Thursday, August 14, 2003

Title: "Social Morality: Three Questions"

The venerable preacher E.V. Hill once said, "Some are for the left wing. Some are for the right wing. I'm for the bird flying." Today's American public square is full of large egos on the left and right each yelling so loud that serious thought is drowned out by a cacophony of cliches, hyperbole and insults.

In this first installment of my cyber-thoughts, I want to follow Socrates' modus operandi and ask three questions to get our world-wide web chat started. For all who choose to reflect rather than react, I offer the following as a place to begin. Social stability requires both explicit and implicit agreement on some values, such as fairness, justice, respect for others, etc. When it comes to social cohesion, we are in the midst of a half-century of rancorous and even subversive debate.

Simply put, what are we going to 1) prohibit as destructive to the social order and on what basis do we penalize infractions? Second, what behavior are we going to permit regardless of the personal preferences of various groups? Finally, what will we promote as necessary and valuable to continued progress as a society?

Prohibit, permit and promote give us a way to organize our thinking as ponder the implications of our often glib dismissals of others' opinions. Pick your category or topic and these words come in to play. Economic policies, sexual morality and the relationship of religion and culture all cause us to pause and consider our opinions and policies.

Next week I will tackle the tangled web surrounding the word, "tolerance".

Meanwhile, let's have some intelligent fun and apply my "P-3" questions to the burning issues of the day. Remember, we live in a pluralistic society...but we have to agree on some "first principles" to have reasonable order. In 50 words or less, feel free to email me at your thoughts on social morality. I will publish a variety of responses and we will be off and running together.