Boomer Remover Chart

#BoomerRemover

#BoomerRemover Trending on Twitter

I was somewhat amused to discover that there was a hashtag trending on Twitter over the past weekend #BoomerRemover. As such, it appears to be a way for millennials to express their gallows humor at seeing the older generation pass away. It is significant that hashtags are a convenient stand in for ethical reasoning.Boomer Remover Chart

As we ponder the issue of ethics in a time of illness, we need to have a starting point for our reasoning. I would suggest that the Bible is a  solid place to begin.  As I put it in another blog entry, I begin from a place that says, God has spoken, and so my ethics have to be shaped by the divine Word.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we find the following:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,                  and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— (Chapter 5, verse 12)

The Presence of Sin

Sin is pervasive among the human race. We find sin in ourselves, in our children, in our parents, in our friends, and so on to the whole population of earth. No one is exempt from this terrible reality. Because that is so, Paul reminds us that death comes as a result.

Today, I am adhering to the directives of the nation and state in which I  reside to shelter in place. That is, to socially distance myself from others for the next several weeks. Why? Because there is a contagion in the world which is doing great harm, even causing death, to people who are my age.

The corona virus has brought on a significant amount of reflection on ethics in a time of illness. What is the right thing to do these days? What is the wrong thing to do? How do we know? Should we simply look at this virus as a“#boomerremover”?  (Referring to what we in the United States call the baby boomer generation which is now 55 to 75 years of age. See this article from India. ) Is this “Mother Nature’s” way of clearing out a bunch of people from the population of the earth?  So we should just let the virus run its course? Questions, and more questions simply pile up. The answers are actually very few and look very different as those answers arise from differing age groups.

My Experience

In my lifetime, I have held the hands of many dying people. Encouraged their families. Shared in the sorrow at the time of death. When these deaths came about because of an illness that had invaded the person’s body, the senseless nature of disease became more and more apparent. I noticed that when a person dies, the illness in that specific body dies with it. So, one has a contagion that gets into a person’s system.  This then proceeds to kill the very system that is keeping the contagion itself alive. Or, perhaps more readily seen, when a cancer begins to ravage a person’s body, it is simply going to consume that host until it dies. But, there is no way for the cancer to reproduce itself in another body. Its only host is doomed to die due to the malignant activity of the rogue cells in the cancerous tumor.

Illness, it seems to me, is a reminder that death is the inevitable result of our life here on earth. Being sick forces us to see our mortality. Illness introduces us to the frailty of these bodies of ours. Ethics, the study of what is right and wrong, needs to soberly understand that sin is the source of this death we die.

However, Let Us Not Forget

But, and this is very important, for the Christian, for the follower of Jesus Christ, death is something qualitatively different. Jesus told us that he has gone to prepare a place for us. And that he would come to take us to our “forever home” so that we could be where he is. Paul says, for the Jesus follower to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul reminds us that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have an eternal dwelling from God in heaven, not made with human hands. We are used to seeing our lives as lived with a beginning and an end. Actually we live from our beginning, through death, and then into life everlasting with God.  That changes how we see illness, and how we confront the disease that is sweeping across the earth in these times.

Ethics in a Time of Illness

Ethics in a time of Illness

First, I am not a physician and make no claim to understand the complexitDigital reproduction of a Coronavirusies of diseases. But I am a guy who has walked with hundreds of people in their illnesses, sometimes even unto their deaths. The issue of ethics in the time of illness is not a simple study of a few verses from the Scriptures and then living happily ever after.

In the past few weeks, the whole world has been watching the spread of a novel virus which is causing death in a small percentage of those who contract it. As a Christ follower I need to ask myself what I am to think of this outbreak of a new illness as it travels around the world. The fact is that new illnesses scare us. We fear the contagion. We dread the outcome if we or a loved one might become ill. We imagine all sorts of grim situations as our amygdala pump out the hormones of fear.

What Is Illness?

In this situation perhaps it is good to ask ourselves what we think of illness itself. How do we react when someone becomes ill? For most illnesses we wish the person well and do not think again about the situation. The fact remains that whenever a person develops an illness, something happens in their lives (see the article here). Each illness gives us a moment to lie still and know that the Lord is God.

Anger at God?!

