Category Archives: ethics

Rightly Ordered Loves, Part 1 Understanding Our Challenges

In these contentious days, it is hard for voices of sanity to be heard about the name-calling and ideological noise. In this four-part series, I want to present a new vision and voice for public dialogue that offers hope for both peaceful engagement and prudential solutions to our seemingly intractable problems.

It is my conviction that underneath all the anger and insults are disordered human affections. Our “loves” are confused. “Passion” has replaced principle and emotions seem to triumph over ethics. When politicians argue that, “facts do not matter if you are moral” we have a serious confusion of categories, a loss of critical thinking, and signs of inner chaos.

Ancient sages often speak of at least four kinds of love: familial bonds, brotherly/sisterly affections, the comradery of soldiers and workers, and romantic attractions. Whether the stories come from China or Greece, Africa or India, such affections and their proper ethics are universal.

There is another type of love that the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian theology have brought to the world: the covenantal love of the Almighty (Hebrew: hesed) the unconditional and self-donating agape love embodied in the person and work of Jesus. This altruistic, holy, and sacrificial love helps all other loves find their proper place. Familial and friendship love are now rooted in sacrifice, and comradeship is more than suffering together – it can take on nobility. And erotic attractions – powerful as they are – have boundaries of behavior and loyalty.

So much of contemporary confusion comes from eros overtaking agape and the perversion of other categories that arises when self-fulfillment overtakes service. Whether it is sexual attractions and actions, economic policies, political discourse, or cultural expression, disordered loves subvert the common good and leave everyone ultimately impoverished.

We need visions and voices rooted in agape that considers others before self, and refines actions according to their long-term consequences and not immediate power and success. Stay tuned for the applications of agape to the challenges of our day. There is hope – but not in the lowest denominator of human passion, but the highest aspirations arising from the image of God in humankind.

Real Freedom Includes Risks

In 1984, a Christian poet and dissident from the Soviet Union wrote a book, “Talking about God is Dangerous.” The wall has fallen – and our angry culture is building a new one. Freedom for one is liberty for all…let’s be civil and wise, but never give way to censorship of ideas. Disagreement is not intolerance and choosing moral and religious values does not make folks, “phobes.”

Debating our deepest differences with civility is the heart of ordered liberty. My Muslim friends regard Jesus as a prophet…I regard him as God, crucified and risen for my salvation. We disagree. I do not regard Mohammed as a prophet, but I respect my Muslim neighbor’s right to disagree with me. Atheists find my convictions quaint or even dangerous. I disagree with their arguments…and we can be friends. My biblical sexual ethic is at odds with many – and we can make the world a better place together caring for the vulnerable. But please do not castigate my ethics as intolerant. 

Will we continue our historical progress toward true toleration or retreat to oppression and castigate anyone not sharing our precise language? I am confident that a free market of ideas produces much better fruit than a world of self-appointed, politically correct marshals waiting to pounce.

Let’s get to work and make our world better, one conversation at a time.

Some Wisdom Amidst the Noise, Part 4

Over the years, I have been labeled, “Messenger to the Thoughtful.” This is not, “messenger to the academic elites or people that are rich and smart.” Thoughtfulness is the privilege of every person, regardless of class or race, economics or education. If we approach God and the world with humility and wonder and treat people, with love and respect, we will enjoy a lifetime of learning and grow in wisdom. Here are a few more reflections – please help me keep learning!

Courage is loving instead of hating, responding instead of reacting and serving while others compete for power.

When possible, look for “both/and” instead of the “either/or” limitations. This does not work for moral absolutes, but is desperately needed in practical decisions, public policy and community flourishing.

There will always be others smarter and stronger than us; but we can reach the full measure of the divine intention for our lives.

Thank you, friends, for the good you bring to the world every day.

Thank you to every parent rushing to your kid’s cultural and sporting events today. Yes, it is worth it as you nourish their bodies and minds. Some of you are single, some married, some in blended situations…thank you for caring deeply for your children and nurturing the next generation.

Three Monday thoughts:
Decide ahead of time to make the right ethical choices;
Think deeply and prayerfully;
Act decisively for God’s glory and the good of others.
And inner peace and positive impact will follow.

May today bring tears of intercession, shouts of grateful joy, profound reflection on important matters, delightful laughter as we watch people and a chance to serve someone who cannot return the favor.

Lord, give me a critical mind and tender heart, evaluating ideas and principles without passing sentence on persons. Amen.