Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The State as a Means and an Ultimate Value

The State in free societies is to protect individuals, and groups from undue intrusion into private spheres. Some do not believe that separation of powers between State and religion is a good thing. I disagree.

Thomas Jefferson made a distinction between behavior, which should be ruled by law, and belief, which is not. Behavior impacts another's life, while belief is a personal matter. Some in our country would argue that one's beliefs cannot be fully held without legislating these beliefs, because they underwrite what defines morality. While this is true of some beliefs, even these convictions must be open to discussion, where the "free market" determines what transpires "under law". This is a just society that takes into account all members convictions, tries them in the public square, and votes on them in free elections. The result are our represetatives, who legislate our laws, but must be collegial to other opinions. It is what civil discourse is all about. There should be no personal attacks.

Some in the past, such as the Puritans of old, believed that theirs was a "commonwealth" under God, as revealed in Scripture. While this view had some virtues, it also held many vices. Their understanding of revelation was within a text, which is a human construct. It was the Church who decided what was to be contained in the canon. The Puritans, though, understood the text and Church in purely spiritual terms. It was a supernaturalism that called for an absolute obedience to the "rules" constructed by the Church or in the text. Theirs was not a free society of conscience, but one of enforcement of "law and order". While there is value to "law and order", there was much done in the name of "law and order" that subverted God's natural design in humankind. Dogma became the "law of the land", where Puritans held trials convicting those who did not adhere to their understanding or interpretaion of revelation (god). The same happens in Islamic countries under Shairia law. This is not justice.

Because humans are social animals and desire to belong to some group for identification, social collegiality, etc., I believe many people "conformed" to the "tradition" of Puritanism, and some even psychologically responded to "revivalistic sermons" to their felt need. Many others have suffered under the repression and oppression of such types of communities. Their understanding was a group identification that held many duties over their congregants. I find this disturbing.

While humans are social animals, there is something unhealthy about adult super dependence on others for identity. There are some cultures that thrive on group identification, but not so, in America. While there is a need for the child and young person to develop within social contexts and adults continue to change in their roles and understanding of themselves, individuation is necessary for one's personal "fulfillment" or maturity. This is not valued in some societies. While America's freedoms have allowed the fullness of individuation, it has also hindered our values of communal fellowship. This is because our way of life is so stressed and structured around work. Job opportunities call for moving across the country and a dissolution of family responsibilities.

The modern State, as we find it, still upholds the values of the individual conscience, while maintaining "law and order" so that individuals can live their lives in relative peace. Our Founding Fathers understood natural rights, as a creation order and structuring, where man would flourish most effieciently. The freedom to "be" and "become" are the values that America values and should be one of our ultimate value for it breeds a repsect for others in their individuation. And respect is about justice and value of another's life.

5 comments:

curt chadwick said...

"The freedom to "be" and "become" are the values that America values and should be one of our ultimate value for it breeds a repsect for others in their individuation. And respect is about justice and value of another's life."

I couldnt help but think about the issue of abortion as i read this. any thoughts?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Chad,
I recognize that 'biblie believing", as in evangelicals, and fundamentalists, believe that abortion is wrong, period, as it ends life. And life is given/made/formed by God. I agree that life is given/formed and made by God, but when does God make/form and give life? Is ther supernatural intervention in conception, thus, man's attempts to concieve are all "sinful" man made attempts at "playing God"? Or, are there natural means that God has gifted the creation with that result in life? Then, the question is one of where do we agree that God gives man the "right to birth control", even before conception and by what means is birth control allowed....?

But, I'm sure you have heard all of the questions, and discussions about when life begins...
Individuation is when the life can exist apart from dependence. In pro-choice terms, it is when life can live apart from the mother. But, in psyhcological terms, it means when life can function indivpendently without identification being tied too tightly to communal determinants...Individuation is necessary for the individual to function as a whole human being. This means that another does not define "who you are". You have become an "authentic self".
Tradition plays a role in defining who we are and become, but are group identifiers and do not allow individuality to flourish, which hinders the young adult from forming their own unique gifts, etc.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

BTW, Curt, you might alos consider how you wnat to address the questions of the 'soul', how we know there is a soul and when does the soul enter the embryo...

When do you define life happens...when the egg meets the sperm, when the heart beats, when there are brain waves, etc....

It does get into many theological questions that are not easily defined by Scripture alone, nor by science....

curt chadwick said...

Thanks for your comments

but when does God make/form and give life?

Wouldnt you agree its at the time of conception? when a new life is created, one that previously ceased to exist?

you can even take God out of the argument if you like but and still the point remains that the freedom (right) to be and become are not yours if your are an aborted fetus.

when life begins. please explain for individualization...both physically and psychologically...if a person cant exist apart from the mother is it not a person? This could be true of my 13 mo old! :) likewise if they are tied too tightly to communal determinants do they cease to have rights? not sure how that plays in.

