One of the consistent signs exhibited at the OWC (Occupy Wall Street) protests is the slogan: “People Over Profits”. If you hear them chanting anything, it will probably be this slogan.
It is intended to make the reader or hearer believe two things: --1st that people and profits are a contradiction. That is, one can either support uplifting people or pursue profits, but obviously not both; --and 2nd, given this horrible dilemma, one must choose people.
Now, if the 1st premise is true, then I would agree that choosing people is the better choice.
However, this is a much-used ploy in attempting to fool the opponent with faulty logic by setting up a false contradiction.
Actually, there are very, very few things in life that are truly contradictory. That is because contradictions can’t exist in the realm of reality—a light bulb cannot be both on and off at the same time in the same place. Humans, however, can, and do, introduce logical fallacies.
One that I hear all the time is the argument regarding evil and suffering. It goes like this: 1. Evil and suffering exist; 2. If God were good and all-powerful, He would prevent evil and suffering; 3. Therefore, God is either not good or He is not powerful or He doesn’t exist at all.
This is the classical fallacy of setting up a contradiction when there really isn’t one in order to cause the hearer to make a false conclusion.
Teenagers do this all the time: 1. I will be happy if I can go to Sam’s party tonight; 2. You won’t let me go to Sam’s party; 3. Therefore you don’t want me to be happy and you obviously don’t love me.
Now, a naïve parent can fall for this and say: “Oh, honey, I do love you and want you to be happy.” With big crocodile tears, the kid says, “Then I can go?”
“Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” Leviticus 19:2I’m in Washington DC, participating in Chuck Colson’s Simulcast on Ethics: Doing the Right Thing. He asked me to address “the roots of moral authority”.
It was an interesting topic, because we seldom challenge another’s basis for saying something is “right” or “wrong”. How many times, in conversation, do we hear someone say, “that’s right” or "that's not right". But, we never ask, “how do you know that is right or not right?”
There are several things that people base their ethical beliefs upon. Here are a few of them:
1. The law. Not too many years ago, a physician was working in a Chinese hospital when she was called in to handle a botched abortion. She was in charge that night and couldn’t find the clinician who would have normally handled these kinds of difficult circumstances. Due to China’s one child policy, the abortion had been ordered and so giving the child to the parents wasn’t an option; neither was keeping it alive. She wrestled with what to do as she looked down into the face of this little baby, who was healthy and brimming with life. After searching again for a staff member to do this for her, she struggled internally with her own conscience for a long time. But, in the end, she muttered these words and carried out her duty. She said: “It must be right. It’s the law.”
Here the “law” is viewed as the foundation of ethics.
2. Societal norms. Don Richardson, in his wonderful book “Peace Child” tells of he and his wife’s missionary call to work among the Sawi tribe in the western half of what used to be called New Guinea, now West Papua. The Sawi tribe had developed a societal ethic in which treachery was the highest form of virtue and honor.
"What should ethics in public life look like?" This is the last question in Chuck Colson’s “Doing the Right Thing” series. It is basically asking about ethics in the political arena.
Wow! Is this a loaded question or what?
There have to be a million jokes about politicians. I’m sorry to say that none of them are complimentary. That is sad, actually. Jokes are supposed to make me laugh.
These never do.
Why? Because it is a reflection of how far we have gotten away from the blueprints.
And, if we are going to talk about ethics in politics, then we have to go back to that original design.
It isn’t complex, by the way.
What should ethics in the marketplace look like? Well, we can’t answer this one very well without asking the “design” question first: “What should the marketplace look like?”
To a large extent, our understanding of “right” and “wrong” is aided immensely when we first get a handle on the true design. Without that, we could be guilty of polishing the fire truck before using it to pull a water skier. It might look great, but it doesn’t function very well.
However, questions about ethics or design require us to go back even further. The ultimate answer to any question or issue is best pursued by starting with the nature and character of the One who created it all.
So, let’s begin with the original Worker.
God worked and made an awesome sandbox filled with some amazing raw materials. He then created man, equipped him with gifts and talents, put him in the sandbox and gave him the privilege to be His creative steward. Man, therefore, has the incredible opportunity and responsibility to prosper God’s goods by using his gifting to fashion those raw materials into something greater.
This sounds quite grand, actually!
This is the workplace!
Ah, but enter now the villain and the picture gets a little twisted.
This, too, is a huge question that must be narrowed down to the issue of ethics. Let me reframe it this way: Is there something unique about the human being that demands ethical behavior--either from him or towards him?
To clarify this, let’s use an example.
If a bee possesses honey, is it ethically wrong to remove the honey from its hive? If a man possesses honey, is it ethically wrong to take it from his house? Do we consider it stealing if we milk a cow? What if we take it from the grocer?
If we kill a fish for supper is that any different from killing a man for his wallet? What about pulling a carrot up out of the ground or swatting a fly?
Should we weep eating beets?