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.

A Word for Mr. Trump

Dear Donald Trump,
I pen these words with prayers for you and our nation.

You have caused quite a stir.

But unsettling the political landscape is not statesmanship.

For some you are the key to our nation’s survival.
Others see a narcissist running a new reality show.

I think you are – like all people – beautiful and broken – gifted and selfish, concerned about country and struggling with character.

Many share your concerns on immigration and jobs, national security and terrorism, inefficient government and insecurity about America’s future.

I know that many of your positions are “opening negotiating positions” especially the ban on Muslim immigration and the wall with Mexico.

But Mr. Trump, character matters. You cannot shout, “crooked Hillary” and not face your own challenges. I call on you to cease personal insults and offer clarity on:

  • Immigration that remains hospitable.
  • Job creation that keeps goods flowing globally.
  • Abortion: will you support the Republican platform?
  • First and Second Amendment liberties.
  • Racial reconciliation – how to we reduce tensions and engender unity?

And there is much more…

I haven’t decided my vote. Frankly, I am dismayed that neither party could do better.

Will you envision a future and demonstrate the ethics necessary for all to flourish or are you merely one more demagogue we must endure?

Stop the insults. Start sharing insights. Come clean on any hidden issues.

And above all, cease boasting about all you will do.
Please articulate what all of us must do for a better future.

I already have a Savior…I am looking for a public servant.

Transparency and Trust

Dear Secretary Clinton,
Transparency often opens doors of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Hiding from truth only increases suspicion form others and soul-diminishing inner conflict.

Nixon lost his presidency because of his paranoia and refusal to clean house and acknowledge the nefarious actions of his administration. Chuck Colson went to prison for his role – and what he did would be seen as minor infractions compared to today’s corruption.

Madam Secretary, you would be amazed at how relieved your followers would be if you fully accept your responsibility for poor decisions at Benghazi and carelessness in your communication, along with potential and real conflicts of interest with your Foundation.

Your enemies may not change, but supporters and undecideds might forgive and go forward. For policy reasons, you do not have my vote, but I am willing to extend grace and respect if the stonewalling will stop and real policy debates can begin in the campaign.

I pray for you and your husband that desire for power will give way to humility and service.

I cannot and will not judge your heart, but I tearfully plead for accountability and integrity – for your soul and the soul of our nation.