Posts Tagged ethics

How Christian Ethics Guide Cultural Engagement – Guy Sayles – EthicsDaily

Guy Sayles

How Christian Ethics Guide Cultural Engagement | Guy Sayles, Ethics, Culture, Community, Civility, Virtues, Discipleship

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us,” Winston Churchill said. “The Churchill principle” is a “church principle,” too, Sayles writes.

How can Christian ethics guide our engagement with U.S. culture?

That is the question my students and I are exploring together this semester, seeking the ways in which various approaches to Christian ethics conflict and converge with the values of U.S. culture or cultures.

One of our conversation partners is Albert Borgmann, a professor of philosophy at the University of Montana, whose book, “Real American Ethics: Taking Responsibility for our Country,” is one of the assigned texts.

Borgmann asserts that Americans’ best ethical commitments include “landmarks of decency” (equality, dignity and self-determination), “virtues of excellence” (wisdom, courage and friendship) and practices of justice, grace and stewardship. Clearly, both Aristotle and Christian faith inform his perspective.

It’s his concept of “real” ethics that I find to be especially helpful. “Real” ethics, he explains, means “taking responsibility for the tangible settings of life.”

Borgmann uses what he calls “the Churchill principle.” In 1943, when the House of Commons had to be rebuilt after Nazi bombing, Winston Churchill said to the members of Parliament, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

The tangible settings of life are the “buildings” – the institutions, shared public spaces, cities, neighborhoods, voluntary associations and households – in which we live.

Corporations, governments, schools, parks, coffee shops, bookstores and families either nurture or constrain our abilities to live ethically.

Borgmann writes, “If we are unaware of how the shaping of our household typically shapes our practices, we can tell our children to do their homework, to stay away from soda pop and snacks, to talk to us and to practice their instruments till we are blue in the face – it will only create frustration and resentment unless our home is so arranged that doing the right thing comes naturally or at least does not require heroic self-discipline.”

It’s a powerful idea: We may and should arrange all our “tangible settings” so that the kind of life we hope to have seems possible.

Our focus is too narrow if we see an individual’s choices and decisions in isolation from the shaping contours of context and community.

Our tangible settings make and unmake us or, at the very least, they enlarge or shrink our vision of what we may become.

“The Churchill principle” is a “church principle,” too. Faith communities make it either more or less likely that people will be able to live a Jesus-kind-of-life.

It’s difficult to nurture peacemakers in a faith community that uses attack as its main way of relating to culture, to encourage love in a group that uses fear to manipulate people’s behavior, and to celebrate the essential equality of all Jesus-followers in a community that privileges the ordained, males, Anglos and the “successful.”

By contrast, a community of servanthood provides an alternative to the culture’s jungle of competition.

A community of generosity offers an alternative to the marketplace of greed. A community that treats people the way Jesus would treat them – not as strangers, but as friends – opens up an alternative to our society’s too-common alienation and loneliness.

Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder once said, “A racially segregated church has nothing to say to the state about integration. … [And] only a church doing something about prisoner rehabilitation would have any moral right to speak – or have any good ideas – about prison conditions or parole regulations.”

What a community says matters only if its words become deeds. Truth calls for more than announcing; it demands enacting.

We need alternative communities guided and inspired by the Jesus-story in which people develop, by means of steady and shared practice, greater capacity for living in the Jesus-way and in which faithful and functional structures support and reflect the Jesus-mission.

Guy Sayles is a consultant with the Center for Healthy Churches, an assistant professor of religion at Mars Hill University, an adjunct professor at Gardner-Webb Divinity School and a board member of the Baptist Center for Ethics. A version of this article first appeared on his website, From the Intersection, and is used with permission.

Tags: , , ,

Profiles in Goodwill – Mitch Carnell –

Profiles in Goodwill: Mitch CarnellEthicsDaily Staff

Profiles in Goodwill: Mitch Carnell | Mitch Carnell, Profiles in Goodwill, EthicsDaily Staff

Mitch Carnell, an columnist, admires Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Pope Francis.

Mitch Carnell is a consultant specializing in effective communication and the founder of the Say Something Nice Day and the Say Something Nice Sunday movements.

Mitch’s articles that have appeared on are available here.

1. Where did you grow up?

Woodruff, South Carolina.

2. What is your favorite Bible verse, book or story? Why?

Matthew 22:37-39.

I think it sums up all of Scripture and gives us unmistakable guidance.

3. What is your favorite movie? Why?

“Driving Miss Daisy.”

