Sunday, March 12, 2006
The "As Long As It Doesn't Hurt Somebody Else" Argument
John Donne, 17th Century English poet, wrote: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind." He, yes, originated the "no man is an island" quotation, so that is not in the Bible, but I think the jist of it was already in Romans 14:7, which says, "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." What spurred this train of thought was a conversation I had with a lady in our church this morning. She takes care of her fifty-four year old son and right now he's in the hospital. I asked her how the hospital care was going because I knew she had trouble before. She chronicled the lack of attention, missed medications, and then even an attemped double dosage. I mentioned that these types of things occur more and will only get worse because people's morality really does impact other people.
"As long as it doesn't hurt somebody else" has become the creed in a new morality. When the Supreme Court recently ruled against a Texas sodomy law and for that very reason, they validated this new paradigm of justice. A common abortion argument is: "A woman should have the right to her own body, so as long as she doesn't hurt anybody else, the state should allow her an abortion of her fetus." For this to work, of course, the "mass of tissue" must be a fetus. If it is a person, then I guess someone else really is getting hurt. Setting that argument aside, however, I ask if we do have a basis for arguing on behalf of laws of morality because each of these immoral acts does impact somebody else. What do I mean? The immoral acts strike at the value of life itself. The more people devalue life, the worse the private and public service we will have. Life erodes away under the disrespect it receives.
I believe that a lack of reverence for the 8th commandment, thou shalt not steal, results in the eminent domain thievery of people's private property. The estimated financial gain of a city is more important than one person's right to his own property. You see, immorality ultimately does come back to get us. It's not so bad shopping at the new downtown redevelopment as long as it doesn't mean making grandma move from her childhood home. Can you say nostalgic value? I know you can't measure that on Wall Street. And grandma only votes one time.
Speaking of islands, the Tasmanian devil, named after its island home doesn't live or die to itself. At least the wallabie doesn't think so, as the devil devours it bones, fur, and all with very powerful jaws. Devilish really. Every creature in the God-ordained food chain affects one another with its "personal decisions." Every egg you crack certainly impacts the poulty farmer. We can't hardly move without making a ripple somewhere with what we do, so that all the things we do really do impact someone else and then even who knows who all else. What they did in Florida to Terry Schiavo when they unhooked her feeding tubes could become you and no one will even care. Allowing that kind of disrespect of life could very easily affect your hospital care next time you go in for kidney stones. Better be sure they don't take the appendix. Devilish really.