A Question for Ethicists

From Wikipedia: Ethics is the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles and seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime. An ethicist is one whose judgment on ethics and ethical codes has come to be trusted by a specific community, and (importantly) is expressed in some way that makes it possible for others to mimic or approximate that judgment.

Here’s my question for an ethicist: If one opposes abortion based on “sanctity of life” and/or “advocacy on behalf of the innocent” moral principles, can one ethically support capital punishment when either (or perhaps both) principles can be applied to those convicted of crime? 

The Governor of Alabama released a statement on May 15th, 2019, after signing into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, which said: “To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.” On May 16th, the day after the Act was signed, Alabama executed a convicted murderer.

It seems apparent that legislative actions being taken across the country are going to require us in the near future to re-consider our moral principles concerning life and death; perhaps re-visiting our moral contradictions would be of benefit as well. 

A Book for Contemplation

“In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.” That’s the first sentence of the Introduction to Yuval Noah Harari’s book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, and it captured my attention immediately. The New York Times Book Review written by Bill Gates had peaked my interest in reading it, and I made my way through its chapters mind boggled. What’s not to find intriguing in subjects such as “WAR, never underestimate human stupidity”, “JUSTICE, our sense of justice might be out of date”, and EQUALITY, those who own the data own the future”? Harari is a historian and a futurist, a skeptic and an optimist. I’m very glad his mind goes to places mine can barely glimpse, and that he has the talent to share his view of the world with others.


Changing Time

We all lament changing time, loss of time, time that seems to pass at an ever-increasing pace. There never seems to be enough of it, and we feel anxiety at the thought of running out of it. We even change it seasonally to suit some arbitrary need. How we choose to think about time can literally affect how we live.

Within my faith tradition, the Easter story and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, changed time. Yes, history was impacted by this event and the calendar most of us share became dated by this event, but I mean something more as well.

For Jesus’ early followers, his death was a devastation, and the empty tomb incomprehensible. Biblical stories tell us that fear and confusion kept many of his apostles silent until Jesus showed himself to them again, not resuscitated, but transformed. Difficulty in understanding the significance of the event is evident throughout Christian history and remains a struggle today. St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), an early church leader, expressed the challenge facing any who wished to believe “If you understood him, it would not be God.” 

We all live our lives through stories that we use to define ourselves and our convictions. The Easter story has had incredible resilience through centuries and across cultures for reasons not bound by the ability to comprehend the inexplicable. Choosing to believe that suffering and death are not the last words profoundly changes how I think about time.

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Music by the Day

I enjoy music; not so much the ear bud private world of music (although that works too), but the kind that fills my living space. I love listening to classical music while driving, or sitting with a book, or enjoying a meal. I was raised in a family that appreciated music, in a time that offered more space for listening, so the pleasures of music happily accrued to me by default rather than by pursuit. I know what I enjoy, but rarely know what I’m listening to, so I was intrigued when learning of the book Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill on CBS Sunday Morning a few months ago.

9780062856203_p0_v1_s192x300Clemency Burton-Hill is an accomplished musician, and Creative Director, Music & Arts at New York Public Radio. She has put together a list of classical selections to hear by the day for a year, and written a few paragraphs for each to provide a bit of information about the composer and composition. To make things really accessible, Spotify has her playlist. I have only begun this musical journey with her, but it’s fun. I don’t like everything I’ve heard, but I’ve been introduced to many unfamiliar pieces by unfamiliar names, and learned interesting tidbits about those with which I’ve been previously acquainted. She doesn’t ask for a huge time commitment in her effort to educate; most selections are about 5 minutes, and the longest so far has been in the 20 minute range. I look forward to sitting down with her as I wait for something to simmer for dinner; she shares her love of classical music with a light hand.