It demonstrates in a beautiful way how love and respect can overcome racial, cultural and religious biases.

4. Who are three of the people you admire?

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Pope Francis.

5. What is one little known fact about yourself?

I taught practical speech to Cuban refugees in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Because of the popularity of the television program, “Sing Along with Mitch,” it quickly became known as “Speak Along with Mitch.”


Tags: , , ,

Fifty-two Keys for Living, Loving and Working

Be loyal

Absolutely no one admires a traitor. As long as you take a pay check from an organization, you have an obligation to be loyal. When you discover that you can no longer agree with the direction an origination is going and you are helpless to change the direction, it is time for you to leave. Cherish your friends and colleagues. If they are headed in the wrong direction, speak to them about what lies ahead. Help them do the right thing. Never turn your back on a friend. You do not have to agree with what she or he has done.

Tags: , , ,

Christian Civility Is Applied Christian Ethics

Guest Post by Rev. John Romig Johnson. Episcopal priest, Jungian analyst and former seminary professor.

Recently I said to a fellow Jungian analyst, “Bless your heart.” My colleague took exception.  She is a Southern lady who had become sophisticated in civility and felt “Bless your heart” was patronizing and even a bit of a put down. For me “Bless your heart” was a feelingful phrase equivalent to giving someone a big hug. Saying “Bless your heart” means I know how you feel and I’m with you.

It was my mother’s favorite expression.  For my mother Christian civility was a kind of polite way of being respectful and well-mannered.  She and I grew up in the deep south where saying “mean” things was clearly uncivil. I also noticed that when my mother criticized anyone, she added the sweet phrase “bless your heart” to make it civil, polite. Looking at someone’s badly drawn art, she could say, that’s the worst drawing I ever saw, bless your heart.  So bless your heart isn’t always empathetic.  Hence surface politeness is not Christian civility.  Civility is much more than politeness. It is the act of showing active regard for others—it is applied Christian ethics.

One only needs to listen one day to talk radio or watch TV talk shows, or listen to campaign speeches to come to appreciate that civility is a de mode idea. The debates we have just witnessed in Congress seemed to epitomize incivility with political posturing and narrow self-interest winning over the concern for effective leadership of our country’s economy and future.  In addition, the wide scale fear of cultural, religious and sexual diversity seems to underlie much of the incivility which is present in our country today.

Today’s incivility seems to be a product of the increased Narcissism in today’s world.  All over, on a daily basis we see the horrible results of Narcissistic behavior. Individuals and groups; religions and nations act out their Narcissistic rage at various insults–real and imagined– and people suffer and die for the purpose of the grandiosity of the tyrant, or the glory of the religion. It was said that the 20th century was the “century of the Narcissist”, but the 21st is well on its way to outdoing the horrors of the past as a seeming epidemic of Narcissism .

Christian civility certainly is not just going along with whatever we’re told, that’s stupid not civil. Civility is also not conformity. We need balance, proportion and perspective.  But an important part of Christian civility is withdrawing projections and unconscious responses. Thus self awareness, self knowledge, self understanding are a big part of Christian civility. That is to say knowing ourselves helps us relate to God. 

I think the center of Christian civility comes not only from self knowledge but from an attitude of humility.  Humility is not some shame-based thinking of yourself as unworthy, inferior or flawed.  Humility calls us to have an accurate view of ourselves, seeing ourselves the way God sees us and recognizing we have gifts given by God’s grace to practice and develop.  Christian civility is about seeing you are not the center of the universe and that others matter too.  It means living as a Christian, yet thinking critically, and letting our faith tradition shape who we are and how we see life and its meaning.

I would submit that the most important law for Christian civility is the Golden Rule which states, “So in everything, do to others that you would have them do to you, for this.  sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  Clearly loving your neighbor as yourself means considering other persons point of view and not thinking of yourself as better as or worse than anyone else.

For me, Christian civility is applied Christian ethics both individually and as a community.

Rev. John Romig Johnson, M.Div., Ph.D., N.C.PsyA., is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Charleston , South Carolina , and a member of the New York Association for Analytical Psychology. He has lectured widely on Jungian subjects: particularly marriage and sexuality and issues raised by modern Fundamentalists. For many years he was Professor of Pastoral Theology at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York City .  He is  Senior Priest Associate at St. Stephen’s Church in Charleston, he currently serves on the Professional Development Board for Clinical Pastoral Education for Charleston area hospitals.


Tags: , , ,