Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Posts tagged ‘ethics’

Benghazi- Using Everything to Teach Your Children

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

We home school, so when the news on Benghazi broke it became part of our lesson plan. In our home, everything is an object lesson. It is not just about the facts, but what we can learn from them. Here’s how it played out in our home…

1. You never, ever tell a lie especially when you know it will have a negative effect on someone else’s life.
People seem to forget the lie about the video landed a man in jail, with his reputation besmirched, as he became the person who caused the death of four men through his negligence. It doesn’t matter what his reputation was beforehand. He did not deserve this. Words have consequences, and for this man, a You Tube video that garnered little attention and likely would not have amounted to much now put him into the public spotlight and a jail cell. Why? Because someone lied.

2. When you realize you are wrong, you correct yourself and apologize.
Even if someone thought this really was about the video, when it became clear it was not about the video you come forward and fix your mistake. It is obvious now that it was never about the video, and, as far as I know, no one has done anything to rectify this lie. Instead, the game plan seems to be to pretend this never happened. Pretending a mistake did not happen is not how an upright person goes through life.

3. You do not leave people under your authority in harm’s way.
If Chris Stevens was a child, this would be abuse. He was placed in a dangerous situation, with inadequate protection, and his reasonable requests to the people in charge were denied. If this had been a business, it would be shut down. My daughter hit the nail on the head when she likened the situation to David sending Uriah to the wall then pulling back his reinforcements.

4. If you cannot provide what a person under your authority needs, you do not put them into the situation.
Chris Stevens was an American, and a homosexual. He was sent to an area where there are people who wish to kill both. Calling the residence something other than an embassy because it is not up to regulations is not going to protect this man. CYA is not ‘right,’ and in this case it got people killed. An upright person, one who is worthy of being in charge, worries more about their people than about getting ahead. It should never be about whether or not you can technically get away with it, it is about whether or not it is right to do.

5. When there is a problem, you send help, all the help you can.
No one knows when a situation will end, or what will turn then tide. Everything available should have been co-coordinated and sent. Two ex-Navy seals did a miraculous job holding people off, until they were overcome. What could a few more do? We will never know.

6. You plan for the future- all possible futures.
While there are situations that one cannot foresee, an attack on an embassy in a Muslim country on 9/11 was entirely foreseeable. (O.K. Technically it was not an embassy, just a house with an American in it who officially represented the U.S. -C.Y.A. always looks stupid in hindsight, remember that.) By saying the closest help was 20-24 hours away what you are saying is that you had no viable plan for saving these people who you knew were in harm’s way. This is disgraceful and unacceptable. What was so important in Benghazi that it was worth the lives of four Americans?

7. “What does it matter?”
When people are dead it always matters. It matters to loved ones, and to the people who are under you who want to be assured, as they continue their employment, that they do not become one of the dead. When dealing with death it always matters. This is why we do autopsies. This is why we have hospital ethics committees. This is why we investigate when a body is found. We want to make sure that whatever happened will never happen to another person again. And if your job is to protect these people, and the system you set up failed, you need to know why, and you need to fix it. It should be your top priority, so it never, ever happens again.

8. A leader needs to communicate.
Even if you believe everything that can be done has been done, you need to communicate that to the people you are accountable to. They need to know the situation has been resolved, and that someone cares. Caring may seem like a little thing, but it shows the people who place their lives, and their loved ones’ lives, in your care that they can trust you. People who care understand a families’ need for closure, and to know that their loved one did not die in vain. The people who continue under you need to know that everything will be done so that this never happens again.

So how can we apply this to our own lives?

1. We watch our words. While we try to avoid all lies, we realize that lies that shift the blame to others are especially heinous.

2. We take responsibility for our actions. When we realize a mistake has been made, we fix it. This is especially important in jobs where people’s lives depend on you. In healthcare, if a mistake is left uncorrected a person may die. As an electrician, a house may catch fire etc, etc. You never, ever ignore problems like this and hope no one notices.

3. You do everything you can to ensure the safety of those who depend on you. If your child claims they are being mistreated, you investigate. You do not leave them at the mercy of a bully, or a pedophile etc because it is an inconvenience. And you trust the child to know when he does not feel safe.

4. If you know the situation is not safe, you do not leave someone there. You do not leave a child in a daycare you do not trust. You do not leave your dog outside without water in 100 degree weather. You do not leave a baby unattended by the stairs and hope nothing will happen. You do everything in your power to ensure the safety of those who rely on you.

5. When there is a problem, you get help. You do not refrain from calling 9-1-1 because you might be embarrassed. You do not refrain from seeking medical help because you are afraid of the outcome, or that the doctor might think you are a bad parent. You get help because help is needed and you care more about the lives of the people who rely on you than you do about your feelings and reputation.

6. You plan for the future, even the ones you do not want to face. You buy smoke detectors and practice safety drills. You have flashlights, batteries and back-up power for when the electricity goes out. You purchase jumper cables and have insurance. Why? Because even though all of these things are a waste of money if nothing ever happens, they will be invaluable if something does, and as responsible people, we plan for these events.

