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  • Reverend James Squire

Choiceless Choices And A Way Forward

Updated: Feb 8, 2021


We have difficult choices before us as a nation. They are choiceless choices meaning we wish that we were clear of what is absolutely right or wrong. Some of these choiceless choices are: to open schools vs. to do what is safe for children and adults; opening the economy vs. keeping people safe; staying in vs. going out; masks, social distancing, handwashing, and six feet between people vs. not doing that; allowing sports to have a season vs. protecting participants putting self and family members at risk; supporting Black Lives Matter vs. concern for people protesting and the spread of the virus in groups and protecting business and other places.

Systematic ethics is needed to make these decisions in a thoughtful way.

The Utilitarian perspective says that we should choose what is the greatest good for the greatest number. This system requires us to identify our primary group. Groups could be nation, family, or race and then to decide what is best for my primary group.

The Via Media (meaning the middle way) frames the decision as what is wrong but necessary or the lesser of two evils. This is often held by mainline Christian groups.

The Jewish Ethic has the “law of the pursuer” whereby what is pursuing you is a threat to you must enter into the equation. Which of the decisions above is a personal threat to you?

The Roman Catholic Ethic includes the biblical record and natural law as its requirement where the value of human life is the first priority. They are against anything that interrupts the natural continuum. This is why this ethic is against abortion and capital punishment.

In addition to the above perspectives we have “what feels the best to you”. Feelings are your feelings and you shouldn’t have to defend how you feel with others indicating “you shouldn’t feel that way.”

We also have the “reasonable person” standard. You can pick any number, but if 10 people were in a room and see the right decision in the same way that is a good decision. This assumes a degree of diversity in the group. This approach is the basis of our legal system whereby the jury has to reach a decision regarding a particular case that they are deciding.

The slippery slope argument focuses on the decision and unforeseen negative consequences in the future.

We have read and seen a great deal that identifies the various choices that need to be made.

I have not seen a “thoughtful” response to determine action. I think the above decision -making models could help people make the best decision. At least when the decisions are made you can use the above models to help you identify why. There is an important theme that is needed no matter what is decided. We can tolerate (meaning to move forward not necessarily agree with) what we UNDERSTAND.

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