Monday, June 30, 2008

"Law and Order"?

The Afghan government is holding a 23 year-old journalism student for "speaking against Islam". There is a petition out by the Center for Inquiry against his imprisonment. What did he do?
He distributed information about the oppression of women under Islam. And some think that we can "reason" with people who hold Islamic Law above reason. Faithfulness is not an option in a regime that maintains power in the name of God.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hedge Funds, Markets and Man

Hedge funds are means to make money without regulation (from what I understand). In our "free market economy", we are free to choose the way we make our money (our profession) and what we do with it (our investments). There is nothing wrong, in and of itself, with making money. But, so oftern, when we have lots of it, we become consumed with it. The same goes for anything that one is responsible for. I am not arguing against wealth, but the manner in which wealth is pursued...the focus of our lives.
Hedge funds are based on people's greed and need. Deregulation is important when it comes to a "free society", but freedom ends where another's need begins. The news has reported recently that there have been promises of "salvation" from foreclosure with "too good to be true" buy-outs....The same has held true for credit card companies that charge exorbant rates of interest. While the market is not at fault, in and of itself, what is at fault is preying upon another's need, when the need is a valid one, or preying upon people without being deceptive. While the law requires disclosure, there are certain ways around revealing over-charging someone for services. Integrity demands that the business and the people in the business do not take advantage of others in their need OR in their ignorance.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What Does History Have to Do With Ethics?

We often encounter ethical dilemmas, but some do not recognize the ethical nature in their choices. Why do we make decisions without recognizing the fuller implications of our decision upon another? There are many answers to this, one of the main ones is a lack of information. Decisions are made that are ill-informed or researched. But, sometimes our decisions are made because of our own "pride" and resistance to hear another perspective. Pride leads to an ethnocentric mentality. And ethnocentricity is an identification. "Self" is defined within contexts that maintain sturcture, security, and meaning and create personal "history". The structure's function in developing a sense of "self" is not wrong, but it often leads to a lack of understanding differences between people. These differences are not so much what morality is about, but our response to the differences is. Ethics determines the overarching reasons why we choose between the complex moral dilemmas that we encounter. There are always reasons for our choices and behavior.

Every human alive wants to be loved, understood, belong and have meaning. Humans find these natural "needs" within different types of communities. Identification happens within the communities that meet these needs. The first community is our family of origin. We know and answer the question of "who we are" based upon these idenfication markers. The other side of our natural need and identification is a challenge of affirming all of life as God's. Social psychologists have discovered that our very identifications are the "root" of "ethnici cleansing", genocide, and many other societal atrocities. Prejuidice, by definition, is pre-judgment. And pre-judgment is not "listening", but "labeling". Labelling defines us as unique or distinct from another, while dismissing our common humanity. Humanity is what Christianity is about. Jesus was the moral example of humanitarianism.

Some Christians understand that this is a call to re-define Christianity on "other" terms than traditionally understood. Our Global world is a social and political one, where the Christian is called to be salt and light. But, that does not mean that our light is the only light. It is a light that was born in Jewish understanding of humanitie's need for an ethical understanding and affirmation of all of life, where there is no longer a wall between the sacred and secular. The question confronting the individual of any religion is what decision should be made, on what rationale is that decision made, and what conviction or universal does the decision underline?

Is History Really About God or Man?

I have been thinking about the "themes" of history. What I mean by a "theme" is the most important structure that maintained the "norms" in man's understanding.

The beginning of my thinking begins in the medival period. The Church held "power' over man's understanding of himself and 'world". The themes of that time were "theological/spiritual".

Because of man's increasing knowledge of the "real world", his physical environment, a paradigm shift occurred. The modern world was born in the conflict between the scientific and the spiritual. Reason and faith were in the crosshairs of progress. The theme of the modern world became "reason".

A crisis and revolution, of sorts, was born out of the complexity of issues that were born out of reason. This crisis was a critique of modernity's certainty of "knowledge". Knowledge only brought forth the absolute complexity of the world. The theme for the post-modern became the "social/political".

How are we to resolve these "themes" and do they need resolving? I believe they do. And I also believe that we need to affirm all the themes as valid and bring a syntheis to them.

In our Global society, cultures do not stand alone. Cultures are renditions of the political. And the political which are the power structures that maintain society are to be held accountable to a moral base. The moral basis of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are America's ideals, but are the special blessing and priviledge of the American people to "give' to others. The moral challenge in a "free society" is maintaining the balance of "law and order" and "freedom", which is a"complexity" issue in today's Global "world".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Want to Be Human

How many are "human" out there?
Anyone want to be anything else? If so, what else can we be?
Some of you holiness folk will answer that we can be something other than we are. What is that? Some "super ability" to overcome "sin"? What is "sin", but "missing the mark"? And what is "missing the mark" other than to miss developing the residue of "greatness" and the scent of "substance"?
This is what loving and "salvation" is about. It is about the "other".

America's Challenge to Change

The other day while watching the morning news, it was reported that there would be an increase in the costs of electricity to the consumer. Virgina had already increased its utility rate by 30%. I mentioned to my husband with the rising costs of living in America, I thought that there would be drastice sociological change. Then, I pondered more....