It seems to me that in a state where we cherish freedoms, liberty and rights we deny them to the most vulnerable. All under the banner of freedom, liberty and rights.

blessings

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I appreciate your exchange, as it was respectful and thoughtful. This is what I believe all discourse should be like, as it is exempliarary to others, as well, as creating an environment of learning for both/all those engaged....

Personally, I believe that when one is pregnant then they are pregnant, as a natural causation of intercourse. God is not "intervening" as Psalm 139 descibes. Therefore, abortion is not a "sin against God" when an abortion is performed. But, where there are those who disagree with my view, I believe there must be a wideness in our thinking that gives room for those who may disagree. I really struggle with those who want to condemn others for their choices, that are thoughtful choices or mistakes, human errors in judgment. We all make these errors, but growth in wisdom comes from experience, as well as knowledge.

Some believe that the child exists only when it can physically survive apart from the mother's body, as the fetus exchanges its blood from the mother's bloodstream. This is different than your 13 year old son. While dependent on you for sustenance and sustaining, he is not dependent on you physically, as a part of your wife's body to survive. This gets into physicalism, where the whole person is a whole being (body, mind, soul, spirit)...as the spirit does not inhabit a body, but is part and parcel to the whole of life, when it reaches the independent stage...There is no distinction between body and spirit in this sense, as we are physical, social, moral, emotional beings, and every aspect has to be "in place" for wholeness. i do not mean to reduce man to physcial properties alone, but every aspect of the individual is part and influences all the other parts...we understand how our chemistry is affected by stress levels, what we eat, etc....

Individuation is emotional wholeness, when the child/young adult has come into his own sense of "self", understanding who he is, or his innate gifting, if you will.

Some describe the fetus as a child when the fetus becomes consciouss, which is really brain function, as regestration of pain can be medically evaluated...this happens at the stage of a positive pregnancy test.

Those who live in tribal societies are not "blessed", although they do have aspects of tradition that are missing, generally, in America. In a book I read on moral development, this past year, research showed that America's democracy led to a fuller development of the person in many ways. Tribal societies do not allow personal individuation, but have "rites of passage" or traditions that "make a memory" of when the child becomes an adult. In the Jewish tradition, it is at the age of 12. Tradition's rites of passage are important bench markers for the community, as far as expectation, etc. But, in America, the individual can develop at their own pace, which is better for emotional health, especially for the learning disabled, or emotionally immature. I did make a value judgment about our American culture, because individuality is a priority to me, as it is based on a more universal understanding of justice and is found within our American form of government.

Personhood is an ownership of "self" in responsiblity, "self-governing", etc. the community ceases to be of prime importance after one's independence from "family identifications". Intellectually, full develop has occurred when there is a rocgnition of the variabilities to reality and the contingencies of real life such that the person comes to a point of commitment to what is most valuable. Some, it is said never come to the commitment point, but stay in limbo. Otherwise, the individual has limited choices. Some psychologists believe that our experiences form our opinions and convictions so tightly (brain science) that we do not really have a choice, as our "blank slate" has been written upon and will always influence us. A Christian psychologist who I have followed somewhat on his blogsite, Richard Beck, has a great understanding of Freud's perspective on the individual, which he conceives as unhealthy faith. Others, such as Meineth-Meyer have popular books out on "Toxic Faith". Healthy idividuation is when one can see his religion distinct from his own identity. Identity should be developed, and religion should not be used as a coping mechanism, which many do.

Back to your question,community determinants are the mores, customs, which are locally understood as "right", or "good", "holy" etc. Locality is everything, when it comes to "belonging" and "right behavior", but in ethics, there is an understanding of a broader world that is larger than our personal contexts and community or religious understandings. This is where we try to understand universal principles, that underwrite human rights. This is where the "think tanks" amd intellectuals and scholars struggle and grapple with culture's diversity and protecting thsoe distinctives, while constucting laws that protect universal rights...for instance, in what situations are children prioritized over parental rights, if ever, this is a tough one, as parenting differs from one culture to another, and parents differ as to what constitutes what the "State" would deem a "good education", or "proper training". In home schooling, for example, there are some states that allow children to be homeschooled without any accountability, while other states have very definate statndards, where the parents have to report to the state...and be pre-qualified, as to the tools that are to be used...etc...it is really the age old question of individual rights, versus societies' rights, and the old centralization of government, versus federalism...

I hope that all of this helps to answer the questions you posed, and that I was clear and didn't run off in too many directions.

Thank you.