Friday, April 3, 2009

Justice, Moral Values, and Universals in Public Policy

Justice is maintaining equality under law. It is balanced and informed governing and government. Everyone is enriched, and blessed when government runs as it should, which is inclusive of the purpose of government.

Government is comprised of leaders who rule, make the rules, and determine direction. While our government is run by policy that is made by leaders, policy itself is fully informed (or should be) before determining which and what policy should be legislated. Legislation makes demands upon all of us, as policy is to better society. And better societies are for human flourishing.

Today, during an honor's college luncheon, a scholar whose discipline was political science gave a talk about the interface of Christian faith with the university, society, and public policy. The Christian traditionally had understood all of truth to be informative of "God's world". Thus, the disciplines were studied to further and undergird faith, not the other way around. But, what happens when science undermines a particular understanding of faith? This is where the Christian world is today, as each discipline has its own "story" or understanding of the "facts". What is the universalizing or whole understanding of truth? Postmodernity calls for there to be interdependence of the disciplines, which is responsibility and accountability of knowledge.

This scholar argued that the secularization of the university was the result of separating faith from "fact" (this was not her term, but mine). I also believe that all Truth is God's Truth. This means that there is no special revelation, but that all is revelation, as we learn and grow. But, I also believe that what we know is but "in part" therefore, there should be a real and honest humility in our policy making and listening to the various "experts".

One legal case study of a particular situation is not a valid argument to make for universiality, when it comes to moral universals, unless the Supreme Court so rules. But, it may influence courts in sucessive cases. So, it is important that the facts are all known. So I do not believe that a relgious authority, whether in Church or text, should be the universal determinant of the value of life. Science should be consulted in such cases, and not the Church alone. The Church should not be an oppressive ruling party, such as the Taliban, but a "voice" in our public square. And that voice should not be a shrill, unreasoned, irrational voice of fear and intimidation, but one of reasoned hope. A voice that appeals to reason and not filled with emotion. Reason is what postmodernity needs most.

"Universal" morality is defined in many ways. The arguments are always based on authorial sources, outside the "self". These sources in the Quadralateral are reason, scripture, tradition, and experience. Since postmodernity has undermined absolute reason, contextual texts, specific traditions, then the experience of the individual is all that is left, as a universal. Experience is only of value when one is appealing to a more unified way of arguing for moral value, which is "human experience". Human experience is based on a hierarchal "need" base, such as Maslow argued. But, even in arguing and agreeing on the universal of human experience and universal human needs, one does not validate a specific universal moral value. (Is poverty more important than education? It depends on the context. Is pastoring a Church more important than encouraging a young adult to pursue their dreams?)

Our country's values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are of greatest moral value to our people. Without liberty, one does not have life, as life must be free to choose what is of ultimate value. Liberty is not freedom to do anything one wants, such as cheating, lying, or stealing, but it is for seeking what one desires to be of value in one's life to bring happiness, and benefit society at large.

Life is of universal value as all people have it, but not everyone has liberty. We must fight for freedom above all because dominating traditions, or different voices that want to universalize the insignificant are undermining to the individual in their pursuit of happiness and their value of life.

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