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Letters from Downunder

Ostrich Morality

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

 “What is morality at any given time or place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like, and immorality is what they dislike.”

A. N. Whitehead, Dialogues, 1954

(10/12) I'm not sure how many divisions, splits, sects and factions there are at present within the Christian Church, and it doesn't really matter, because there is one thing that is supposed to unite them in a common cause: The teaching of morality. This is based on one quite simple precept, that whatever a Christian says or does reflects straight back to their founder, Jesus. If it honours him, whether in thought, word or deed, it is to his glory and therefore to the follower's. If it does not it is shameful, for it brings into disrepute his name, his legacy, and his teachings. And thus the follower's and the follower's sect.

So, what exactly IS morality? According to the dictionary it is the adherence to the conventional standards of moral conduct - which is no definition at all, for what then is moral conduct? There is, as well, an even better definition in a certain other dictionary, compiled by that wonderfully artful American Ambrose Bierce: 'Moral', adj. "Conforming to a local and mutable standard of right. Having the quality of general expediency." This means that morality is in the hands of the person or group who may justify their own standards by whatever is expedient at the time. No proof necessary, and many examples to quote in support of their stance - and an equal number to ignore that go against it.

Most of us, of course, recognize that the fundamental teachings of Jesus are easy to understand and apply, and some really do try hard to live by them. Some of them, anyway. Top of the list for many is based around the idea that life is sacred; that, seeing God made us all, we should honour him, and therefore his son, by doing no harm to another person. As well, we should not steal, commit adultery, or do any of the other things that appear throughout the bible, whilst doing the things we are commended to do: Honour our parents, give to the poor, have no other god, do good to all men, and so on. These other things are, of course, pretty much on the outer rim of obligations, as I doubt I could name one person who abides by them. You may be different, of course, but I truly doubt it.

Most of us, however, like to imagine we live lives that can be called moral - at least opposed to immoral - for we know that to co-exist with our fellow man we have to have rules that foster and permit peaceful coexistence. And we also must recognize that these change over time, that things once frowned upon by the majority are now commonplace, things once accepted and blessed are now anathema. And when some people do not embrace such shifts in moral acceptance they get upset, rant and rave, form pressure groups, and try to cling to the old ways. Like that revival song says, 'Give me that old-time religion, it's good enough for me." Oh yes? Does that include witch trials, the Ku Klux Clan, slaves, women only in the kitchen and birthing bed, and so on? That's not religion? That's not ethical? Well, yes it is, for all those things and many more were accepted, promoted and blessed by the churches of the time. And accepted by the community as natural, normal, and therefore proper.

They were morally good then but are so far away from morally right now that their introduction would cause a storm in every hamlet. (I hope). Such things are now so immoral that anyone condoning them would be imprisoned - at least. But what would be the result if one of these pressure groups got the Government to pass a law that say legalized slavery? All hell - to coin a phrase - would break loose. A whole war was fought over this issue, and no one, not even the most cynical, would support it now.

So why, would someone please tell me, is the owning of a gun by Americans considered to be a moral right? Sure, the constitution permits the 'bearing of arms', (the idea might have sounded good at the time, but no one foresaw the outcome), which has been transformed into 'buy a gun or you'll be at the mercy of all the the bad people out there'. The frontier mentality, which originally saw that right enshrined in a document, (one that is revered by all), has been transformed in to the notion that there is still no real civilization in the country. The gun lobby says that any attempt to limit the sale and proliferation of gun ownership is against your inalienable rights - as set down in the constitution. This means that is it legally OK to have the means to kill and injure a person, a human, in your possession, in order to protect oneself or ones property with such potentially lethal force. And when, as has happened so often, protection turns to aggression and the taking of life at random happens, a sad shake of the head is all the reaction it gets.

Morality has been long high jacked by powerful people who profit from the manufacture and sale of weapons to citizens. They also do so by promoting wars, insurrections, skirmishes, and the overthrow of elected leaders. War and the use of weapons it their bible, their god, and It is the most repugnant aspect of life in your great and wonderful country. It is like seeing you all swim in the sewer as you pretend it's normal, that it moral, that it is right. Believe me, from down here, where guns are banned for everyone who cannot show beyond all doubt that they need one - usually a rifle for a farm, or to practice target shooting -death or injury from gunshot is very rare, and no one jumps up and down about it.

The sale of guns to the general populace for pretty well any reason is about as immoral as it is possible to get. You are a Christian? Good. Take your head out of the sand, don't be an ostrich, and reflect the glory of Christ by helping remove this stench from your country.


From Down Under, the safe haven.

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker