues.  Tolerance, like ‘rights’, only goes so far.  Convictions, values, responsibilities and real community will go further toward societal change than more laws and more guilt.

On long blog posts. Sorry y’all.

christianity ethics general philosophy politics

easy hard

quick reflections:

  • It’s easy to paint Islam as a) inherently evil/violent or b) docile/dormant and harmless – it’s hard to patiently assess what Islam is actually like.
  • It’s easy to tell a woman considering abortion a) that she’s a murderer or b) that whatever choice she makes is the right choice – it’s hard to journey patiently, lovingly, understandingly, etc-ingly, with not only the her, but the father, her family, her friends, her community in and through difficult and complex times.
  • (repeat with all kinds of issues…)
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Humans are the most vulnerable and needy at the beginning and end of their lives.

Prof John Wyatt describes (mp3PDF) the feeling of caring for his mother, stricken with dementia:

Even when my mother was tragically affected by dementia she was still on the journey. Close to the end of her life I visited her in the nursing home where she was receiving 24 hour nursing care. It was meal time and I was trying to feed her from a yoghurt pot with a teaspoon. “Open you mouth, here it comes…”. And I suddenly had a flashback – this was exactly what she used to do with me when I was an infant. And now the tables were turned.

We don’t like to be vulnerable and needy.  We are culture-trained to be secure and sufficient – on our own. Wyatt talks about the common phrase reflecting the fear we have of growing old, and thus vulnerable and needy.  “I just don’t want to be a burden to anybody.” (Or stronger, such as: “I simply will not become a burden to anyone!”)

But ‘being a burden’ to one another is one of the things that unites the human family together.  Our precious son, Thomas, was quite a ‘burden’ on the Special Care Birth Unit that looked after him as his lungs developed (having been born 7 week early); and he continues to be a ‘burden’ to us (nappies, feeding, lugging his gear around, etc., etc.)!

It is a cultural myth and a tragic assumption that human worth is only in ability to ‘contribute to society’.  But even given this false notion, those more ‘burdensome’ humans (babies, those with various kind of disability, the elderly, comatose, terminally ill, etc.), actually do contribute to society: they teach and mature the rest of us. I become a better human being having to ‘put up with’ others.  Wyatt continues about feeding his mother:

But in a strange sense this was not an evil, terrible thing. It was part of the narrative of a human life. She was learning more of what it meant to be a parent and I was learning more of what it meant to be a son. She was still my mother although tragically impaired and deformed. My duty was to treat her with love, respect and care.

Abortion and euthanasia are hotly divisive topics, and there are real people with real circumstances involved.  Most agree that the passive examples of ‘letting nature take its course’ ((A teleologically-loaded, and thus other-than-scientific, statement!)) such as saving the mother ahead of the baby and the removal of life-support in some cases are ethical.  But both are, in my view, justified far too often simply because a burden is being avoided. ((Take the common scenario of a sexually active teen girl having a pregnancy she (nor her sexual partner) were not planning on.  Could it be that having to face the responsibility of child birth and child-rearing may be just the thing that could help them not only avoid post-abortion depression, but also help them to mature and grow into responsible adult-hood?))  As we’ve seen, bearing burdens mature and grow us.  We hugely miss out by avoiding them.

Paul, in giving one of his various summaries of the essence of being a Christian, says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the Law of Christ.”

art christianity ethics philosophy www

abortion poem

I’m prolife, and firmly so, but I’m also pro support of women in real and really desperate and fragile situations.  (hat tip – PZ Meyers)

ethics philosophy

teleology & ethics

The word ‘teleology’ (from Greek τελος ‘telos’ – meaning ‘goal’, ‘end’, ‘purpose’ or ‘that toward which things tend’) is not a street-level term.  However, the concept of a purpose, goal, function or ‘end’ to things most certainly is.  It’s a common as anything.  Teleology is blindingly relevant.

ethics philosophy www

pro-life atheists

In a very interesting find, this is a site of atheists (and agnostics) who are pro-life.

I think their arguments are (mostly) excellent, though of course it would be interesting to a) see how non-pro-life atheists would respond to them, and b) converse with them concerning things like how they determine (judge/establish/discover) the nature of human worth/value/dignity.

ethics philosophy science www

surgery to save or end a life

Anyone who knows me knows I’m aware of the sensitivities associated with abortion.  Although in one sense (something like the sense reflected in the post title) I think it can fairly be seen as a simple issue, I also affirm that it has complexities.

philosophy science theology

atheism and explanatory monism

I’ve quite enjoyed reading through “Is Nature Enough: Meaning and Truth in the Age of Science“, by John Haught.  One of the many points he articulates well is what he refers to as “layered explanation”.