Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Ethics Count

February 9, 2018

Much of my career was devoted to selling products and making a profit. I worked in product development trying to figure out better ways to provide a product that would enrich the lives of our customers. I became an expert in cost analysis–figuring out how and where to improve the cost structure without impacting the quality of the product.

I also learned marketing and later earned a nice income thanks to advertising.

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with venturing into the world in faith?

This article in The New York Times (I forget if I link to an article if you can see it without a subscription, but check it out however you can) about a South American country which has had enough with its (ahem) growing problem with obesity. “In Sweeping War on Obesity, Chile Slays Tony the Tiger; New regulations, which corporate interests delayed for almost a decade,require explicit labeling and limit the marketing of sugary foods to children.”

The industry fought the regulations for a decade. It still contends that regulations are confusing and unnecessary. We should just have consumer education.

Education? What? We provide a few poorly written booklets about the evils of eating too much sugar while the industry spends billions on researching the best advertising techniques to sway people to pick up the box and how to add enough sugar to the product to addict people? We went down that road with tobacco.

Obesity is a huge drain on finances and a country’s economy. It also ruins lives.

Then we find out it’s not just physical health with its addictive properties. New information is exploding about the mental and emotional addiction from the social media giants. Their goal is to get people to spend more time on their apps so that they can 1) serve up more ads and 2) collect more information about you so that 1) they can serve up more ads (and sell your information).

It’s hard to have the strength to say no to Tony the Tiger, Chester Cheetah, Facebook, and Instagram.

But somewhere in the corporate world there needs to be a voice of conscience. Someone who says, morals count. Surely we can find a way to earn an honest living and live a moral and ethical life. My studies currently are in Romans 12. Paul lists 29 ways for us to live a moral, Christian life. (To my many friends who are not Christian–your religion has similar morality. It works for us all.)

A Month of Proverbs

January 31, 2018

31 days in January; 31 chapters worth of Proverbs.

What did I learn?

Intentionally re-reading something provides ever deeper insights.

Wise people don’t think of themselves as all that wise. They are always open to correction, instruction, and learning.

There is a chance for foolish people to turn their lives around if only they would begin to listen to wise teaching.

There is little hope for the scoffer. Those cynics who ascribe everything to self-serving motives. Those who refuse to acknowledge God. Those who try to bring everyone down to their level.

Young men (probably old ones, too) should beware women who are out to seduce them. Adultery, profligate sexual activity, affairs are to be avoided as they will lead to ruin.

While a contentious wife is like the dripping of rain, Proverbs ends with a picture of a conscientious wife who should be praised in “the assembly”.

If Solomon had followed his own advice, would the kingdom have split because of his son?

How much better would our own lives be if we brought this wisdom into our daily lives?

[Oh, and I do a lot of writing on my iPad. I’ve learned yet again that all that artificial intelligence employed to figure out what I’m trying to say and then complete words for me before I type them needs a watchful human to check them. Artificial intelligence is, well, artificial.]

Time To Devote Deep Thinking To Our Moral Decisions

January 26, 2018

I sat at the computer to think and then to write. Notifications flashed across the screen. “Your Photoshop has been updated.” God bless Adobe. I really needed to know that.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, thinking.

We do so little of that, don’t we? It’s easier to copy someone else’s opinion and repeat. Even Christians find themselves spouting half-truths or opinions from someone else and passing it off as theology.

We must step back from our narrow views and consider. Society globally and the individuals in it especially must consider how (or if) we make moral decisions.

I saw this in a blog called Big Think. It’s a good starting place for thinking. I copied most of it. Go to the source for more.

It is from Dr. Fred Guy, Director of the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics and associate professor at the University of Baltimore.

Adults tend to become lazy with their thinking, backing into moral and ethical wrongdoing without noticing fully what they’re doing. As he says:

“Adults are so busy and focused on so much other than ethical issues that we don’t often stop to think coherently about what our moral principles really are.  Or what we think of our own moral character. We just assume we’re good people and let it go at that.”

