May 10, 2018
As much as I love our border collie (and believe that as a creature with self-awareness and capacity for love, she possesses a “soul” – a position that puts me at odds with some other Christian Church’s doctrinal stance), I certainly observe a major difference between her and me. I have the capacity to choose while she is caught in the rhythm of her instincts. We humans make choices: some good, some not-so–much, and some just dreadful unto evil – but it is we who determine our choices!
The last “Confirmation Class” each year is a fun one for me because I put the teens through a number of “no win” morally ambiguous situations, and they must choose the “right” behavior. Of course, at age 15, they have yet to mature (mentally or spiritually) to understand the difference between a “good” choice vs. a “right” choice. They do not yet know that we cannot always frame the context of life’s dilemmas nor can we “change” a preceding event to make a present choice more reasonable. They haven’t learned that life’s experience will not present us a “do over.” They are young Christian men and women who are maturing in their life in Christ just as they are maturing physically, mentally and emotionally. And they are still children – they have yet to realty master the relationship between choices and consequences.
So what are the principles that reflexively and immediately come into play before each of your decisions? Is it Christ’s “new” commandment to love one another as He loved us? Is it the “golden rule?” Do you determine whether this thought, word or action is in accord with the Covenant with God you made at your Baptism? Does it follow or violate one of the “10 Commandments?” Do you take each situation as a unique universe with its own norms for good vs evil, or do you abide by principles that endure no matter the situation? Must every decision make you feel good? Does what you “feel” in any way determine (or should it?) what you decide? Are we as Christians supposed to judge situations differently from non-believers? If so, why? Or, why not? We often hear the phrase: “don’t judge me!” So is every behavior to be accepted? If you believe there are no absolute principles, then, of course, you’ve just created one! So does one create one’s own absolute norms? Is every choice to be evaluated simply by outcome: if it works, don’t fix it and, heaven forbid, never change it.
And on and on the discussion might go! While this is the basis for a good few get-together sessions to discuss “Ethics’ Today 101” (or whatever you might wish to entitle the course), I just thought I’d pose the question for you: so just how do you decide to do what you do and why? Does being a disciple of Jesus make a difference, or not? — Fr Joe