The Ethics of Representation

I have been thinking about the concept of representation and its relationship to ethics. In all democratic polity in this country, i.e. Congress, State Houses & Senates, School Boards, other Boards involving community interests, etc. representation is valued and it is believed necessary in order to promote fairness. “No taxes without representation” is based on the premise that representation is necessary in order for there to be fairness in taxation for the people.

We know that not to be the case today as it, perhaps, once may have been.  In fact, in politics today, representation of the voter as constituent is almost non-existent pressed up against campaign finance.  Representation today makes political donors the constituent, instead of the common person in the voting booth.  Nonetheless, people hold to the hope that if their voices are heard, their needs may be met, and this is true in institutions of every kind. However, instead of representation being a tool to inform the whole body of any governance, so that the body can make good and moral decisions, which is the true meaning of fairness, it has become a tool of self-centered interests. If this is true, is it possible for representation to be a moral idea?

All of Democracy is based upon this concept of representation as being at the center of fairness. How can any corporate body promote fairness and make ethical decisions, if selfishness is at the core of representation? To be ethical, one must always look at both sides of any issue and determine that which is for the greatest good. The greatest good should always be the mission of any entity. Representation cannot promote fairness and guarantee ethical decision-making if its goal is to simply have it your way, or doing that which pleases oneself, even if those pleased are in the majority. If representation cannot necessarily guarantee an outcome for the greatest good, what then, can determine that the greatest good will be served?

Well, as Christians, we are guided by Jesus in doing the greatest good exemplified in Matthew 22:36-40. We know this as the Great Commandment, a commandment of Jesus that all Christians must follow if they are to be counted righteous by God. Simply put, it is to love God first and then to love your neighbor as you love yourself. The second part of this commandment basically puts one’s neighbors’ needs above one’s own needs, wants or desires. The commandment is not a mandate to love oneself. Jesus simply presupposes that human beings will always love themselves and put their wants and desires before God and neighbor (that whole Adam and Eve debacle). And, who is our neighbor? Our neighbor is anybody other than “self.” It is important, however, that we know what our wants and desires are, as well as those of our neighbors through “representation,” so that we can determine the best way to show our love to our neighbor. Herein lies the clue to choosing the greatest good, whether in politics (choosing a new president) or in church (choosing a new rector). The greater good is going to be that which is good for your neighbors, not necessarily for yourself!

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Side Trips

Today I was driving to Waxahachie from a direction from which I was not used to driving. Lost in thought about how I always end up where God intends me to be, even though I am forever taking these side trips that I don’t particularly want to take because they inevitably delay the journey, I missed my cutoff to Waxahachie.  Continuing in my thoughts, for whatever reason unknown to me I find myself in these places that I cannot wait to leave, yet I know I am there because God called me to that place for a particular time for a particular purpose.  Anyway, these were my thoughts when I happened to miss my cutoff, so I pulled off at the first service station I could find to get gas and directions. Standing out front in her bare feet, smoking like a chimney, was a skinny little lady with long whiskers growing out of her chin.  “Miss, Miss, excuse me, but are you driving down towards Shiloh?”  “Actually, I’m not sure where Shiloh is.  I’m trying to find my way to Waxahachie,” I said.  “Well, I just got out of jail. They impounded my car for an outstanding ticket and it’s just two exits down that way but I don’t have any shoes on.”  “And, you are asking me for a ride?” I asked hesitatingly. The last and only time I picked up a hitchhiker was back when I was in college during a summer break when I was galavanting around Colorado by myself in my new 77 Impala.  I picked up a young Hispanic man, his 2 year old son and a puppy walking in the rain on the freeway.  A few miles into the ride, he pulled out a reafer.  It scared me to death.  I was 19 years old and had a whole year of college behind me, but somehow had managed to keep clear of weed even though all my friends in music school regularly partied with the stuff.  I politely refused his offer to take a “toke” and apologetically put him, his 2 year-old and puppy out of the car at the nearest service station that had shelter.  So, being three decades more cautious than when I was 19, I asked this lady to open her bag and pour out the contents onto the sidewalk, which she glady did. There was no gun or knife, but there were a number of prescription drugs, but nothing that I imagined looked like marijuana or any other street drug.  I looked closely at the citation for her outstanding ticket for which she was arrested. Okay. Story checks out. So, I drive this woman home, which turns out to be about 5 miles in the opposite direction from where I needed to be going to get to Waxahachie.  While in the car, she begins questioning me as to whether or not I go to church. “Yes, I do.” I was surprised to be asked that question. There was no sign of me being a preacher lady in the car, and I felt no need to tell her that I pastored two churches.  She said, “I don’t go to church myself, but I believe in God. Do they speak in tongues at your church?” “Uhhhhh, no, not that I have ever experienced,” I answered.  “What kind of church do you go to?” she asked.  “Methodist.”   “Well, I don’t speak in tongues myself, but I went to a Pentecostal church once and seen them people do it. I was sure slain with that Spirit they talked about.  I think God can come to you in unexpected ways sometimes just to let you know that you’re heading in the right direction.  You know what I mean?”  I smiled,  for this I was certain was true.  We arrived at the trailer park. A man with a beer in his hand was sitting on the steps of her tiny trailer as we pulled up.  “Yes, m’am. I think I do know what you mean,” I responded.  As she got out of my car she said, “Thanks for the ride. I hope you find your way!” I smiled again trying really hard not to burst out laughing.  “Thank you, but I’m not as lost as you might think, Teresa!”  As I drove off, I thought to myself, I could not possibly love God more than I do at this very moment…our God, who constantly reassures us, directs us, and who makes us laugh!  I don’t always like the side trips, those that take 5 minutes anymore than those that take 5 years, but I do thank God for them!!!

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Fear Not

We live our lives under the assumptions that the ordinary events of our culture are the best proving grounds for our conclusions about human nature, when in truth it is the extraordinary events, such as the terror of Sandy Hook Elementary, that reveal to us a darkness that we prefer to ignore.  We ask ourselves why? We desperately want answers because such horrid events pose disturbing questions that go to the very core of our being. The root of our probing and the source of our curiosity, although we may not admit it, is always the question, does the type of evil that is responsible for such destruction lie within me? Are the people who do such heinous acts so different from me that I don’t have to worry about the limits of my own sanity?  We wait to hear the words that will comfort our assumptions about ourselves. One does such a horrendous thing because they were abused as a child, or perhaps they used drugs, and the excuses go on and on.  We hope to hear anything that will point us away from our comfortable assumptions that we are intrinsically good, and that the evil that lurks behind such an act is out of the ordinary.  We fear the truth about human nature, about our selves.  Is human nature really that depraved?  Human nature really IS that depraved, and it is for that reason that we need a Savior. And yet, we fear the one extraordinary event in history that could actually be the cure for the very thing that we fear the most.  The extraordinary event to which I refer is Christmas. Christmas poses questions that are most disturbing to the culture in which we live.  So disturbing is it, that we have turned Christmas into a secular event that makes us feel good about ourselves, in order to avoid the possibility of the reality of what happened on that night in Bethlehem, so we don’t have to face the truth of our own depravity. The horror of this unimaginable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary deeply saddens us, but it also creates in us great fear for it forces us to see the truth about who we really are, souls in need of redemption.  “Fear not…for unto us a child is born.”

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