Morals and Values 3. Morals and Conscience Do we have them? This is the third time I have talked about this subject from which you will gather that I think it’s important, especially in the light of some the recent events in the UK, such as …
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Morality and Values 1.
This subject of “Morality and Values,” I observe presents such problems.
I was part of a government think tank in looking at OFSTED inspections of schools. One of the things they looked at is the moral dimension of the ethos of the state schools. My problem was – and is: How does one get hold of and understand morals and morality? In this small group, on the discussion of “Moral teaching in Schools”, were Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Evangelical Christians, and Humanists.
All of us – apart from the humanist – agreed that morals has to come from some kind of law giver. And actually, in all of our thinking, we concluded that the law giver must be God – that is, apart from the humanist – who said “There isn’t a God! So morals must come from somewhere else”.
I went on to argue that in terms of generosity, in such things as tsunamis, famines, natural and man made disasters and the like, the UK Is actually quite generous in its giving. I put this down to the Judeo Christian influence in the historical background of the nation. The humanist said, “Now don’t be silly! It is due to the fact that we were once great colonists”. Hmm! I thought that was all about greed, trade, and getting lots of power and things for ourselves?
Anyway! Having been one of those interviewed by Richard Dawkins for his, “Religion is the root of all evil” programmes, I find the stuff all over the internet, usually with many of “the learned” atheists – so called – poking fun at my opinions. Funnily enough, I have read Richard’s book, “The God delusion”. One of the things that struck me from the volume is how often the base of “who we are” and “where we are”, comes down to “luck” and simple good fortune – at least according to Mr Dawkins’ book.
God seems a better thesis to me.
And of course, both in the programme and on the net, as well as – defiantly – in Wikipedia, comes the discussion of morality. I am sort of “amused” that in at least one article or comment, the fact that we live in a moral universe – and one “without God” according to the “atheists” – is actually argued from the fact that some fish have a symbiotic relationship with cleaner fish and actually protect them. This, so they claim, is the logical grounds as to why we don’t go around on our streets killing each other.
The fish story is used to suggest that violence and killing is – sort of – wiser not too.
One of the things that Richard Dawkins said to me in the interview for his programme, (which I have not seen on the TV repeats or YouTube, so I guess it’s on the cutting room floor), was; “I am more righteous than you”. I, of course, said “Oh! And how is that?” To which he replied, “I don’t go around pillaging and raping, and I don’t need a God to stop me. You, Adrian, need God to stop you.”
To which I answered “Bully for you! You maybe ought to watch the international news every day!”
One Swallow does not a summer make.
How to Create Gender Equality
I think this desperate need within society is not easy at all to bring into being – to put it mildly. However, as it’s been in the news again just lately, I would like to have a go at how I believe it can be done. We have particularly noted the wages problem in the BBC. And, make no mistake, we are told it’s much worse throughout the rest of the country. If one happens to have been born female, then those persons will receive around 17% less than their male counterpart, even though they may be doing exactly the same job in the same office.
Why is it not so easy to change this and bring in a satisfactory sense of equality? Because we have to change a deep set culture, or even lots of different sub-cultures, and much of the thinking that has formed that culture goes back a long way, ingraining itself into people’s thinking over many generations?
What is that ingrained thinking? At a basic level it really is a fact that Males are in charge. Because they are more intelligent? Stronger? Could it be that they are better? Females are, of course, lesser because they are not so clever or as strong, and therefore men need to be in charge. (That is a comment of sarcasm – please don’t write in to complain.)
What we tend to do is address symptoms of this disease. This means that we are wanting to increase women’s wages and make it, “equal jobs for equal pay” right across the board. The trouble is that such an action, once taken, still will not have addressed the thinking, just the symptoms that came into being because of that thinking.
Legislation would change things, though that would be somewhat of a blunt instrument. We know that laws can change wrong to right (and sometimes even change right to wrong), so we must not underestimate the power of a passed law by government.
However, I do think we need to address the issue of equality at its base. The foundational base is how people think. The way that people think has been formed by their family, the government, the educational system, the community that they mix with, the business pressures that they have been exposed to, the history that brought the issue into being, and even the language.
So it’s about changing people’s thinking. Changing the thinking that says men are superior, woman are inferior. That means influencing, educating, legislating and seeking to change the cultural mind-set that makes the acceptance of the statement above acceptable.
I listened recently to young lads, of non UK origin being interviewed on TV about what they thought about the so called “honour killings”. Their answers were horrific. They said things like, “If my sister had dishonoured my family, then, yes, I think she should be killed”. The whole idea that women are lesser, builds the strong presupposition that their freedoms of expression, their friends, their choice of dress, and all of their relationships must of necessity be controlled by men.
