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?

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