For some the thought of God being Lord is helpful, but for many of us that thought is more like a fact which will focus our anger.  Some years ago, I learned a (perhaps overly simplistic) definition of anger. Anger is an emotion which takes hold of us whenever we sense that we are in danger of losing or are actually losing someone or something important to us. In the time of illness, we turn our anger on God since it is God’s fault that the illness is taking place.  Maybe even death will happen, and that is for sure God’s fault.

Jesus Christ is Lord

In pondering the philosophical, ethical, concerns about illness, we tend to forget our foundations and our faith. Our foundation rests on God’s infallible Word which tells us that all things are held together in Jesus Christ. There is nothing which is outside the majestic control of Jesus. He is the one on whom all creation depends for its existence. Illness, too, is under his command. I must hurry on to say that God is not the one who creates illness – the presence of illness is a reminder that we chose death rather than life. Now we look for the redemption of all creation in Christ.

The current coronavirus concern is another reminder that in every situation we are to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. As the church has, for generations, done before, we are called to do now. That is to follow Jesus as he leads us to find those that are sick and to care about and for them. That is a sign of the Kingdom that we wish to have come in all its fullness.

We will need to discuss this further, but for today, that is my thought.  Any responses?

 

Basic Morality

Defining Basic Morality

The term “basic morality” is one which I think of as the basis for ethical positions taken on any number of subjects.  Basic morality is the moral vision which is shared by a whole community. Ethics is a shared group of moral values which help a community to exist. Basic morality is the foundation for a society that can function justly.  Basic morality is the shared understanding of what is expected from all members of society.

An Illustration

Cartoon of landscaper and tools

Perhaps an illustration is called for here. As I write this, there is a group of five men working on the landscaping at a property I own. Basic morality says that since they are working, they are to be paid for their work. It would not be just for me to refuse to pay them. But I am going to only pay the company itself for the work. There is one man who is the owner of the company, therefore I am fulfilling my moral obligation in extending payment to the company through him. The company, in turn, is expected to pay the employees. That is the moral thing to do.  The company cannot withhold payment from the workers without incurring moral judgement which could lead to legal judgement in a court of law.

There are several places in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures which call upon a person who employs another to pay that worker for his/her efforts.  That is the “right thing” to do.  Jesus (in Luke 10) referred to a verse in Deuteronomy when he said, “A workman is worthy of his hire.” When a person gives of her time for another, it is a basic morality obligation to remunerate her for her work.

All of this requires a mutually agreed upon basic morality. I did not ask each of the men who are working for me to arrive such and such a day at this time, and work. They arrived by agreement with the owner of the business. The various workmen do not expect me to pay them for their labor. It is understood by all of us that the company will pay them. Therefore, my observation is that basic morality leads to a system that is deemed to have justice at its core.

Incarnational Ethics

When we seek justice, we embody basic morality for our community. The commonly agreed upon moral order needs people who will “en-flesh” that moral order. The principles of the moral order need embodiment in society.  The principles must be put into practice by people who are moral agents fully aware of the implications of their actions for society.

planting a shrub

So, when you decide on a certain course of action for your life as a laborer, you are expecting (rightly so) that the person who hires you will treat you honestly. However, there are far too many occasions where employers are less than honest when dealing with their employees. It is when that happens that we all become moral/ethical  thinkers who rely on a philosophical outlook to shape our response to the situation.  

What is your take on this? Were you aware of being a philosopher when asking for a paycheck? Philosophy is not so abstract after all!

introduce idea of fairness

Moral Reasoning

Moral Reasoning is Complicated

Moral reasoning is often complicated. Sure, many people claim to have a moral center which guides their actions, but is this really so? Perhaps a prior question would be, where do we learn our moral reasoning? Some might say, we learn moral reasoning in our religious community. Others will decide that their basic moral reasoning grew out of their education. Still others may point to several examples which show moral reasoning is inborn.

That’s Not Fair!

image of child crying, it's not fair
Boy, been there, heard that

One does not need to look too far afield to see that children have a certain sense of justice very early in their lives. For example, a youngster whose parents may not have tried teaching moral reasoning discover that their child is doing just that. At a “play date,” little Jenny and her friend Ava get into a squabble over the toy truck they both desire to play with.  Ava comes running to her Daddy with these words, “Jenny’s not fair.”

