“I forgot how fun ethics are!”
This exclamation has been nearly shouted several times in the past week. I’ve engaged ethics in a classroom experience through a Doctor of Ministry program at Phillips Theological Seminary. As our class explores Ethics in Christian life and work, we reflect on both real life and a novel to discover the ways in which we organize our lives.
While a neat calendar and labeled closets are certainly a fun way to organize life, the way we’ve considered organizing is much more nuanced and firm. The juxtaposition of those adjectives may seem counter to talking about the organizing principles of our lives but they feel perfect to describe the dance that is discovering ethics.
The dance is what is so fun to me. It’s a dance that uses the whole stage; a dance that requires both flexibility and incredible core strength. Among the skills that are required, or dance steps that make it work, are understanding the basic entry points that allow us to talk about ethics. Those three major entry points are goals, rules and virtues. Every person (and every group of people for that matter) is negotiating these three frameworks for ethics as they make everyday decisions.
Through the reading of the Saramago novel Blindness, we discovered that decisions even as simple as who we will help making their way to the restroom brings to the surface our core ethical commitments and how we are able to adapt (or not) to the world around us. As larger real-life questions arise, like who gets to live, die or eat, awareness of how we process our ethical commitments and the implementation of them becomes a more complicated dance. The choreography is clouded with multiple movements and balancing footwork. Any efforts to simplify limit an individual’s making-sense of behaviors and habits that allow survival, albeit without the living out of those multiple core ethical frameworks we each have.
As the class moves into our second week, I am eager to discover the dance we do with worship. How much of the stage will we use and how many steps do we need to know?