Archive for January, 2008

The Greater Good

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

The concept of the greater good has always been active in this country.  It does feel a little like moral relativism, but it is also a call to citizens to sacrifice their own individual goals for the benefit of a larger goal shared by a greater number of people.

Where this gets tough, however, is when the concept of the greater good bumps into what some people consider a moral absolute.  War is an example of that.  The current conflict in Iraq failed the Catholic Church’s “just war” standard and so it has been condemned by the US bishops and the Pope.  Still, many Catholics are serving in Iraq because they feel that their duty to their country is more important than their obligation to obey their church leaders.

Here’s another example that might hit a little closer to home for some. 

New studies indicate that the number of abortions in this country have dropped to its lowest level since 1974.  Some are suggesting that it is an answer to prayer.  When you look more closely, however, many believe that it is the result of relatively easy access to the “morning after” RU-486 pill.

So here’s the greater good thought exercise.

If it is true that easy access to RU-486 does dramatically reduce the need for the more invasive and expensive later term abortion, are those who oppose abortion also going to continue to oppose RU-486?

Roughly a third of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, most during the first three months.  This drug is generally prescribed during the first two months and induces the same sort of miscarriage.

So what is the greater good here?  A pharmaceutical solution to unwanted pregnancies which may be reducing demand for physician-performed abortions, or the fact that for some, any intentionally terminated pregnancy is unacceptable.

Sanctity of Choice

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

I read an excellent post from Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center. You can read it for yourself at the First Amendment Center site.

The post talked about what Mr. Haynes saw as the two biggest threats to religious freedom in this country in the coming year.

The first was the conflation of religion and politics. The second was Islamophobia.

For Christians, they both come down to a simple discussion.

Is it ever appropriate for Christians to impose our particular moral or theological views on others?

In my mind this brings up the whole discussion of free will.

We Christians have a particular view of the how a life should be lived. Though we may differ in degree, what we all agree on is the Jesus embodied the Christ spirit which made him the most perfect man ever to walk the earth. Jesus Christ brought a message from God to man that everyone has an unending spiritual life and if you would like to experience that life it’s fullest, you have to accept the same Christ spirit. The embrace of that message and spirit, however, has to be voluntary to be meaningful.

So we have these things as basic common understandings, yet we also seem to have a very difficult time when people practice free will and reject those things that we feel are sacred. Some of us start to insist that what had been a set of beliefs must now become a set of laws. In the minds of some, sinful behavior (not to be confused with criminal behavior) should be illegal, even though it is the practice of free will. Some Christians feel it is their duty to protect people from themselves as if free will is dangerous if actually practiced.

In a similar vein, some Christians view the current cultural conflict between fundamentalist Muslims and western societies as a religious conflict. Just one example of that are the e-mail attacks directed at Barak Obama. Rather portray him as somehow inferior because of his racial background, the Internet whisper campaign suggests something much frightening. They accuse him of being a closet Muslim.

If he is the right person for the office, it shouldn’t matter what his religion is (he happens to be a Christian). Even the constitution says that. And if we Christians really believe in free will, why would we care if someone chooses to worship in a non-Christian way?

So at the end of the day, it turns out that the greatest threat to religious freedom in this country is us Christians. That’s because we are unwilling to give others the same key to salvation that our Creator gave us – the ability to choose our own path.