Weaponized Ethics

In the file cabinet of my brain, I keep assorted topics and ideas in a folder for future consideration. Maybe it will be a book or an article or something. Somehow, someway, it’s going to get a fuller treatment from me. That my paper last quarter touched on themes I first started sketching out about fifteen years ago, I figure these little topics will eventually see the light of day, even if it’s not quickly (sort of like my second book).

One of these topics nowadays is in the field of ethics. I’ve never been entirely interested in the formal field of studying ethics as an exclusive focus. What’s funny is that in my long time focus on eastern and desert monastics, I’ve definitely built up a fairly strong study of relevant topics. Couple this with the fact that I, at some point, have the topic of sin as another future focus (definitely a book length study), and I’m always a little surprised the subject of ethics doesn’t interest me as much. Or maybe it’s more the fact that the general approach doesn’t interest me enough, and like with the rest of my theological studies, I just take my own road.

None of the previous sentences really matter. Just a way of introducing what is a very unformed thought in my mind.

There is an aspect of ethics that really does interest me, and I see it affecting how I view responses online or in the real world. I’ve come up with a way of describing it. Weaponized ethics.

Now this isn’t warmongering, violent rhetoric that is all about promoting the military industrial complex. Rather, it’s the idea that our discussions of ethics themselves can, and are, used as weapons against our perceived enemies. We make strong ethical points or arguments against certain people, while ignoring our own, similar, failings, or while we ignore the similar failings of others, making excuses for some as we demand perfect moral consistency from others.

This happens a lot in politics, both domestic and international.

Yet, I don’t see this as a consistently Christian approach. If God has expectations for some, he has them for all. That’s the doctrine of sin and salvation. If someone treats a poor person poorly in the United States, that person is liable to judgment. But so also is someone in Mexico who treats a poor person poorly. Or a person in Italy. Or a person in Egypt. Or a person in Chile. Or a person in… wherever. If we excuse or ignore the fundamental evil in one direction, while only focusing on the evil that is most immediate to us, we run the risk of both missing the root causes and undermining our own, supposed, goals for real equanimity.

With a distorted, overly focused, view, ethics becomes an entirely pliable priority that can be used to make specific people feel guilt, even as the guilt is significantly wider.

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One Response to Weaponized Ethics

  1. Pingback: Summarizing contemporary politics and “ethics” » Ravens

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