Guy urges us to revisit and refine our moral code with the help of some good philosophical thinking.

He offers a series of questions that we can use to examine the case we are faced with. He calls it the ABCD Guide to Ethical Decision-Making and it goes like this:

 A:  Awareness: Are we aware of the ethical issue we’re a part of?

• Do we know all the facts? 

• Is this an ethical problem or a legal one? Or both?

• Can it be resolved simply by calling upon the law or referring to an organizational policy?

• Am I aware of the people involved in this case and who may be affected by my decision and action?

B.  Beliefs:  What are my moral beliefs? What do I stand for?  Most of us know if we give it some serious thought.  What we decide and do in a given ethical situation depends on our moral beliefs, principles, values and virtues — or lack thereof. We may ask:

• What kind of person am I?  Would I want this done to me or to those I love?

• Would it be responsible of me if I thought everyone should act this way in my situation?

• Am I setting a good example or a bad example?

• Can I continue to respect myself given the probable outcomes of my action? 

C.  Consequences:  Use moral imagination to think about consequences for ourselves and others, not only now but into the future as well. It’s the ripple effect. Our actions may indirectly affect others we don’t know.

• Who may be affected by my decision?

• How may my decisions/actions affect other and myself?

 D.   Decision:  Given the facts of the case, our own personal ethics, and the consequences that our decision and action will have on others, what is the best thing to do in this case?  

• Would I mind my action being broadcast on the six o’clock news?

• Could I justify my actions to my family and close friends?

• What advice would I give to a close friend who had the same decision to make as I do? 

Just taking the time to pause and go over these questions when we are making an important decision, can take us out of the default moral mode we live in and, hopefully, out of the trap of just assuming we’re good people, without truly delivering on that assumption.

Peace and Justice Over All

August 15, 2017

My political (and social, for that matter) view was developed in Civil Rights and honed by anti-war. Justice and peace.

I’ve learned from the Bible about the need for justice.

“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,

my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.

I will put my Spirit upon him,

and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

19 He will not wrangle or cry aloud,

nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.

20 He will not break a bruised reed

or quench a smoldering wick

until he brings justice to victory.”

I learned from Jesus about breaking racial and social barriers. Take, for example the story we call the Good Samaritan. Jesus taught that the “second law”, which James calls the “royal law”, is to love your neighbor as yourself. And who is our neighbor? Not only those of the same race or religion, but also those whom we are raised to despise.

Commenting on current social / political events is a sure way to invite trolls. And I have refrained from talking about the events in Virginia over the weekend. But…

Is the guy who yells “Fire” in a crowded theater protected by free speech rights?

No.

With every right is a responsibility. There are no free rights.

People who stir up violent passions through demonizing people with different color of skin or of a different gender are like that guy yelling Fire. Acting with great irresponsibility.

I cry a little inside every time I hear people I know and often respect making casual, yet disparaging, remarks about black people, Spanish people, Middle Eastern people. And then they talk about church and pray to their god.

Growing in Christian maturity includes learning to consider what we say before we say it (see James). We are commanded (by Paul) to build up people, not tear them down. 

And to work for peace and justice.

Helping The Poor As A Mission Discipline

June 26, 2017

My grandfather used to tell me about an incident during the Depression when a train derailed in town. His step-father, along with half of the town, ran down to the train that night and helped themselves to loads of “free” coal. It was the depression. Many people. Were out of work. It gets very cold in Ohio. It was like a gift from God.

News from Pakistan at the end of last week. A gasoline tanker truck wrecked and fuel was spilling out. Hundreds of poor people ran to save some of that fuel. Gasoline is a flammable. Catches fire easily. Yes, this spill ignited. A hundred people died.

A gospel that preaches “We’ll save your soul if you wish, but you are on your own for food, clothing, and shelter” isn’t the gospel of Jesus.

Jesus talked often about the responsible use of money. Paul collected money from his churches to return to Jerusalem to feed and clothe women and children left in poverty by their joining the community following Jesus.

