Thursday, May 15, 2008

fear and trembling: the ethical question


Kierkegaard's book analyzes the old testament story of Abraham and Issac. basically God told Abraham to murder his son, an indefensible, unjustified and unethical command with which he complied.

the fact that at the last moment God said "stop, I was just testing you" is irrelevant. Abraham was carrying out an act of murder and so had accepted that mindset. this submission to a perception of something greater than oneself is a scary, recognized, human trait. note "Islam" in english directly translates to "submission".

so, when God is on the line, do you take the call? have him leave a message? remember that avoidance is still a decision and if the issue is important, non-action is as serious as any action that you do...

I heard a disturbing story on "This American Life" recently. in it Alex Kotlowitz interviews a woman whose abusive father probably killed someone. she reported her suspicions to the police, but the detectives didn't pursue the matter. she let it go -- even though the guilt of not acting forcefully enough and following up with the police ate at her. years later, a review of the cold case resulted in a conviction -- of the wrong man. he spent years in prison until somehow the woman heard about him and she finally came forward with what she knew. he considers her his angel, but she still feels terrible about it.

...cut to my dream last night. I'm at work and get a phone call from a stranger -- maybe it's a wrong number, I don't know. he wants me to go meet him at the police station in 5 minutes - he needs a witness and is afraid for his life. I have no idea what is going on. he insists he needs me so the police don't beat him or shoot him. what can I do? what should I do? hang up? sorry, wrong number? I don't want to get involved? it sounds very important; my decision could have life impacting consequences.
I think...
"on what basis and with what justification are you asking this request, and how is it that you are asking this request of me and not someone else?" of course, the answers to these questions may not be enough to make the right decision... we should in any case know ourselves well enough to be prepared to make the choice. you may be selfish, you may be foolish or mixed up or even consider yourself wise and caring; whatever you honestly are, you must admit to yourself.

Bob Dylan said "you gotta serve someone". personally, I think I serve many masters. in the end they all boil down to one, but who's to say that end is ever reached?

3 comments:

doozie said...

That story of Abraham and Isaac has always haunted me. You see, I am a rebel. I don't blindly follow instructions, never have. If God told me to kill my Walter? I'd tell him NO. I'm not obedient. maybe thats why I'm divorced, but after all, He made me didn't he? He made me stubborn and independent in my thoughts. He made me loyal and trustworthy. He made me a person who would lay their own life down for a loved one, but would never go for killing that loved one just because He asked me to. I think that test was ridiculous. If God is all knowing, wouldn't he already know Abrahams heart? Would he really need to test him? I think not. Why would he play with our lives like we are pawns in a chess game? Why would he test us/ bless us at his whim.

The more I think about it the more "out of control" I feel. It makes no sense that He is in control and I'm not, but I have a free will? Apparently I don't have a free will because everything boils down to what God wants. I will die when He says it's time etc. I might as well just throw caution to the wind and wait for His will. I gave up a long time ago trying to decipher Gods will. He confuses me, and I don't want to think about it, so I just live and let live. But as for murdering my boy? not gonna happen, throw me in hell if you must God.

cooper said...

Glad to see you are still around.

We never know, we really don't. No matter how we know are self we can only best guess the circumstance.

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