“Jenny’s not fair” is the result of basic moral reasoning. Fair dealing in our relations with others is a sound moral principle. But where did Ava get that idea and how does she arrive at Jenny’s fairness failure? Daddy Michael looks over at the other parent (Melissa)  and asks why Jenny is not sharing with Ava?  At that point both Michael and Melissa are confronted with the question, what is fair? That question is at the heart of most discussions of justice. And that question undergirds much of moral reasoning. The two children are forcing the parents to grapple with a question that has confronted humanity since the dawn of time.

Where does that concept come from?

One could spin this scenario out much further to include the thoughts racing through Melissa’s mind that this will be the last play date with the bully Ava who has previously fought with Jenny.  Also, how does the idea of what is fair or not fair arise in a child’s mind?

Now, I do not claim to be a person who can answer this question directly from research into the brain development side of things. Instead, I begin from the theological idea that humanity is created in God’s image. One aspect of that is our ability to know the difference between good and evil. We know what it means to be obedient to the divine order of the world, its moral structure. And we know what it is to disregard that moral order.

Is moral reasoning instinctive?

Instinct is defined as “a natural tendency to behave in a particular way that people and animals are born with and that they obey without knowing why. For example the maternal instinct is a woman’s natural tendency to behave like a mother.”

image of moral reasoning

The significant element in this is the idea that one does something but does not know why. When a child is exclaiming over the lack of fairness in another, it seems to arise from an instinctive knowledge of fairness. It is born into us.

To be human means …

Again, this becomes a philosophical issue when we try to define what it is to be human. Are we born as the so-called blank slate or do we have instincts? Since anyone who has witnessed a new-born immediately begin to nurse at the mother’s breast, it is difficult to deny at least some instinctual patterns. Yet we also know from easy observation that we instinctively know very little about how to survive in the world we live in.

These are topics for further investigation as we engage in an examination of moral reasoning. What do you think? Where does Ava’s insistence that Jenny is not playing fairly come from? Any thoughts?

there is no app for a moral compass

My Moral Ethical Musings

Ethics and History

There is no app you can download top your phone which will function as your moral compass

In our consideration of the place of ethics and our understanding of ethics, I have been playing around with some considerations from history.  I would like to turn now to see how the Word of God addresses ethical issues. I’m going to call these next several blog entries my moral musings. (just to have some alliteration!)

Micah 6:8

In one of my earlier ponderings on ethics, I stated that, for me, a central text for my own understanding of what is ethical and moral arises from the prophet Micah’s declaration (in chapter 6:8),

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Chinese Exclusion Act 1882

I pondered this precept from God for many years already. I came to the realization that many who might quote this as their moral center, have failed to put it into practice.  Too many of us have come to the point, along with much of Western culture, that if you are not caught and punished for some deed, it must be “OK.” The result? The laws of one’s land are the arbiter of what is good, moral, and just.   

Celebrating the Chines Exclusion Act

Here is one example that occurred in my country, the USA. In 1882, the Congress of the United States passed a law. It was called the Chinese Exclusion Act. The law suspended all immigration into the United States from China. It was only supposed to be in effect for 10 years, but actually remained in effect for 61 years. It was changed in 1943 when China allied itself with the United States in World War II.

Was that ethical?

Now was the law moral, or ethical, or just? Many in that day thought the law was just. Why? Because, anyone with Asian features aroused deep suspicion among the rest of the population. Chinese people “flooded” into California following the 1849 Gold Rush. The populace already in California said the Chinese were “causing social disruption” to their communities. By 1943, much of the anti-Chinese sentiment had faded. And immigration began again with 105 (yes you read that correctly) Chinese allowed to immigrate every year.

Again, I have to wonder, why did those in authority believe that someone of Asian origin was suspect? How did they manage to listen to sermons on Micah 6? Did they not ask themselves if the laws of the nation in which they lived reflected God’s will for the nation as much as for an individual? Where does the pursuit of what is right: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God stop and the law of a country begin?

Is Morality only Personal?

Let’s ask ourselves, Do the laws of God extend to only me as a single person or are God’s laws also intended for the good of a whole society? As we muse on morality further in posts to come, let’s try to see how and if God’s will extends to counties as well as people.  I hope you will join the discussion.