It baffles me that we (the collective rich country “we”) cannot devise an economic system that shares something of the wealth of the economy with such poor people. There are so many people who are so focused on “I want my share…and more; and I want to keep it for me”. That emotion is driving an awful lot of worldwide politics these days.

I’m not talking politics, though. Politics won’t solve any problems.

I’m talking mission and service as a discipline. And how if every Christ-follower who has any financial means contributed, so much good could happen. 

  • Fresh drinking water to help eradicate diseases
  • Investment in businesses large enough to hire people providing jobs and dignity
  • Medicine and access to health professionals
  • Investment in agriculture, aquaponics, and other technologies where people could feed themselves
  • Investment in communication and transportation infrastructure 

Update

I’m still amazed that at least in the US we can’t treat women better. But some little progress and awareness seems to be hitting the “bro-land” of Silicon Valley. After denying and obfuscating for a long enough period to complete a funding round, the VC leader finally stepped down and apologized for his treatment of women and said he’d seek counseling. Hope that works out better than the “counseling” that NFL players get.

How much counseling do you need to stop reaching under the conference room table and feeling up a woman’s leg during a meeting? Maybe we need to bring back the slap in the face or something?

And Uber now is looking for a CEO, COO, CFO, VP of Engineering, and other top staff after cleaning house due to the frat house culture they enabled.

Remember when boys grew up and became men?

Living In An Always On Video World

May 12, 2017

You lose your emotional balance. Start yelling and screaming at someone. You do it long enough for at least one person, perhaps more, to point their smart phone and click video / record. One Facebook post later, and 2 million people see what a jerk you are.

You step outside, and someone could be taking your picture. If you have caused anger in your significant other, even in your house you could be the subject of a new “film at 11” on the Web.

You would think that all this surveillance would make us behave better.

I wonder if Biblical writers such as John, who often wrote about light and dark and things we do in each, or James, or Paul even in their nightmares could envision the public exposure extending their thoughts about doing good.

The problem is that we see one video over and over and our brain starts to think this is a common occurrence. It isn’t. I just completed two trips–two continents, 10 different flight segments, five airports. Not one thing worth videoing. Darn, I’m not going to be famous (he said facetiously).

Someone asked me last night, wouldn’t it have been better for the person shooting the video to step up and try to be part of the solution? Sometimes we can’t. But I bet most of the time we can.

What if someone videoed us doing an act of kindness? Of being a calming influence when tempers start to kindle? Of preventing a friend or neighbor from becoming the next Internet Star?

Cultivate The Need for Prayer and Reflection

April 13, 2017

The Archbishop once told me that people often think he needs time to pray and reflect because he is a religious leader. He said those who must live in the marketplace—business-people, professionals, and workers—need it even more. From The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa)

There are people we hold in high regard because of their position or their calling. We attribute to them qualities that are often beyond human possibility.

The Governor of the state of Alabama (fervent Religious Right Christian, I guess) just resigned after a moral failure became public. America’s leading morality policeman (I am told, I know nothing about him and have never seen his TV show) if facing the end of a career and lucrative speaking and book fees after moral failures became public.

We think of preachers and priests as spiritual beings, praying and meditating all day. But then think of clergy, some famous, some not so, who have fallen quite publicly when their human failings were revealed.

Business people and professionals face ethical choices daily. Should the engineer point out dangerous design flaws? Should the business owner dump chemicals out back by the creek rather than dispose of properly? Should the executive take advantage of people under his power–perhaps sexually or by threatening their livelihood?

The temptations are many and insidious.

Only through constant prayer and reflection can we maintain our focus and moral equilibrium.

Are You Concerned About Ethics Today

February 8, 2017

I’m at a conference this week. These days I am called an “influencer” or writer or analyst–not journalist. But I hang out with the business journalists covering manufacturing technology.

Last night at dinner some got to talking about the “fake news” that has has captured the country’s attention. Now that we write for the Web and for Facebook and Twitter, no one checks us on facts and the more extravagant we use words the more views we get. And it’s all about views.

