Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Enjoying the Fall Of A Big Man

August 27, 2018

What do you feel when you read about a “big man”, an important leader, a rich guy falling?

Be honest looking at yourself.

What story headlines do you click on when browsing the Web? What things to you repost and pass along while on Facebook?

Don’t we all feel a little touch of satisfaction or pleasure at the misfortunes of others–especially those who are larger than life?

Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday keeps you spell bound as he weaves the story of Nick Denton, the founder of a suite of gossip websites under the name of Gawker media and millionaire, Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal, billionaire, famous now as a Trump supporter, Hulk Hogan, the now disgraced wrestling star.

Gawker made its money paying young writers next to nothing for churning out whatever dirt they could get on anybody. They hid behind the First Amendment, perverting its intent and shirking responsible discourse.

And its headlines were specifically designed to entice people to click. And click they did. To the tune of hundreds of thousands per article.

But they got caught not just skating around the law but actually violating it. They published secretly recorded video of Hulk Hogan in a setup. That’s illegal. They were sued. They are now no more.

The question for us and our own personal ethics lies in the privacy of us and our computing device. What do we click? Do we support the nastiest of discourses? By clicking or by reposting we are actually supporting someone. They may be the Russian government trying to sow the seeds of discord in an enemy. They may be cynical businesses plying the spectacular for eyeballs consuming advertising.

It all comes back to my dictum. What you fill your mind with is what you become.

I recommend the book. I also recommend watching what we feed our minds.

Talking Is Not Doing

June 27, 2018

The Washington Post recently ran an article profile on gossip writer Elaine Lui. In it, she is quoted–“Talking is action. Conversation is action,” Lui says. “The result of a conversation is that you’ve conversed; you’ve heard each other. That’s an action.” I picked this up from an email on the Daily Stoic.

Ryan Holiday, who writes the Daily Stoic, was aghast. Talking is not doing. He quotes Marcus Aurelius, a leading Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor–Marcus Aurelius struggled with this even two thousand years ago, and reminded himself that it was meaningless to have philosophical debates about being a good person—all that mattered was what you did. “No more talking about what a good man is like,” he said, “Be one.

I am reminded that Jesus left us with action verbs in his commands–Go into the world, Make disciples, Love God, Love your neighbor.

One of the largest bursts of growth of Christianity occurred in Rome early in the Christian era. There was a plague that ravaged Rome. All the men fled to the hills. They left women, children, elderly, servants behind to fend for themselves and probably die.

Christians came up out of hiding and nursed the sick and dying at great risk to themselves. People were so impressed by the way that Christ-followers lived that they also wanted that life. The church grew out of an active response to calamity.

One of today’s greatest cultural problems is that way too many people spend their time debating–or spouting off–ideas and opinions. We are doing way too little doing.

To paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, “No more talking about what a Jesus-follower should believe. Be one.

Ethics Always Transcend Legalism

June 20, 2018

The disciples were walking with Jesus on a Sabbath along a wheat field. They picked some grain, rubbed it between their hands, ate a snack. The Pharisees were aghast. They broke the Law. Jesus basically shrugged his shoulders.

Jesus consistently pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who slavishly followed their laws without a heart that loved God and others.

The Apostles Peter and John were thrown in jail for breaking the law by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul was repeatedly physically abused–thrown out of cities, jailed, stoned, flogged–all because he broke Roman law by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus (oh, and breaking some of the Jewish traditional laws).

(I’ve been studying the Acts of the Apostles. Useful reading.)

Throughout history, Christ followers have broken laws perpetrated by new Pharisees.

The Abolitionists broke laws of slavery (theologically justified by “Christians” such as John Calhoun a signer of the Declaration) in order for ethics to triumph over unjust laws.

The Civil Rights movement led by Christ followers of the early-mid 60s and beyond broke laws in the name of a greater ethic taught by Jesus and furthered by Paul.

Jesus said, I leave you with this commandment that you love one another. He had already explained the two great commandments that his disciples should follow above all–love God with your entire being and your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? Jesus used the example of a Samaritan–an outcast to his audience.

While meditating this morning, the spirit spoke so clearly–write Ethics trumps Law. It wouldn’t let me get out of bed until I agreed to walk over to my computer and do it.

Change Your Focus To Stay In Focus

June 4, 2018

When you are slicing through a big loaf of bread, you need first to focus on the relationship of the blade across the loaf to make sure you are straight. Then you shift focus down the side to be cut so that the slice is straight and parallel to the end. (Okay, I have my OCD moments, but stay with the analogy.)

I just finished my second weekend of the season as referee director for a youth soccer tournament. After recruiting and assigning the best referees I have to the appropriate games and making sure that we have certified referees on every game, then I spend my time observing and troubleshooting.

Someone approaches me distraught or angry. I focus on them and their problem/complaint. Then I go to the referee later. I focus on her/him and listen to that side of the story. You have to focus on both sides of a story in order to come to a conclusion about what really happened. Then you deal with corrections or just calming down as the case requires.

Sometimes you are reading difficult material. Maybe from the Bible or from someone’s argument about the meaning of something. You are presented a word or phrase that doesn’t make sense immediately. You should:

A) skip the phrase (and risk missing the meaning of the passage)

B) come to a quick conclusion about the phrase (maybe making up your own interpretation)

C) mark the phrase as difficult and resolve to return to it when you’ve read more

D) change your focus and research that word or phrase (Dr. Google can help, as can a dictionary)

Jesus left us with only a couple of commands. (Not suggestions, directives.) Shortened version–Love God, Love you neighbor. The love your neighbor part is repeated often, say at the end of John.

When we get into disagreements or feel our prejudices rising (requiring self-awareness), we need to change our focus from ourselves to what Jesus said. Maybe the problem concerns people of different races, or different gender, or different lifestyle, or gender identification. When we realize we’re dividing people into groups and developing a theology that says one group is inferior, we need to change our focus and go back to the basics. Love God, love our neighbor.

Our question for ourselves when we are deciding upon such matters is “to what degree is what I am doing reflective of what Jesus commanded me to do?”

Have Christians Lost Personal Moral Responsibility

March 8, 2018

Just like perhaps 1,000 generations of humans before me, I am sitting above the beach staring across the Pacific Ocean pondering the greatness of God and the vastness of his creation.

I’m visiting a friend who always sparks deep spiritual discussions. Lots of thinking and re-thinking.

On the plane out to California, I went over my notes from Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. He discussed a 19th Century philosopher who surveyed the culture of Europe at the time and perceived that because of the Protestant emphasis on salvation by grace through faith, they had forgotten the moral imperative to live like Jesus said.

The perception of the European Church at the time was that church leaders willing took money from rich people and told poor people that they would get their reward in heaven after they died. Salvation by faith–but no moral works until then.

Both Nietzsche and Marx may not have known, but they could have said that the overemphasis on one chapter of Romans wiped out the instructions of the four gospels plus the writing of James.

My friend was asking about Christianity. I told him it was two things.

First, there is the resurrection of Jesus. Without that, then we’d just be a Jewish sect.

Second, there is (to use a church word) repentance. That means that we are to stop living the life we have been living and turn around and live a life with-God, filled with the Spirit.

You cannot read the entire New Testament and believe that everything ends with the profession of faith. Indeed, everything begins with it. From that point on, we participate in eternal life because of the way we live. That, my friends, is the moral responsibility that Nietzsche thought we had lost.

It is time that we stop, look around, and see where we stand. Has our life stopped at faith? Or, has it begun in earnest because of the faith?

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?