Sumptuary legislation, where ever it comes from, is always about power and domination. I hear comments like, “… but that woman chose to dress like this!” My question is one step further back. “Who pressurises them to choose, or to exercise their supposed freedom in that way?” The probable answer is their religion, the law, their culture, and all those facets of life that are their personally accepted conventions. Then we need to ask, “Why is it so?” The answer will be, “Because men dictate it”. (http://adrianhawkes.co.uk/sumptuary-legislation-2/)
We can achieve equality, but we need to deal with the symptoms, i.e. equal pay and opportunities and the like, but we also need to address the underlying cultural perception. We will need to do that by education, legislation and a strong argument against our historical position. In other words; a full scale attack on the current cultural position and underlying thinking.
Maybe I need some Helpful Understanding?
It seems to me that after deciding on becoming a follower of Jesus, one then enters a relationship with God Himself. This effectively changes the way that we are. This, I understand, is done by changing our minds by changing the way we think, which will in turn change our actions.
So; we should become the kind of people who love our enemies, do good to those who would seek to harm us, treat others as more important than ourselves, recognise that all humans are made in the image of God and therefore need to be respected and highly regarded. I would then expect us (that is-all Jesus followers) to be generous, to see neither male nor female, bond nor free, this nationality or that – in fact caring for one another however possible
So; I am not sure how to express my disappointment, and lack of understanding on several fronts. Recently, reading an American article, (and I don’t think what I am about to say only reflects only on the USA- it just happened to be an American writer whose article I was reading) the writer noted that in the restaurant industry in the USA it was difficult to get staff to do the Sunday shift. They surveyed widely to try and understand why this was so. Waiting staff are apparently not that well paid in America, and therefore tips become a very important part of staff income.
It appeared, after the results of the survey had been assessed, that staff did not like the Sunday shift as they said, that, “Sunday is the day that all the church people come in to eat – and they are the meanest and least generous of our customers”. Why is it like that?
Friends of mine, both in the journalistic as well as the political world, tell me that the most vitriolic letters and communications, the ones that are “the most condemning” and, in their words, “the most unkind” of all the correspondence they receive (and this is both in the USA and in the UK) comes from people who express in their letters, that they are Christians. Again why is this so?
I know it has always been a “secret evil” in society, but again; why is it that we keep seeing the misuse of children and the abuse of people of the opposite sex from selfish desires, so often by Christians who express themselves as leaders in the church or in church organisations. Why?
Have these people really met God? Do they really understand what it is to have been changed by their relationship with God? Or are they just “label” people? Are they hiding under the epithet “Christian” as a word that may seem to be a useful label to stick on their activities to cloak their dark activities?
Recently, I have stopped responding when people ask me, “Are you a Christian?”I wonder what that means. Usually my response is, “I am a follower of Jesus, and I want that to be more than just a label. I want it to be demonstrated in living lifestyle and action.”
Jesus said to his early followers; “This is how people will know that you are my disciples, in that you have love one for another”.
I reckon that is not just love for other disciples. I think it should be possible to demonstrate that in the wider world with all races, colours and creeds. To people who are created in the image of “the God who is there.”
What is it that I have not understood?
My college years were in the late 60’s. I noted that during the years of training we were exposed to a great deal of theory. My complaint to the “powers that were” was; “This is all very fine, but we need practical knowledge and know how to go alongside all this theory.”
We live in a world, and in a culture where a piece of paper, stamped with some college or university’s backing and approval is very acceptable and the desired thing. For some that certificate and status symbol gives great confidence. The recipients of these pieces of paper are inclined to become overnight “experts”, and lords of their discipline, demonstrating great academic knowledge and putting everybody else right, particularly those who do not have their own piece of paper.
The problem for me and my own personal perspective is that I am old enough to see that often the status information given by the piece of paper holders is not always correct. More than that, I see that more often than not the practitioners who do not hold the pieces of paper are often far more knowledgeable that those who do. Usually, after inquiry, I discover that deep and practical knowledge of almost any discipline and/or profession usually comes from years of experience in that discipline, learned at the coal face. It’s a bit like learning to swim on dry land. Theory is great – but practice is somewhat different.
I can do it!
Recently my good friend Jeff Lucas wrote some stuff about people saying, “With God all things are possible.” “So with God you can do anything?” He went on to say that he/you everybody who reads that scripture, couldn’t do somethings. “Yes – we can’t do anything, (like fly without tickets or speak Chinese unless we learn it) but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens – in other words, what he has called us to.
