According to Wikipedia, Christian ethics “is a branch of Christian theology that defines concepts of right (virtue) and wrong (sinful) behavior from a Christian perspective.” To be honest, it really should just be called “ethics, with a theological bent.” Whatever you call it, it’s what I am going to be studying it at seminary and I would like to tell you why.
I feel as though my life was the epitome of middle class America. It’s more than just being white and in suburbia, though. It’s a way of thinking.
It’s being embarrassed for other people when they loudly voice their disapproval of “the system.”
It’s reasoning that we should stop conversations about race and gender biases because they only lead to more discrimination.
It’s telling others not to be offended because you’ll only cause trouble.
It’s about never wanting for anything because you don’t understand what it is to “need” something.
It’s being entitled to happiness at all times; and complaining when things don’t go your way.
To be clear, this is not about the way I was raised. My family taught me better; and I’m especially grateful to my sister for never letting get away with such lazy thinking (though you could have been nicer about it. Love you! 😛 ).
There’s lots of things (nature, nurture, etc.) that caused my thinking to become so insulated. And I can only look back in embarrassment at some of the ridiculous things I consistently said, or did, just a few years ago.
Like announcing my friend’s name in a stereotypical Japanese announcer voice, because he was Japanese, and I was entertained by it.
Recycling stupid jokes; particularly of the Helen Keller and women, variety.
Recycling stupid Jewish jokes with the excuse of “it’s OK, I’m Jewish.”
Watch hours of porn because I was single and “didn’t want to hurt ‘actual women.”
So what changed? During my time in Bible College I had already felt something turning inside of me. By the end of it all, I didn’t feel as though I recognized myself. Events were happening in my life that forced me to re-examine the things I held deeply. It turned out that it wasn’t my convictions that needed changing: it was my heart. My life and words simply weren’t reflected in the things that mattered most to me.
I didn’t know where to start, so I just started reading people I knew I would disagree with. I didn’t think women should be senior pastors, so I read Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey. I didn’t think that racial disparity was a big deal, so I read Eugene Cho and Ta-Nehisi Coates. I didn’t think being Jewish, or Jewish studies in particular, was even relevant so I began to read Krista Dalton.
And the more I read them the more I found myself asking more questions of, not just myself, but the world. The point of reading authors who I inherently had biases against wasn’t to suddenly change my mind, or even challenge their views. I needed to hear what they saw. To feel what they felt.
I changed because of it; and I am a better man for it.
My newfound passion for ethics comes from understanding that there are so many who are like me. People struggling to see why the world suffers the way it does and invent reasons to do nothing about it because it’s just easier that way. For the sake of the Kingdom of God I simply can’t live like that, anymore. I want to find a new way by discovering the ancient one.
So please pray for me as I move ahead in Seminary. God knows I need every bit of it. And equally as important is the need for others to come along side me. Real discipleship doesn’t happen in a vacuum and while I am sure my professors and fellow students will be able to help me here; I will need to rely on other voices I’ve grown to trust over the years.
Theological ethics might not sound like the most ground breaking of disciplines; but as we move forward it may turn out to be one of the most foundational for future generations.