Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rewards and Faith

When I was over at Sabio's blog, the discussion on violence and non-violence eventually brought in the elements of morality and why we take the stances we do, whether for radical non-violence, or justified violence. One commenter said that radical non-violence is the only way because Jesus instructed us to turn the other cheek, so even if your violence might save a family member being attacked by an intruder, you must still react non-violently. Another commenter said that the correct response in a situation is to call 911 and inform the attacker that you have done so, hoping that will scare them and make them leave.

I won't pick apart these approaches because in some of the more earnest and enthusiastic phases of my spiritual life, I would have said the same thing.

The contention of the first commenter I mentioned is that things are morally wrong just because God, or Jesus, says that they are, whether or not the outcome of a particular "good" action has a good result. In this view, if your spouse is attacked and killed by an intruder and you could have stopped it, but didn't because of your pacifist convictions, then you did a good and moral thing.

I argued that morality, in general, is tied to utility and reality. While some things that we do are good and bad in and of themselves, most of our moral choices are based on outcomes, both for ourselves and for our communities. Immoral choices are choices that generally have negative consequences for an individual and those around them. Those negative consequences might be immediate, or they might be long term in nature, such as causing the destabilization of the community, or creating an atmosphere that contributes to encouraging more bad choices by other people.

Even though I argued from this angle, I only partially believe that morality is tied to utility. I do believe that many choices are intrinsically moral, though it gets hard to pin those intrinsically moral choices down. From a Christian perspective, good choices are meant to reward us either with a peaceful heart in this life, or heavenly blessings in the next life. It's hard to classify Christian morality as a cause without an effect.

Behind the commenter's assertion that radical pacifism was the highest good was the contention that this life was relatively meaningless. What mattered was the next life, the destination of the person who was killed. It's a breathtaking statement that comforts some one who has so loosened their bonds with this life that nothing else is important.

While thinking about this, I recalled a passage in the gospels about the rewards of those who would follow Jesus, because I could have sworn that passage referred to rewards in the here and now, instead of being rewarded in the next life.

I found the passage in Mark and then looked up the parallel passages in the other gospels.

What I found will be the basis of my next post.


DH said...

Your post made me reflect back to a business course I took recently where we examined the ethical responsibilities of businesses and business people. In the study of the course, we examined a number of ethical systems including Utilitarian (, Kantian (, and Machiavellan ( among others. The main thing I took from the course was that there are many different ways to examine any ethical dilemna, and oftentimes the most benefit can be gained from exploring a situation from multiple ethical perspectives. Doing so not only gives you a much broader perspective on the situation but also gives you a better understanding and appreciation for how others may view the situation.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Terri
Thanks for the mention.
I loved your exploration above. I am curious how my up-coming post on morality will address your ideas or fit with it.
My model actually tucks in nicely with what DH said above.
He has accurately described "Triangulations" -- the name of my site. Smile.

BTW, love the new photo -- a main reason I keep returning here. ;-)
The hair has changed (how long ago was former photo) but the same gorgeous eyes and smile. (I just came back from 1 week cubscout camp with my son).

terri said...

DH...was that the class with the judge?

Sabio, The other picture was probably from about a year ago, from when my hair was relatively short after growing back from chemo.

Thanks for the compliment, though I will point out that DH is my husband and is very jealous.

He's probably tracking your ISP right now. ;-)

I'm kidding, of course. He's a good guy.

Sabio Lantz said...

Well, at least I complimented the lad's comment, perhaps he will spare my wife and children.