What does this mean to America in general? We have already experienced rising gas prices, and its "domino effects". From the rising cost of food, the personal risk to the trucker, to challeging budgets of local communities, the costs don't just affect our pocketbooks, but society at large. What are those larger effects, that we so often "miss"?

Americans are used to instant gratification. We, by and large, can get anything we desire and usually, by means of credit. This lifestyle has not produced a country who thinks or cares about the larger affects of consumerism on society, much less about the concerns of other countries. But, in our interconnected global economy, we must stop to consider how what we do "at home" affects larger concerns.

The "market" has driven ethics and justified behavior that is detrimental to "others". Although the "market" "works" in producing an ability to consume, is consumption what life is to "be about"? Maybe the costs of gas and electicity will lead America to question its ultimate values and begin a "revival" of value clarification, so that we, Americans can look beyond our own horizons and "see" others whose values may bring moderation and balance to our own.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What are the "Rules" of Faith?

Today, while walking with my husband to his work, we discussed our children and their inheritance.

Our children have been raised to first and foremost understand that we love them, unconditionally. But, there have been "rules" that we have held them to, i.e. respect. We have tried to raise them by finetuning our parental "guidelines" to them as they grew. My husband did a better job than I. And I'll tell you why....

Bcoming a Christian meant for me that I didn't have to perform and that I didn't need to fear judgment. Needless to say, this understanding fit a particular paradigm, but it also met a felt need. Was my faith based on something that was insignificant, meaningless, or a "sand castle"? No, my faith had value for my self-confidence and my value to God and others. It was the necessary "bread" to help my passivity and indifference to life.

Unfortunately, after my children were born, my desire for a natural and whole family set in motion a tremendous need in me. And it set in motion a "performance" model, which in turn, made me feel a "standard" and fear of failure and judgment. That "Christian standard" helped along a fear of intimacy with my children, because I was afraid of not "performing" (having obedient children). This fear of judgment led to not fine-tuning my parenting skills to know and understand my children, as individuals. Individuality is the first and foremost necessity in parenting, for parenting is not an assembly line that produces a product that can be scutinized and stamped at the end, with approval.

What does all of this mean, as far as "rules of faith"? Because fortunately, I have gained my children's confidence, in spite of my short-comings, and my husband has always had their confidence; we can make the "rules" determining how their inheritance will be distributed.ra Because we do not feel the need to determine and control beforehand who has the greater need, and because we trust their compassion and judgment in responding to their siblings need, if that be the case, we will divide our assests equally. And the "rules" will be just, and they will be the ones to respond (or not), if a need presents itself.

What does this "say" to our children? It says that we trust them to do the right thing. My husband always trusted them more than I did. I believed in depravity, so much so that I inhibited their "free expression" for fear of their "heart going astray". It also says that we trust their relationships to one another to be strong enough to weather the grief of loss.

What does all of this have to do with faith? Everything! What we believe about ourselves and God transfers so often to others. That is not insignificant when it comes to church issues. We seek justice, when we don't trust another's motives or ability to "grow beyond" their failures to us. Understanding the individuality of children should underline the differences we will find in "community", therefore, it behooves us to understand that there are going to be differences in how we understand our faith. Faith is the ability to "see" another with God's eyes and believe in the possibilities and potentialities of another's life. That is what loving is all about. And isn't that what faith is really about?

"For is you being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, HOW MUCH MORE does you heavenly Father."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Creating a Global Christian Faith

There is a need for a new paradigm to understand Christian faith, with postmodernity's challenge. While we must not allow postmodernity to undermine the Christian faith altogether, there are valid points that must be affirmed..

1. The limit to all knowledge and objective understanding to truth claims.

2. The need for a critical realism.

3. The individual and context as "beginning and end-point" of faith.

While these "truths" are valid in postmodernity's critique, we must affirm, at the same time;

1. The need for an apology or reason for the faith.

2. The need to understand the humanity of Jesus, and the ethical dimensions of the O.T.

3. The individual's need for "community", while affirming the individual's convictions.

Jesus, as the perfect man, represents God to those who are outside the religious and political power structures. What can this mean except that God is "for" ALL of humanity.

A Christian humanism (experience)- While the Christian humanist would begin their understanding of faith through experience, it would not limit their understanding of Jesus' life as witnessed by Scripture in communal commitment.

A Christian universalism (tradition)- The Christian universalist would affirm the cultural and historical aspects of other religious traditions, not undermining the individual's identity, but at the same time expanding the traditional understanding based on Scripture.

A Christian agnosticism (reason)-The Academy, whose "world" inhabits the arena of the mind would use their expertise to challenge the student in faith formation.

A Christian fundamentalism (text)-Perhaps this is where the challenge of "change" is most resisted. Fundamentalism understands their position on Scripture as the only means of understanding all of life.

These "parts" of the Quadralateral (reason, tradition, Scripture, and experience) are points of entry to understanding Christian faith. The methodology to understanding faith is an approach to ethics.