Peter got out of the boat. The others didn’t.” He also noted he couldn’t fly without an aeroplane. He cannot breathe underwater. He went on to list other things that he was not good at all. It was all very true and, as usual, Jeff expressed it in a very readable and funny way. You will know that if you have read any of his many books how he writes things.
He was, of course, unpacking that verse of scripture in the Bible that says “I can do all things though Christ who strengthens me”. You can find that passage in Philippians Chapter 4 verse 13.
I often hear those “well meaning” “spiritual” people say things like, “You can do it with God! We can do all things!”
It’s obvious that when Paul was talking to the Philippians Christians, he was explaining that he had had bad times and good times, and that God was able to take him through any kind of time.
So, “Yes!” Jeff is right. However, I do get a bit bored with those “I live in a box people.” You know the type. I am referring to those who are always telling others, “It can’t be done”, or worse, “This is the way it is done and there is no other method or alternative”.
This breed of “wisdom” often surfaces in some people when they hear somebody thinking out of the box they exist in.
It has seemed to me for a long time, that if one knows – that is, if one, really knows God, then they have, (or, “should have”, because often those claiming to know Him don’t seem to) a very broad view of life. Meaning; where is it all going? What’s the plan?
With those who are knowing God in a intimate way, it is a bit like looking from the top of a mountain and seeing further than those who are down in the valley. This releases them so that they are seeing the alternatives, conceiving the possibilities, perceiving the new – and even the impossible.
It also seems to me that that we can actually do a lot of things because God is with us that we would never be able to do if He wasn’t.
I know that my atheist friends struggle with that idea. They struggle with the idea of answered prayer. They struggle with the idea of God intervening on behalf of someone else. They struggle with the whole idea of miracles – boy do they struggle with that one! “It’s all just one big accidental coincidence”, I hear so often. I have had a lot to say about coincidences. Look up:
Their negative rationale goes on. And whilst others struggle with answered prayer, God’s interventions, Miracles and the like, I struggle with an answer that would satisfy my life experience of knowing God. I am talking of an answer that would properly explain my own answered prayer. I am thinking of such as moments when I find £10.00 at my feet via the natural wind after a brief one line prayer immediately answered.
I am remembering witnessing one woman’s blind eyes opening and acknowledging colour after laying hands on her and being amused at her sudden knowledge of the colour of her slippers.
Coming out of court recently, after a case where our own lawyer told us, “This is what has to happen – and it will happen just like this”, and then listening to the Judge say something totally different. That lawyer, who I don’t think shared my expectations of prayer being answered, as he walked out of the court, leaned over to me and said, “I have worked in this court for many years as a lawyer. Today I have witnessed a miracle”.
Of course, I know those who live in their mind set boxes where these sort of things do not happen, will work hard at a good explanation, and end up smiling sympathetically at my uneducated naivety.
For me, and I know many like me, we are happy that God is with us, that He does answer prayer, and that Miracles do happen. Maybe it is that boxed mindset that says, “This is how it works”, that keeps some from experiencing a more exciting way to live.
No! I can’t fly, or breathe under water, or do lots of things even though God is with me. But boy oh boy, there are things that can be done that take my breath away – metaphorically speaking of course.
So there are lots of times when people say, “You cannot do that!” “It can’t be!” “We don’t do it!”
Excuse me, but I did!
Edited by KL
Never take notice of what people are saying until they have said, “BUT!” The “but” can change everything.
I liked the article that Benjamin Sledge wrote on “The Irrelevance of Christianity”. I even wish I had written it. I agree that we Jesus Followers should not be imposing our laws and values on others. We belong to another kingdom, and hold passports of another country. So we observe the laws, values and culture of that regime as top priority. BUT, Jesus did say he was putting us into THIS world and not taking us out of it. So we are here! I need to engage with this world and not put myself in a corner and become part of some ghetto.
That means to engage with the politics, the voting, the speaking and – if possible – pulling down handfuls of Kingdom into this time space world and persuading people to take on board Kingdom Values. Why? Because it’s good for all of us, both the followers of Jesus and everyone else on the planet.
So, I believe in a God of Love. He is one that loves all of humanity. This means that the laws of the Kingdom of God, the values of the Kingdom of God, The Morals of the Kingdom of God, must be for our good. It must be for our benefit. By that I mean the benefit of all humanity not just those who have discovered a relationship with the God who is there.
Logically then, if I know this God of love and His values, and understand that His way is the best way to live, of course, I will want to share His love and these values, not out of a sense of superiority, or one of condemning my fellow human beings, but because I want the best for the lives’ of others as well as my own. After all God does not make the sun to shine just on His followers, we all benefit from His goodness.
