Monday 15 December 2008

Ethical Focus, Pointless Theology

Quite why Archbishops need to release Christmas messages I don't know: are we perhaps missing something? The Archbishop of Canterbury has released his, with a focus upon children.

Already it is being misused by the doctrinal and the anti-abortion lobby. Peter Ould is bouncing up and down as the Archbishop has been "playing a blinder". Indeed, there might be some blindness involved.

Clearly, at the moment, everyone is horrified that, after all we learnt about Victoria ClimbiĆ© (2 November 1991 – 25 April 2000), that there is yet another death of a child, Baby P, and yet again a failure of social services and other agencies. Yet again people wonder how such can take place to start with, and how all the warning signs get missed, and this with Baby P after the introduction of Every Child Matters. Others have discussed this at length. It says something about the human condition that people can treat the relatively helpless so badly.

As well as recent events, the Archbishop points to the difficulty of children's lives in this developed country, as well as the abuse elsewhere with child soldiers and the genocide of children in Nazi death camps.

What I object to is that this, which is self-evident to anyone with an ounce of ethical insight, has to be preceded by a lot of myth about a child being God from conception. He writes:

Although what we learn from Jesus Christ and what his life makes possible is unique, that life still means that we look differently at every other life. There is something in us that is capable of communicating what God has to say – the image of God in each of us, which is expressed in its perfection only in Jesus. Hence the reverence which as Christians we ought to show to human beings in every condition, at every stage of existence.

It says something about the dangers of religious myth that the Pastor at the Mission Ensemble Pour Christ offered prayers for Victoria ClimbiƩ to have the devil cast out, and assumed that her injuries were the result of demonic possession. This contrary impact needs to be stated. I bet the Pastor thought Christ was unique too.

What makes us unique is not a foundational religious myth: what makes us unique is that in general we are aware of our awareness, that we perceive our perception. We further express it and can do so with incredible depth and precision thanks to symbol manipulating and language abilities. We understand the complexity of pain and pleasure, and in developing an individual ethic of such individual perception, we offer that to others, and ought to offer basic standards as widely as possible, whatever the ability or disability, and we might offer it to all possibilities of aware sentience.

Uniqueness is that which comes through my eyes, ears and other senses is mine, and processed in my brain, and what comes through your senses and processed in your brain, and that collective uniqueness that we can talk about it and even record what we have talked about.

What perfection is expressed in Jesus not expressed in every other precious human being? Do we know where or how he was born? No. Do we know how he was as a child, or a teenager (if we can can have such a concept in Palestine) in terms of his behaviour? No. What was his family condition like: when his father was possibly a builder (broader than carpenter). We have no history on the whole working out of motivations and the rest.

What we do have is an insight via ealy Christians on a man with a mission, who had healing, teaching and preaching abilities (even gifts), and who reversed some of the warped ethics of the day, and put them into a context of service and sacrifice for a greater goal that God would bring. We have no insight of perfection at this or any other time, and certainly not as an embryo or foetus.

I have no sympathy for this myth making into some sort of psudo-history. Of course Christmas becomes a part celebration of childhood, as in the universal baby and the universal child and other constructions. Some people invest this child with innocence, though the argument must be that innocence is a quality achieved when guilt is possible.

I regard the foundation of the Archbishop's argument as intellectual rubbish. He can, of course, believe what he likes, and people do. The main concern is what actually happens: the abuse that keeps taking place, the exploitation, the pressures on childhood (though some pressures on children can make more assured and confident adults), and the misuse of children in adult 'tribal' fights. As for the foundation of the argument and the Archbishop as a Church leader, it just gives the fundies another "playing a blinder" he's 'one of us' thrill for five minutes.

1 comment:

Doorman-Priest said...

"The argument must be that innocence is a quality achieved when guilt is possible."