I was visiting another church last weekend, and this was in their church newsletter.
“Christian EthicsIn recent months the attention of the wider church leadership has been around the issue of sexuality. It is not however the only ethical issue that we need to address as Christians.In the Netherlands a 20 year old woman was voluntarily euthanised because she could not live with the abuse she had received. Abortion is a lifestyle choice in a society where casual sex is encouraged by shows like The Batchelor. Biotechnology companies are manipulating the building blocks of life in attempt to control disease but also to make a great deal of money while most of the world is living in poverty. Maybe this issue of sexuality will bring the rest bubbling to the surface and force us to address them. It would be easy to worry, but we can have faith that our God is working through all things.”
I was interested in this reflection for what it raised as the issues of Christian Ethics and what it ignored. While it is fair to say that in recent months ONE of the issues taking the attention of the wider church leadership has been the issue of sexuality, it certainly has not been the only one. It has been for the more conservative Anglican churches here in Aotearoa. The prospect of us blessing same sex marriages has been really vexing for some. It saddens me that this has become the only thing for some people. From my position there are some other really pressing ethical issues. And these issues hardly get a mention in this list.
Over the last week or two there has been a lot of publicity around the issue of homelessness – that is people not being able to afford the rent and living in garages, cars, or on the street. Homelessness is not new. We have people who live on the street because of mental health and addiction problems. We don’t seem to be able to find good ways of offering them better solutions.
But what is making the headlines is that this group of homeless people now includes working families. This means we have children living in cars or garages, or in overcrowded housing. The Government has pretended this is an Auckland issue, but here in Tauranga one of the school principals has received a lot of press for her statements around its prevalence in this area, and the effect this has on children. This feels like a pretty big ethical issue to me.
From a biblical point of view, given what the Law of Moses has to say about the use of land and money, and how that was reinforced by the Prophets and then by the teaching and actions of Jesus, I would have thought that this was the really big ethical issue for Christians. But no, not a word. Just a side comment about the so much poverty.
That is the problem with so much of Christianity. We are blind to the ethical issues that include us. Poverty is about us; as employers the level of pay we are willing to offer workers; as property owners the level of rent we want for our properties. And I acknowledge that we are part of that in this parish. We are working on improving our wages, and slowly getting to at least the living wage. But we charge market rental on our vicarage, which helps us pay our bills. We are under market with our other property. It is so much easier to wave our judgemental finger at those people over there – the 20 year old who was euthanised (I note no ethical comment was made about the abuse that led to that incredibly sad situation in the first place), abortion, biotech companies. Those bad people over there that help us feel very self-righteous in our little straight company. Jesus had stuff to say about that too – something about logs and planks.
So my reaction is, yes those are issues we could look at, but how about focussing on the issues that scripture and Jesus invite us to look at – poverty in this land and the effect it is having on our children. And in doing so let us do that in a way that helps us own our involvement in these issues, and how we might be part of the solution. Wouldn’t it be great if this reflection quoted above had addressed this big issue and suggested that all church members who employed people sought to pay the living wage (at least) and took the hit and charged less than market rents? Now that would be something that really addressed Christian ethics.