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[Turing 2013] Christian Entry #2

[Turing 2013] Christian Entry #2 July 16, 2013

This is the second entry in the Christian round of the 2013 Ideological Turing Test.  This year, atheists and Christians responded to questions about sex, death, and literature.  

 

Polyamory

Church marriage (a term I prefer because marriage is not generally held to be a Sacrament in the Anglican Communion) is a marriage between a man and a woman. The identity of the spouses is still disputed within our society, and I am personally torn over whether faithful same-sex couples should be able to marry within the church; however the number of spouses being two is not in dispute. I have seen no arguments for the Church recognising polygamy, and personally would see it as inconsistent with the purpose of a Christian marriage: that a couple, loving one another and loving God, enter into a union together, in order to better serve God, better love one another, and better do God’s work in the world – including, when they have children, the bringing up of their children in the faith. There is a direct reciprocality to marriage which would be broken by bringing in additional spouses, making the union unbalanced and imperfect.

What is more, if the marriage of two men is not appropriate within the church, why should adding a woman to the group suddenly change things? If the Church will not marry Bob and Tom, how is marrying Bob to Tom and Anna okay?

From a civil perspective, I would oppose polygamy on the practical grounds that even as people continue to find marriage to one other person difficult (view the divorce rate), relationships with multiple partners are less stable than monogamous ones – logically, the more moving parts in a relationship the more likely things are to break. And look how rancorous divorces through the civil courts can be with only two spouses – how much worse with many? Adultery is not a crime, at least in this country, and if a married couple wish to have carnal relations with other consenting adults that is their right, albeit I consider it very likely to damage their relationship.

Finally on this point, many have (and do) questioned and opposed the re-definition of civil marriage to include same-sex couples. While I sympathise with their perspective, at least same sex marriage retains the fundamental characteristic of being a bond between two people. Just as the dynamic of a group of friends changes as more friends arrive, so the dynamic of a romantic relationship changes if more people are involved. The dynamic of a man, a woman and maybe children is time-honoured and proven. The dynamic of one man and children or one woman and children is unfortunately common, but nobody claims it as an ideal. The dynamic of two men or two women and maybe children is one that is under test at the moment. Multiple adults plus maybe-children of different combinations of the two adults is an unknown, and at the bare minimum we should not enshrine it into civil law before we know how it is supposed to work.

As I hope has become clear, my argument here is based on both Christian and secular grounds, and should thus be at least partially persuasive to all.

 

Euthanasia

It is permissible to end a life to save others, including oneself. This exception does not generally apply in the case of euthanasia.

It is obligatory to end a life to save others, but not to save oneself – you may choose to sacrifice yourself for a higher goal, but you can’t choose for other people.

Neither of these conditions apply very frequently in cases of euthanasia – not very many terminal patients are likely serial-killers, after all, nor would many of them stop a runaway tram if pushed in front of it.
Looking at the question from the other end, I consider it a requirement that anyone consent to medical treatment before they undergo it, except if they are not conscious to be asked and treatment is urgently required. As such it must be acceptable to allow people to refuse treatment that might, or will, prolong life; there is no consistent line to draw between the two, and the first is a vital part of medical ethics.

I would consider it morally acceptable to provide reasonable doses of painkillers to someone who has refused other treatment, but not to give any treatment which will kill them. Palliative care is the ideal – supporting someone, making the end of their life as pleasant as possible, without cutting it short. I also consider it right that this, as “Assisted Suicide”, this carries a legal penalty. It is the responsibility of a civil society to look after its weakest members, and it is our duty as Christians to look after the least of these, before and around and alongside the efforts of society as a whole. The terminally ill and those afflicted by degenerative conditions are among “the least of these”, and they deserve our care, not being brushed aside like an ailing pet.

In all seriousness, I am uncomfortable with the ease with which we put down sick pets, and would like to see more shelters looking after pets in that position, rather than discarding them as inconvenient; we take on a commitment of giving an animal a home, and care, and affection, and food, and it ill behoves us to renege on this just because they are unwell in a way we can’t cure. The very idea of treating people like pets in this regard is horrifying, when we should be treating our pets more like people.

And the idea that in this fallen world we can instate safeguards such that no-one will be “euthanised” who wants to live but “doesn’t want to be a burden”, is ridiculous. We stopped executing criminals because we were killing innocents, we shouldn’t start killing the sick and elderly because we’re only fairly sure all of those being killed really want to die.

 

Bonus Question

Using Orson Scott Card’s four story factors, I think that the most appropriate milieu is a fairly ordinary modern day setting – it is very tempting in writing a “religious” epic to set it in a fantastical milieu with appearances from angels and so on, but that undervalues the quieter virtues of faith which I see as more important to most of us in our daily lives.

As for the idea, the core idea is that the discipline and practice of their faith helps people with their struggles by bringing them closer to the mind of God. It is easy to grow too didactic in this regard, as some people find Narnia to be – though this is of course fantastical also and thus not my ideal.
Character should be fairly realistic and close-in – first-person is good, to actually see the struggles of our protagonist, but a close third-person perspective might be even better; and the aim should be to show how people are imperfect, but can still rise to the challenges in their path and love their neighbours. The particular flaw matters less than that they are flawed, though sins of which we are almost all guilty are preferable.

Events – a variety of event-series can work. Coming of age stories, crime stories, romances – when written appropriately – can all play their part, and I think this is why I prefer Scott Card’s structure to Christian H’s – I see the milieu, the idea and the characters as fairly key, but the events as less important.
I see Left Behind as the exact inverse of my ideal – it is a sort of reflection of Protestantism’s deepest id, dogmatic, destructive and repulsive, rather than showing a better way by example and thus drawing people towards you.

 

You can vote on whether you think these answers were written by a Christian or an Atheist here.  Comments are open to discuss the substance of the post and for speculation about the true beliefs of the author, so please vote before looking at the comments.


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