Archive for Ethics

Government of Pakistan provides active support for sexual minorities

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 30 April 2011 by Michael Hampson

The government of Pakistan is providing active support to the transgender Hindu Hijra community by recognising their gender and by actively promoting their welfare through government employment.

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Peter Vardy on Good and Bad Religion

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 30 January 2011 by Michael Hampson

Peter Vardy’s new book Good and Bad Religion is reviewed by Gavin D’Costa in The Tablet.

Vardy argues that those in religions should join with atheists in criticising bad religion.

Hear, hear.

Atheists likewise should recognise complexity, colour and difference within a single religion, as well as learn that their own naturalism is not quite as unquestionable or self-evident as they sometimes think.

Vardy goes on to suggest rationality and virtue as standards by which to judge good and bad religion – and good and bad secularism.

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JD Salinger anniversary: Success is phony – failure is Christlike (The Catcher in the Rye)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 29 January 2011 by Michael Hampson

For Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, success is phony, those who make it their goal and purpose are phony, and those who try to make it your goal and purpose are phony.

Discussion around Salinger’s anniversary this weekend reminded me of this passage from God without God, which celebrates not success but failure as the truly Christlike virtue.

One final factor remains in the human experience of nagging guilt and low self-esteem: not the committing of sin, but the failure to do sufficient good.

Once again Jesus and the cross are our redemption, for Jesus also failed. The cross in particular represents spectacular public failure.

Jesus began his public ministry in the synagogue– a reformer within the established tradition – but he failed in this attempt at internal reform. He was driven out of the synagogue in Nazareth, and he took instead to preaching in private homes and public spaces. Eventually he identified the established religious order as an enemy, making him a revolutionary rather than a reformer. Public support for his radical agenda was at its politically most significant on Palm Sunday, when he was welcomed into Jerusalem by the crowds. Just five days later he was dead, executed by the cooperation of the political and religious authorities. His mission had failed.

If our human god was an achiever of any kind – a Ghandi or a Mandela, a warrior or a king, a rags to riches entrepreneur or Cinderella – every one of us would be judged to be a failure in comparison. But our human god is not an achiever. Our human god is a spectacular failure: a failed reformer, and a failed revolutionary. To be truly and literally Christlike is not to succeed, but to fail spectacularly.

To have your heart in the wrong place is to sin, and there is forgiveness. To have your heart in the right place and to succeed is good – though the way is strewn with temptations, to pride and self-importance and self-righteousness. To have your heart in the right place and to fail spectacularly is to be truly, literally, Christlike: it is a vision of human divinity, a paradoxical human perfection, to which we can all aspire.

To fail as a parent, to fail as a spouse, to fail in a career or a ministry or a charity, to fail as a reformer or a leader or a mediator, to fail as a teacher or a carer or a social worker, to fail as an artist or an academic or a church volunteer: all of these achieve true Christlikeness, if only the heart is in the right place.

On the day that marks his definitive failure, the day of the crucifixion, Jesus is betrayed, denied and abandoned by his closest followers. If the existence of a church organised in his name today – in various forms two billion strong – is to be regarded as any kind of success, it was achieved not by Jesus himself but by the ordinary human beings who took it on and made it work in the days and weeks and months and years and centuries following. For the rest of us, to have failed spectacularly, but to have inspired just one other person in the effort – perhaps without even knowing it – is enough.

And the final guilty fear is that we could have done more of the less spectacular good: fed more of the hungry, tended more of the sick, as Jesus commends in the parable of the final judgement. And once again Jesus is our example, for sometimes even he would walk away. In the very first chapter of Saint Mark, they lay out the sick in the streets for him, but he has already gone into the hills alone to pray. They call him back, to attend to the sick, but he refuses, and presses on to the next town instead. Sometimes we have other responsibilities, sometimes we just need to be alone; our finite, failing Jesus is our example, our salvation, and our God.

Full text with footnotes here

Salinger died 27 January 2010 aged 91

More on the Salinger anniversary here

Breaking the monopoly of marriage: why the catholic celebration of celibacy is a positive, not a negative, for LGBT people

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 27 January 2011 by Michael Hampson

In most protestant churches, there is only one acceptable expression of sexuality, and only one acceptable lifestyle: marriage has the monopoly.

Anybody who is not married is regarded as having a lesser lifestyle, and one that must be defined in terms of marriage: not yet married, previously married, failed to marry.

Only the catholic church celebrates an alternative lifestyle that breaks this monopoly: positively chosen celibacy – the vocation of monks and nuns and priests – is celebrated not just as an alternative, but as superior.

This is sometimes seen as a negative for LGBT people – as anti-sex.

But it can be a huge positive, because it breaks the oppressive monopoly of marriage.

It is a positive celebration of an alternative lifestyle, a positive celebration of diversity.

From the book: The sexual minority which is the non-marrying, single-sex religious community is known in cultures throughout the world and throughout history. The importance of the western tradition’s celebration of this sexual minority should not be underestimated, as it breaks the moral monopoly of heterosexual marriage, and does so with absolute confidence. Read on >>

The first and most important commandment: never claim to know the mind of God

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 24 January 2011 by Michael Hampson

In the top ten commandments, before murder, adultery, theft and perjury; ahead of covetous envy, and family duty; before the wise advice to take a day to unwind, comes this commandment, greater than them all: never but never presume the authority to speak in the name of God.

So much harm and evil has been done by taking that liberty, making that presumption, to claim to speak on God’s behalf.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”.

This familiar commandment is not about putting ‘OMGosh’ instead of ‘OMG’.

It is about presuming to know the mind of God, and presuming to dictate to others on that basis.

That is taking the name of God in vain.

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