Tuesday, July 29, 2008

an ethical reflection

I used to work for a Café chain called Michelle's Patisserie. We, like every other coffee shop, have the customer loyalty cards that give you a free 6th or 8th coffee or whatever if you collect enough stamps. A woman came in one day to claim her free coffee.. Handing me the card. I put it straight into my pocket thinking quickly that I could use it later to claim a free coffee at another Michelle's. I thought for a second that it might not be honest.. But then decided Michelle's we're rich enough to deal with it. It wasn't hurting anybody. I ignored the niggling in the back of my brain for a while and kept busy with work.. But it kept on not sitting right. Why did I feel guilty? Somehow, regardless of whether or not it was going to hurt someone, I knew it was wrong to do it.

It remind me now of that thing (Law of Nature?) C.S Lewis talks about at the start of Mere Christianity. Is that conscience? Or something deeper and outside of it.. Because if it's true that a conscience can be educated I don't think that's what it is. I can only say it was something to do with God. That ultimate right and good that we stepped out of sync with in the fall. It's like when you can hear an instrument playing out of time with the drummer.. I think sometimes we can feel when we're out of time with God somehow.

In that situation as far as decision making goes I think for starters the (surface) results let me to decide to take the card. But then something (maybe conscience, maybe not) spoke louder than results and changed my mind. What's interesting is in doing this assignment I'm can also see that results at a deeper level also spoke against taking the card. The long term results of little acts of dishonesty are pretty serious. They affect my relationship with God, they affect the sort of person I become and where I end up when I die! They're all pretty huge things. So! The outcome of using results to make a decision can vary depending on how deep you go! And really, it is quite impossible to know all the results of one decision. I would try not to rely on it alone.

In fact I'd try not to rely on any one method alone. They all have their limitations. If consciences can be educated you can't just say 'Everyone.. No matter what just do what your conscience says.' I mean.. That sounds good.. But if you've got a Man who has no problem stepping over a beggar on the street because he was always told these people brought it on themselves. Or a Muslim who doesn't struggle with the thought of a Homosexual being killed for who they are. They could be poor examples but they're things I disagree with... Which shows that consciences are going to conflict!

So- we can't avoid consciences being educated. As a Christian I think the best way to educate a conscience is through living in Co-operation with the Holy Spirit and studying the scriptures – trying to take what they teach a reality in your life. Easier said than done.

Some things in the bible confuse me and I'm really not sure how comfortable I would be trying to follow some of it. Maybe that's a place where the Spirit steps in to help give clarity and understanding of where it is or isn't that appropriate to me. I should try to be praying to be open to the Spirit's leading and working hard to be listening to it. And in all of this seeking first the kingdom. Making love the centre of everything I do..

Privatisation/Individualism – Faith as a private matter, each individual defines their set of values, beliefs, morality etc...

I think I sometimes tend to have the attitude (with some things) that people are O.K to think what they want. Who am I to tell them what to do or think? But maybe not to the degree that most people do – because I really believe in the bigger truth greater than anything. That truth that we're out of step with and need to get back in step with!

So naturally the two rub up against each other when I think about Mission. I start telling myself not to be a boof head, leave people alone, their beliefs are none of my business. But Jesus tells me it IS my business. He's the one who's giving me the mission. If I really loved these people the way he wants me to then I can't be laissez-faire.

There's something so isolating about Individualism too.. A bunch of people living near each other, working with each other etc. but still soo.. separate. Maybe I'm wrong, I dunno. And also if it's just you and your beliefs with your own authority.. where are your boundaries? There are none really.. And a world full of boundary-less people is scary to me. And we cant rely on universal 'tolerance' either. Anti-tolerance can be a good thing – There are things that shouldn't be tolerated!

Thinking particularly of the compartmentalisation that results from Secularisation, I can definitely see where that's been part of my life. Before I really became a Christian I learned how to compartmentalise my life. And it's a bloody hard habit to get out of. This is Hannah at Church. This is Hannah out on a Friday night.. And it worked! Church Hannah and Friday night Hannah believed different things, had different morals so either could do what they liked. These two didn't like each other.. They weren't on speaking terms. It was easier.. But being a living contradiction is not healthy way to live!

It reminds me of a part in Harry Potter (heh) where the Voldermort has found a way to split his soul into pieces.. and each time he does it the more distorted as a man he gets.. Further and further from human. It feels like the same thing.. Something in me being split.. Each time I become a little less real and a little more blurred.

It makes me sad to see the isolation that individualism has created in our society. People seem lonely.

- Hannah