Now! That does not mean that, as Benjamin Sledge says, I hammer you with a book that you never read (i.e. The Bible). Looking at the history of Paul he did not do that. Of course, in His day he did not have the New Testament part of the Bible, he was still writing most of it.
What Paul did is very interesting. He wants good things for people. He wants people to get related to Jesus, the “risen from the dead” One. But he does not start there. In other words, what we might say is, he does not quote Bible to them, but rather he starts where people are. We should not – really – do anything else. So he starts on Mars Hill in Athens with that rather strange phrase, “Oh! I see you have an altar to the unknown God.” I know the unknown God. Let me introduce you to Him.
Paul does not quote the Bible to them. No! Not even the Old Testament Bible. Rather, he quotes their own poets and draws them from there to a better value system, a better way, a knowing of the unknown God.
It would have been quite difficult for Paul to get involved in the politics of Rome. It wasn’t a democracy. Although he gently tried at one point of time when he says in one of his trials before King Agrippa; “I know I am chained up, but what I have is still the best. Apart from these chains, I would want you all to have what I have got”.
Sure, people thought he was mad, but maybe what he had was so good that he wanted others to have that kind of life quality.
We live in a democracy. I am a follower of Jesus. I know that the value system that He gives, when applied gives a better life. Not always easy. Not always nice. Not always happy, but with a source of Joy and purpose. I guess I want to share that.
Surely I know that Morals can come from other sources. The Atheists are always telling me that. But what sort of morals? What sort of values? Are they the values of generosity? Of loving your enemies? Of doing good to those who are bad to you?
Lots would like me to be quiet and to keep my values to myself. But I care too much for the well-being of others to do that.
Noise and Think
I spent quite a lot of time in the 60’s in what was, at the time, referred to as “Coffee Bars.” They were quite social places. Routinely we would go there straight from school, and then, if we were going to some event or other, we would be out and about for the evening, returning afterwards to our second home, which was – you guessed it – the Coffee Bar. I am not sure how they made a profit as usually we could only afford one frothy coffee per night from their new-fangled machine.
The “wealthy” ones amongst us, and they were few, would put money in the jukebox, or occasionally play the pin ball machine. Am I speaking a foreign language?
I moved on to some of the meeting places youth that were even more noisy, which, in Birmingham in the 1960’s were packed out with “standing room only.” Usually, I ended up jammed next to very large speakers which made hearing anything other than what came through the speaker impossible. Hence conversation was difficult, if not, near impossible, unless you did what I see being done even in night clubs today, that is, one puts one’s lips as close to the person’s ear as possible and complies with the need to shout. The usual response was a primal retort of, “What?”
On the rare occasions when conversation could reasonably and rationally take place, which in those days usually meant a record was being changed somewhere in the depths of the building, I, being sort of odd would ask people who were pressed in on me, “What was the meaning of life?” or “Why are you here – not just here in this place, but here on earth?”
Usually I got funny looks. Many of the clientele of the night clubs were taking the latest drugs of the day too – that did not always encourage intelligent conversation. I saw many of the not so nice results of that kind of behaviour. However I did often get responses, of the same ilk of non-coherent talk. I often heard things like, “I come here for the noise, so I don’t have to think.” Or, “I take drugs because that helps me not to have to think.”
For me, I wanted to think. I wanted answers. On top of that, I reckoned I had answers, and still know them, years later, to be good answers. I had found that life is not purposeless, nor is it unreasonable. I do not think life is an accident. I don’t prescribe to what Professor Richard Peters said.
Peters was Professor of the Philosophy of Education at the Institute of Education. He said “Our basic predicament in life is to learn to live with its ultimate pointlessness. We are monotonously reminded that education must be for life, so obviously the most important dimension of education is that in which we learn to come to terms with the pointlessness of life.” (Richard Peters (1919-2011).
I don’t think life is pointless. There is a purpose and there is a point. I do, however, understand why one would want to put noise into one’s brain if one’s education had taught them that what Professor Peters said was correct.
I understand why a person would put things in their ears to block out thought. I understand why one might take drugs to escape the pressures, responsibilities and the hassles of life. I even understand why one might just want to jump off a cliff to stop the pointlessness of the “pointless accident” of life.
As I used to say to my friends amid the deafening noise of the places I went to in Birmingham in the 60’s.
“Stop the noise for a moment, and think!
Ask some good questions! Like: “Why am I here?” “What’s it all about?” “Is there a purpose?” “Is there a God?” And, “Is there a point?”
Thinking for just a short while and asking some real questions will ultimately push out the nonsense and white noise of the “Life is pointless” thought.
Edited by K. L