We are living in a world that has increasingly moralized every decision that we make. Everything from whether or not it's "right" to eat meat to how you're supposed to know how much the child in Somalia mining the hazardous chemicals for your smartphone goes through to whether or not you should wear a mask. Every piece of information in our world comes with a moral, and we are simply expected to fall into line. (Interestingly, this is more true about some things than others - as with the hazardous chemicals in our smartphones. We could not, of course, be expected to give up such a luxury just because someone else suffers for it. It is too important to us. Other things, it seems, should be less important to us. But who is deciding and what the standard is...who knows?)
But it's not just certain ideas that are bringing this new era of morality with them. Even long-held Christian morals are being called into question - as well as a few morals being passed off as Christian in this age that are really not.
You've probably heard this one going around - Christians are only pro-life when it comes to the womb. After that, they don't care if you die or how you have to live. Abortion, which is called feticide if someone besides the mother does it, has been a long-held Christian ethic. But in the age of Roe v. Wade, it's been reclassified as pro-life and then Christians have been chastised for not opposing the death penalty strongly enough or not providing enough economic relief to the poor or not working hard enough for abused children or even, sadly, for abusing children themselves.
Here's one of the new Christian ethics that is getting us in pretty deep - Christians are being called in today's world to be part of an "interfaith" culture. That is, we are expected not only to love everyone around us, but to affirm and even help to facilitate their free worship according to their own beliefs. There are circles today in which being a good Christian entails going to the mosque to pray with Muslim brothers and sisters or being one voice among many at an "interfaith" celebration so that the world can choose its own engagement with the spiritual.
Is that really a Christian ethic, though? That's one of the questions we're going to tackle this week.
The truth is that ethics, in general, are raising their questions all around us. We've been engaged in the mask and vaccine debates for quite awhile now, and one of the rhetorics that is becoming more and more powerful is the idea that anyone who chooses not to wear a mask or get vaccinated thus forfeits their right to access healthcare when they become sick. If you don't protect yourself and you get Covid, the world is ready to say that you should just die. A horrible, agonizing death. Because that's what you "chose."
On the other side of the medical ethics discussion, we have hospitals and health organizations that are withholding care from some - even cancer patients and transplant patients who will likely die without care - to make certain that care is available for Covid patients. This is an ethical question, too. Actually, it's the same one: who gets care and who doesn't? Who deserves care and who doesn't?
In the religious realm, we now have questions about religious freedom. The Taliban in Afghanistan has declared that they are reinstating executions and amputations for criminal offenses. That is, if you steal something in Afghanistan, they will cut your hand off. They used to do this all the time, and we called it an atrocity. They have announced they will be doing it again, and we say the same thing. At the same time, though, we have voices calling for us to allow Muslims in America to worship the way that they want to. This law is part of their holy text; it is part of their worship. It is part of the way that they make themselves a people presentable to God. So which is it - do we value their right to worship freely or are we so appalled at the way that they worship that we take away that right? To what extent do we get to impose our ethics on theirs, especially in their own country?
Ethical questions are all around us right now. Truthfully, they probably always have been. The question we have to ask ourselves, then, is how we should respond to them as Christians. What does God desire from us? What would God have us do with these situations?
The answer, as we know, is love. But love is messy, and it's not always easy. And it doesn't always look like what the world says it does.
So this week, we're going to look at Christian ethics - namely, Christian love - and what it looks like in response to some of the questions that our world is asking.