7. You examine the things that go wrong in life, and try to keep them from happening again. If you lose a job, you try to ensure your next job will be more secure, either with a better company, or by obtaining more skills (or by not doing the foolish thing that caused you to be fired…). If someone gets hurt, you fix the step, melt the ice, etc. You do not allow others to suffer the same injury if possible.

8. You let people know you care. You show them the fix, comfort them during their time of loss or convalescence etc. Doctors are told that most lawsuits do not begin when a person is hurt, but when a hurt person perceives that no one cares. This applies to teachers, mechanics, waiters etc. Mistakes will be made, but if the person knows you care they can trust that you will do your best to make things right and that is all most people are asking for.

These are just rules of basic living. I think that’s why this scandal, more than any of the others I have lived through, bothers me so much. The other scandals were mainly stupid and involved being incredibly short-sighted (too short-sighted to be in the positions they were in), but this one, this one violates so many principles a decent person should have internalized by just being alive, by just being a parent, by just living in this world, that it causes me to question deeply just how morally bereft our society is, especially when many people have a hard time seeing why this was so wrong…

Let me summarize, in case you missed it:
Our government put our representatives into a situation where we knew there would be people who would want to kill them. They did not provide them with even the minimal security an embassy should have, but instead called it by a different name so they would be exempt from the need to protect them. They then had no plan to help should trouble come. (Or, would not allow that plan to be implemented.) They then stopped the people who were willing to go to help from doing so. Then they lied and told us about a ‘spontaneous protest’ and a video. If we find out this was all to ensure someone got re-elected, it just gets so much worse… How do you not see something wrong?

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Is Sin Relative?

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

Micah Murray asked a few questions on Twitter that I felt should be answered. Unfortunately, to answer responsibly will take a lot longer than 140 characters, and probably longer than most blog posts should be…
He asks about Rahab, and it being seemingly okay for her to lie about the spies hidden on her roof, about the God-commanded genocide in Canaan, and whether sin is relative. These are all excellent questions, and they are often answered with platitudes that convey very little that satisfies that asker.

So here we go…

The first question is: Is there any time when it is okay to lie? And the answer is yes. In my sarcastic/snarky way I usually sum it up like this, “For the most part, God does not condone lying. In the Bible the devil is known as the Father of Lies, and the need to tell the whole truth is heavily stressed. BUT, when a crazed psychopath bent on killing someone barges into your house and asks where someone is in order to kill them you can lie your bottom off.”

How do I come to this conclusion? When the midwives lied to Pharaoh to save babies, they, childless women, were blessed with children of their own. (Ex. 1) When Samuel goes to anoint David as the next king of Israel, and Samuel expresses his fear of Saul to God, God tells him to tell Saul he is merely going to make a sacrifice (which he does do). Why? Because Saul will likely try to kill the next king in order to secure the throne for his children, which he does when he finds out. (1 Sam. 16) Rahab too lies to save lives. We have a bit more trouble with this one, since these men are spies, a job we do not usually consider ‘innocent.’ There are extenuating circumstances here. (Remember, the prostitute is the most godly person in this town.) Canaan and Jericho are not good places. (More on this later. Right now just take my word for it.) It would not be proper to destroy a place without seeing how the people behave for yourselves, so spying, by responsible individuals is proper in this situation. (Jos. 6)

This leads us to the next question: Why is genocide okay in the Old Testament?

What we see in the Bible, during the time of Canaan, are a large number of tiny communities bent on destroying one another whenever possible. Here is a list of their heinous activities:
1. Raiding for fun. (1 Sam 13:17-21)
2. Going to war every spring. (2 Sam 11:1, 1 Chron. 20:1)
3. Killing the wives and children of others. (2 Kings 8:12)
4. Enslaving anyone they wish to oppress. (Judges 2:14)
5. Rape and torture. (Dt. 28:30)
6. Stealing food so the people will starve. (Judges 6:11)
7. Destroying fields and crops so the people starve for fun. (Judges 6:3)
8. Orgies and forced prostitution. (1 Kings 14:24)
9. Sacrificing their oldest child to gain blessings from their gods. (2 Kings 3:27)
10. Burying their youngest child in the foundation of their homes (most likely alive) to bless their house. (archeology)
11. Leaving unwanted babies on rocks to die in the weather or from animal attack. (old writings)
12. Heinous tortures before killing prisoners. (archeology)
13. Killing the old, young and pregnant at the back of a caravan for sport. (Dt. 25:18)
14. Ripping babies out of pregnant women’s bellies while they are still alive. (2 Kings 15:16)
15. Watching baby animals slowly die as they are boiled in their mother’s milk. (Ex. 23:19)
16. Putting their children ‘through the fire’ to see if the gods meant for the baby to live. (Dt. 12:31)

Remember Gideon, who was hiding in a wine press trying to thresh grain where no one would see him? There was a good reason for this. If the neighbors the Israelites did not kill when they were told to saw him they would take the grain, or destroy it, and his family would starve to death slowly that winter. These were people who did evil for fun. (Judges 6)