It blows my mind. How can people be so unconcerned about truth or facts? How can they be so cynical about people so as to think that they are gullible consumers of outlandish words?

Or is it our fault for being non-critical readers?

Be honest with yourself now. How often have you been suckered into passing along something you saw on Facebook only to be told it’s a lie?

Ethics leads to trust. Trust reflects character. In the end all you leave behind is the legacy of your character.

We can each do our part in elevating the ethics discussion around us. Be aware. Be careful. Maintain focus on the more important things.

A Leader To Bring Us Together

January 19, 2017

Those people! Those (other) people.

They ignore all the rules. They bring their guitars and drums into church. Wear whatever clothes they wish. They shout and dance. They don’t believe all of our strict interpretations of Scripture. They don’t even look like us. They don’t always speak the same language.

Those people!

They are so strict and humorless. They think they follow all the rules and sit there pointing out where everyone else falls short of following some rule. They think everyone should believe everything just like them, dress like them, talk like them. If not, then they don’t belong.

Sorry, I’m not talking about the politics of Washington, D.C. Or France. Or Britain. Or Germany. Or whatever. The state of politics globally is pretty divisive right now.

But what about churches?

I’m not Catholic, but I love to see the direction that Pope Francis is trying to lead.

On the other hand, there is the politics of all the local places of Christian worship. So much divisiveness.

Where is the injunction of Jesus–“you will know my followers by their love”?

In those early years of the church, leaders struggled with bringing together two completely different groups of people into one faith. The “racial” divide at the time was between Jews and everyone else in the world who was not a Jew.

Keeping that in mind, go back and read Romans straight through. Read it from the point of view of what Paul is saying about that divide.

“Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised (Jews) on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised (everyone else) through that same faith.”

Paul’s plea throughout the letter is that the two sides come together. I often fall short of being that kind of reconciler. We need more of us to speak up to bring people together instead of bowing down to those who seek to divide.

No One Wants To Be A Racist

November 1, 2016

The phrase “locker room talk” suddenly hit the public news media recently. It was used to explain or justify talking crudely about women or people of other races.

Ever wonder what locker room talk is?

Me, too. The only sport I played was tennis. We didn’t have a locker room. 

Pro athletes spoke up and said their locker room conversations were nothing like that.

In my life I’ve been around “man talk”, of course. Almost never have I been part of “girl talk”, of course. So my experience is somewhat limited. Outside of three long months I spent in a fraternity in college, I’ve never been around conversations describing women and sexual exploits and the like. Those were probably post-adolescent boy fantasies. 

Racial comments are frequent in many places. Mostly white-guy “jokes” or comments about another race being lazy, worthless, criminal. Sometimes not another race but another culture of the same race. “Hillbilly” used to be a term of derision. Now maybe it’s redneck?

Shane Claiborne in the book I cited yesterday, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Meant What He Said?, commented, “No one wants to be a racist, except for maybe some really mean people.”

I think he’s right. I’ve heard people make the meanest comments about people of another race. Then later when the term racist was brought up, they would remark, “I hope you aren’t calling me a racist.”

We don’t hear what we ourselves say.

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, said it centuries ago, “O wad a giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us.” 

How often do we reflect on what we say and do? And feel embarrassed? I have those flashbacks every once in a while.

Jesus did show us the way. And typically for him, he set the bar so high that we can never feel complacent. His culture was very racially defined. The Jews (like many other tribes) tried mightily to keep themselves separate from people of other races. 

Yet, Jesus healed the child of the woman “who was Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.” He led a Samaritan woman to a deeper spiritual understanding of God. These were doubly groundbreaking. Not only were they not his race, they were women.

Like in everything, Jesus shows us the way. If only we can get our hearts right so that we can follow. No says I want to grow up and be a racist (well, with a few psychopathic exceptions). But we do. It’s hard loving people who are different. But as followers of Jesus, we need to follow him there, too.