The other day I had my hair cut as you can see from a hairdresser that I’ve come to know and appreciate for his work. He is an indigenous man living in the area. We talk on a range of topics, plenty of football, family, some art, (he is a lovely painter) occasionally religion.
The other day he came out with that fatal statement….
“Geoff now seeing you are a man of the cloth, I’ve got a question for you...” Clergy normally shudder with that introduction. “What do you think about abortion”?
I had to respond, its one of the hardest issues. It turned out he had someone telephone him that morning to say they have just learnt that the girl was carrying a down syndrome baby and they wondered if they should terminate the pregnancy. My intent is not to discuss the particular issue but highlight the complexity of many such issues for the purpose of raising how we are to deal with such challenging questions.
THE CHURCH UNDER ATTACK
Lets turn our mind to the church for a moment. We are in a time when we of faith are regularly attacked for what we stand for. Two regular areas of concern are education and religion and politics and religion. What stands at the heart of these issues is the policy that our country stands on the separate of state and religion
The subject of Religious education in school has become a hot topic. I guess it centres around two issues.
Firstly, overly enthusiastic Christians who regard conversion as the prime purpose of Christianity. The group known as Access ministries is a fairly fundamentalist group which fosters the overly enthusiastic as well as those inclined to down play the re-reading of scriptural stories in the light of contemporary knowledge. eg. The creation story is the great example of this issue.
Secondly, the growing secular approach to life currently so popular, and often spoken of as the new atheism.
So many today do not want these stories told to their children, believing them not to have intellectual credibility. I am sure they are often motivated by a desire to distance themselves from a church that has had to much control in the past.
Someone wrote an article in The Age last weekend arguing that religion and politics should not mix. Its an opinion that has been around for many years and I guess finds its roots in the old adage, never speak of politics, religion or sex in public. Such advocates I guess believe religion is a personal issue and that politics is the real life of the market place.
In both these issues of education and politics we would probably all agree that values are important.
We must teach our children values. In politics we witness politicians arguing vehemently for the values they subscribe to.
I’ve always believed that if you asked a young couple what they would want most of all for their children, when pushed they would agree that their children grow up as adults with good values and display quality character. Surely politicians begin the journey believing they can make the world a better place.
A PROBLEMATIC WORLD
I would argue that the success rate is not overly high. Why is there such a high youth suicide, depression, drug-taking rate. Why is there such conflict across the social domain, and worse still the international political arena? I want to present a simple response, not because it is a comprehensive solution to a very tricky problem, but because it is the necessary kernel of a solution.
It is a vital component of the problem.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BELIEF
Let’s say we all agree that we must have values to live by in a civilized society. But what happens when there are a range of mixed values within any issue.
Abortion? I have heard of numerous situations where it seemed most acceptable that abortion seemed wise. But equally it is distressing when you hear of some of the reasons people give for it. How do you prioritise one value over the other? Lets take some of the political dilemmas of our day…
The budget must be in surplus, or the less fortunate assisted.
The boats must be stopped, or asylum seekers aided.
I’m not trying to answer them, but rather highlight how people are arguing for different values.
I believe you cannot work through these complex issues if you do not have an overarching philosophy of life, a theory of life, a belief system.
They are what gives a framework for prioritizing values.