Thursday, April 06, 2006


I watched the local news the other day and I saw U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) standing behind a podium that read “reclaiming America for Christ.” But this post isn’t about Harris or the grassroots organization “Center for Reclaiming America for Christ.” Rather it is a post inspired by both parties and it has to do with the concept of morality. I am now turned off from the word “moral.” I have been over-saturated by this word. I feel used by this word. Pounded. Assaulted. Abandoned by this word. I have now come to associate “moral,” “morality,” with a religious, extremist, take on the word that shuns my sensibilities. I looked up the word on the net and on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on morality I learned a lot about the word.
The encyclopedia suggests that the word can be used two ways: The term “morality” can be used either 1. descriptively to refer to a code of conduct put forward by a society or, (a) some other group, such as a religion, or (b) accepted by an individual for her own behavior or 2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.
Thus, the term, the concept, could and should be used in a wider scope then it is often used today. It refers to an agreed upon normative “code of conduct” that an individual has with society or a certain community. It may deal with religious sensibilities and, then again, it may not. Simply, it refers to normative ethics. Yet, the term still bothers me. There are the “moral majority,” “moral actions,” “moral beliefs” and “moral politics.” All of which I am not included in – at least that is my perception because what I believe in, issues I support, are not, I am told, “Moral.” It is not moral to believe in equal rights for gay and lesbians. It is not moral to believe that a woman has a right to chose. It is not moral to believe in a person’s right to die. Or so I have been told. You may ask, and quite rightly so, who has told me this? I hear it by way of newspapers. By way of political representatives. By way of the radio, the TV, people on the street, fellow students in class—all around me I hear—“that is not moral” or “you are morally confused.” “Wrong.” “Misguided.” I would like to know, who can claim to be the moral majority? Certainly not many (please notice that I did not say all here) Christians who are working overtime to define for me the word and concepts concerning what is moral. I say it can’t be these folks because I hear from many Christians (again I am not saying all) that they are discriminated against. This surprises me because if you were to look at the religious make-up of this country, you would find that the majority of Americans consider themselves Christian in one form or another—although exact numbers are hard to pinpoint. However, I hear how people like me hate them and shun them. And yet, I do not hate or shun—I do, however, disagree on many of the “moral” issues they bring up. A gal in my class suggested that Christians were hated because “people like me” don’t want to allow prayer in the classroom. I wonder, what does one issue have to do with the other? I do not wish to rob anyone of prayer as that would be hypercritical because I pray all the time. Yet, I do not believe that my form of prayer should be forced upon others. Who should our students pray to and in what way? If prayer was allowed in school, what form would be endorsed? Contrary to what “Reclaiming America for Christ” believes, America was and is based upon diversity of religious and social values. And before I hear from folks yelling at me that separation of church and state is not specifically in our constitution, let me kindly counter that it is implied and our supreme court has repeatedly confirmed this interpretation. But let me get back on tract. I am not happy with what has happened with the term “moral.” I am not happy with the idea that if I do not agree with this new narrow use of the word that I am amoral—a-ethical. I understand that not all Christians define morals the same way; if they did we would not have groups such as gay and lesbians for Christ. I do, however, understand that the word has be reworked to imply a mode of being that excludes people who do not hold with a certain spiritual doctrine being lobbied across our country by groups such as “Reclaiming America” and politicians such as Katherine Harris. I wish to suggest an alternative word: “principles.” Why principles? Because the word, at least at this moment, is not shadowed by connotations that it belongs to a certain religious portion of our population. Christians can use the word. Pagans can use it. Atheists can use the term as well as politicians and lay people—anyone and all. All people of different religious backgrounds or folks who are pure secularists. Scientists and philosophers. The word, at least to me, is open for business for all. R

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