Re:Continue DiscussionOctober 18 2003 at 5:43 PM
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Response to Continuing the discussion
I had to recover sufficiently before I replied to your post as I have just come back from a long and arduous trip.
While there appeared to be a hint of sarcasm in the last bit of my comments it was unintentional. I was venturing on an area (education) I didn’t feel qualified to prognosticate on and thought that if I offered my two toeas worth it would inform your more rigorous analysis, of which you had mentioned a good number of times in your previous threads. I think I was merely opting out of the debate and letting your qualified opinion to have the ‘floor’.
Anyway, that said I like the way you summed up what appeared to be a ‘cop out’ statement I made about morality being something you cannot legislate. You rightly point out that neither the state nor the individual should abdicate their responsibility in defining what is appropriate and lawful conduct and what is not.
Let me just touch on and expand that broad generalisation I made and tie it in with your comment on the need to proscribe and prescribe what constitute lawful conduct.
Morals, which has to do with conventionally accepted standards of conduct, is informed by individual and community’s religious experience which in turn inform lawmakers when they are framing the community’s laws. These laws than proscribe and prescribe acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. While there needs to be moral outrage when these laws are broken one has to recognise that in certain areas of life especially in a democracy, personal choices and rights of individual are paramount. The Judeo-Christian tradition is big on the exercise of free choice and the will of the individual. As long as the exercise of this right does not violate somebody else’s rights then what that person does in private is ‘samting bilong em’ or more correctly between the individual and GOD. For example possession and smoking of marijuana used to be illegal but many countries have recognised the futility of trying to enforce it. In the end some countries in EU have legalised marijuana use because it has become a matter of personal choice. It’s another story when you are dealing in the drug because the exercise of that right violates somebody else’s rights to a drug free life and environment.
Another example is the case of euthanasia. Some states and territories in Australia have outlawed it while others like NT have made it legal. In the case of homosexual acts, in some places it is illegal while in others it is considered an alternative lifestyle and the choice is protected by law. If the practice of it is a forceful violation of another’s right not to engage in this type of activity than it becomes a criminal behaviour but where it is between consenting parties (adults) in the privacy of their own home, the legality or illegality of it becomes irrelevant and prosecuting those engaging in such behaviour might be considered infringements of their rights. In many parts of the world same sex couples have become acceptable and even legal with many coming out of the closet. The Anglican Communion is wrestling with this very issue – avowedly gay clergy who are also taking the pulpit. Prostitution is illegal in some countries and legal in places like Australia.
Well what am I trying to say? Perhaps the long and the short of this long-winded discourse is that sometimes there is tension between morality and legality. What is moral might not necessarily be legal (eg a Christian refuses to bear arms and serve in the country’s arm forces even though the country’s law requires all eligible young men to serve a certain minimum length of time; his refusal leads to him being incarcerated), and what is legal might not necessarily be moral (marijuana, prostitution’s, gay lifestyle etc being made legal). It seems all so subjective and I think this is where an objective adjudicator is called for. For Christians it is God, more specifically Gods Law as codified in His Ten Commandments and clarified and amplified by Jesus Christ. God’s law takes into account not just what we do or not do, but also goes as far as touching our thoughts and motives.
The laws and societal conventions unfortunately deal only with external behaviour and are often ineffective because the locus of control is external. If the locus of control is internal perhaps we would have little problem with profession matching practice. So often all the admonition from well meaning Christians either through public utterances or imposition of laws is about trying to enforce external conformity, which we all know is ultimately doomed to failure. So as you said, certainly our religious life must not just inform but influence and infuse (salt is the biblical word) our society’s code and conduct. It is how we live that’s important, not what we say. As Ralph Waldo Emmerson once said “Your life speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying” is just as true today as it was back then.
As for people doing things in the name of one religion or another, I will remain sceptical except as it has do with unselfish service to others without consideration of colour, culture or religion.
On education I have ventured too far already and I am certainly out of my depth here except to state the obvious (I believe you might have stated already): our present system is modelled on the premise that after passing through the 10 or twelve years of school there is a job available at the end. It is not an education for life or living but for employment.
On free education, I still maintain that there is another model tied in with the above premise (and others I have discussed earlier) that is workable because I have seen it work. I still think young people should pay for their education instead of thinking that the society owes it to them. You appreciate more what you have paid or worked for. In the case of scholarships these should be tied to some productive work that benefits the larger community that has made the financial outlay.
Anyway, so much for all of that.