A Conflict of Principle(s)?

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Life is full of contradictions. Grey areas are ever present.

“The motion before you is not in principle one to limit access to a voice or platform to anyone.  We fully support the freedom of individuals or organisations to express their consciences and beliefs.  However, if we are to share a platform with individuals which stand in opposition to our own beliefs and principles, let us make it in a forum of structured debate, where we can make our views of opposition clear. All too often people take the view that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  This is not always the case.  While there may be many with whom we share certain views and principles, it does not follow that all of their views may be held by us.  If such varied views are of a neutral nature, then we need not address them.  But, when someone with whom we share a platform with, hold views which we hold to be incorrect, or even abhorrent, we should make it clear, that our presence on the same stage does not suggest we agree with such view.  It may at time require that we refuse to share the platform, and at the minimum due diligence to make sure that our disagreements, are clear. Due diligence also means we should make an effort to know and understand the views of those we stand beside. Colleagues, there may be those here who have reservations about the motion.  We welcome the debate which will follow. But, I am proud to be a member of a union which has laboured and struggled for toleration. I am proud that we are tolerant of difference.  But I am equally proud that in our history, we have shown one intolerance.  We are intolerant of intolerance.  I ask that you support the motion.”

The above is a seconding speech I gave at a trade union conference. It addresses an old problem of alliances, but also of hierarchies of principle.  We make value judgments every day. We prioritise these, and (ideally) follow the paths which promote our “higher” values.

Conformity and pragmatism are ever threats to the above. We (like many politicians) do some “horse trading.” We make alliances but in doing so have to “give” as well as “take.” We justify one action that we might normally eschew in the name of “a greater good,” or as a “necessary compromise.”

The photo for this post is an example. It is of me at an American Civil War reenactment event.  The persona of the “character” is true to the 21st Century me. I am a Southern man. Born in North Carolina, and raised in Maryland by a Kentucky-born father.  I was college educated in Tennessee. I am a Southern man.  But, I am nevertheless a Union man (in this case the Federal Union of the United States).

Add to this I am a Christian and a minister, thus the uniform of a chaplain.

The question I must ponder is, would this have been true in 1861? As a North Carolina born, Maryland reared, Tennessee educated man, would I have “gone North?” I really don’t know. It is the issue of my Christianity which I hope would be the constant in my decision. My belief in the equality of man, and the authority of secular powers, I think would have still led me to the Union cause.

This (if you have noticed there is only one veiled reference to equality) is not thus far a reference to slavery. Again, my Christian, socially liberal, and altruistic 21st Century self hopes and pleads internally that I would have been anti-slavery. My theological position in this modern age clearly states I would. But what of those other influences, including a Tennessee based theological education? Would my understanding be skewed by teaching I might have received in the 1840s or 50s?  I again hope, that a thoughtful reading of God’s word, would overcome the external influences on my mindset.

Now, I have set the stage.  Are we really any different in 2018? Do we diligently explore the scriptures for our answers? No matter where we may be in the political (and social) divide there are some things God makes clear: Black lives do matter, Me Too should mean that I too am respected, cared for, and never harassed or abused.

I may not have total confidence of the pathway my 19th Century self might have followed, but my Christian-self thinks I would do the right thing. As for my 21st Century self, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).”


One thought on “A Conflict of Principle(s)?

  1. Pingback: A Conflict of Principle(s)? | Guthrie's Writing Cottage

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