God does not condone, even during this time, the mass extinction of just anyone. The Israelites are to remain within their boundaries, and are not to keep a standing army. (1 Sam 8:12) They will only have a volunteer force of men 20 and over for defense. (Num 1:3, Dt. 20:8) The rest of the time the men will be at home working their land. (1 Sam 8)

So why did the Israelites need to kill the women and children as well? Aren’t they innocent?
The Bible gives us some answers to this in the story of Haman, and another child that was left alive.
Haman is an Agagite, meaning he is descended from Agag, the king Saul was supposed to kill. Tradition tells us that between the time Saul captured Agag, and Samuel arrived, Agag escaped, hid with a concubine and she conceived. The result was the line that produced Haman. Haman was not part of a group that wished to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. (1 Sam 15, Esther 9:24) 1 Kings 11 also tells us about a baby who grows into a man who causes great trouble for Israel, though in his case Joab was wrong for killing his people…

Further, many remind us that the innocent go to heaven. If they had continued to live here, learning to hate, this would likely not be their eternal fate. We also see, in the rescue of Lot, that God does save the righteous from destruction when there is hope.

Still, the genocide we see in the Bible occurs in extremely limited times, and for extremely limited reasons. Abraham is told that the land cannot be his because the sin of the people in the land is not great enough to warrant eviction. (Gen 15:16) We see that the people who fled Canaan were not killed, only the ones who stayed. (Gen. 9:4) And we see, once the era of warlords and terrorists ceases in this area, the Biblical instruction is to obey the laws of the oppressors and work to bless them. (Jer. 29:7, Lk 6:28) Orders to wipe everyone out are only for those who are extreme in their cruelty as a society, and, it seems, only with a very clear mandate from God.
So, is it all relative when it comes to sin? Not in the way most people speak of it today, but in many ways, yes, it is.

We have seen that you may lie to protect the innocent, but let us look at a few more examples.

Aaron’s oldest sons offered incense of their own design, instead of doing what God told them, and they were smote. Right after this Aaron’s younger sons did not eat the portion of the offering as God told them to, but instead burned the whole thing. They disobeyed, but were not smote. Why? Because their motive was to please God. They felt they were not worthy to eat part of the offering due to what had happened to their brothers today. (Lev. 10:19-20)
We then see the priest giving the Bread of Presence to David and his men to eat, even though it is set aside to be eaten by the High Priests alone. Jesus emphasizes that this was not a sin. Why? Likely because David’s men were truly in need of food. They had come to the Tent of Meeting hoping to share in a fellowship offering (which was typically offered and shared with all who were there). There was no food, even the regular offerings seem to be missing. Why? Because the people were not sacrificing as they should. The priest is now in a bind. He can either refuse hospitality, and refuse to feed truly hungry men, or break God’s rule. God’s rule was likely meant so the priests were provided for. Here David and his men have a greater need, and it is apparently okay to prioritize that need. (Mk. 2:25-28)

We also see in Hosea 4:14 that God refused to punish the women who turn to prostitution and adultery because of the actions of the men that lead to this corruption.

This does not mean that we allow everyone to do whatever they want. Jewish theologians point out that these situations typically occur when one commandment is in conflict with another, so one must weigh the two and decide which is the more important one to follow. We do this today.

No one calls an ectopic pregnancy that is treated by removing the embryo growing in the fallopian tube an abortion. Why? Because the baby will not survive if left to grow there, and it will likely kill the mother, cause her serious problems, or affect her future fertility if left alone too long. Would it be nice if we could relocate the embryo and allow the pregnancy to continue? Sure, but we are not there yet, so we have to make a choice. And since the choice is baby and mom die, or just baby die, we choose to remove the baby.

We also allow police to enter a home if they have reason to believe someone is being attacked without a warrant. Preventing a murder supersedes your right to privacy.

So, how did we all learn that there was never a time to lie in most of our churches, and that morality was black and white, when the Bible clearly teaches it is not always that way?

Most people point to a man named Immanuel Kant. Despite his name he was not a Christian, but a philosopher who taught a very absolute view of morality. This philosophy leaked into he church, and has remained part of many sermons. The Jewish people do not appreciate his teachings, since many Jewish people were saved because of the lies told by their Gentile neighbors. Kant would have been honest, to the detriment of the Gentile and the people they were protecting…

Gandhi had a similar problem. His teachings of non-violence worked well in India, against England, a country that had a few people in charge at the time whose morality could be appealed to, once one got their attention. Gandhi then wrote to England advising them not to resist Hitler, telling them that their non-resistance would cause Hitler to see his sin and change his ways. The Jewish people were not impressed by this advice either.

As we see, there is a time for certain actions, but other times completely different means are necessary. It takes wisdom to know when to do what. This is why we must study our scripture, talk about it, and debate every option in depth before situations occur, because life is not easy. It is not an ‘if this then this’ style of existence. Sure, there are things one must absolutely not do, but then there are the extremes, when life is so full of sin and wrong choices that it is hard to know how to work your way out. This is why we need to study, and pray, and remain close to God, not so much for the easy days, but for the days when nothing seems like a good choice.

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