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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?

 

destination: ethics

Why Ponder Ethics?

Why Ponder Ethics?

Suppose that I am working in an academic area that most of us believe doesn’t really involve ethics.  Why ponder ethics in my field of endeavor?Let’s say that area is computer science.  Who is to decide what constitutes ethical actions when programming a computer?

Do justice love mercy walk humbly


Don’t most of us simply assume that ethics does not apply when we are talking about programming a website?  Or programming a robot? Or developing the artificial intelligence that will drive a car? Ethical thinking needs to be, I believe, a part of how any of us approach these efforts.

Ethical Training in Higher Education

Here is a quote from an article about the ethical training that Harvard is embedding in its computer courses.

“Stand alone courses [on ethics]can be great, but they can send the message that ethics is something that you think about after you’ve done your ‘real’ computer science work,” … “We want to send the message that ethical reasoning is part of what you do as a computer scientist.”

In our world which is so dependent on computer programs and algorithms to make our work easier and more efficient, we need to think about the implications of what we are creating. That is where one finds the ethical thinker. Even as I write this, it seems as though it is a teleological ethics that might come to bear here.  What will be the consequences of creating a machine which is able to “live” independently of a human being?  We may very well also ask, “What might a deontological ethics say when thinking of artificial intelligence? Has God said anything about these things?”

God Has Something to Say?

Of course, one might scoff and say that God has nothing to do with nor to say to computer science. After all, the computer has just been invented as far as the grand arc of human history is concerned. But we need only read Mary Shelly’s book entitled Frankenstein to give us pause in our eagerness to avoid the duty to ponder ethics in our work of invention and creation. For example,

 In the novel, Frankenstein’s creation is identified by words such as “creature”, “monster”, “daemon”, “wretch”, “abortion”, “fiend” and “it”. Speaking to Victor Frankenstein, the monster says “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel” 

Humanity’s hubris will always discount the social responsibility we have to others. The admonition from the prophet, “What does God require of you? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Quote from Peter Kreeft


It’s the humble part that is so dismaying. While doing justice or loving mercy is not so bad, being humble is not a strong suit for anyone.

The reason that doing justice is not so bad is our penchant for writing our own definition of justice and then we follow that. To love mercy is not so bad since we very easily join with the ancients in identifying a very limited group to whom we “ought to” show mercy.

Justice and Mercy

[I]f we simply use the term “mercy” to refer to certain of the demands of justice (e.g., the demand for individuation), then mercy ceases to be an autonomous virtue and instead becomes a part of … justice. It thus becomes obligatory, and all the talk about gifts, acts of grace, supererogation, and compassion becomes quite beside the point. If, on the other hand, mercy is totally different from justice and actually requires (or permits) that justice sometimes be set aside, it then counsels injustice. In short, mercy is either a vice (injustice) or redundant (a part of justice).

See Forgiveness and Mercy

It is the subtle interplay between justice and mercy which forms the thinking of a humble ethical person. That interplay is how we ponder ethics. We will examine that further in a future post.