The 10 Question “Why be good” Matrix

With the ability to reason morally being central to education at Principia, I thought it would only be appropriate to look at the handouts from the Moral Reasoning Seminar.

One of the handouts was the 10-question “Why be good” handout (it seems likely I will be referencing it again it is really quite the handout). I’m not sure we ever did more than a quick glance over it, but seems worth a look as it was an Office of Student Life-handout.

Making decisions based on spiritual ethics:

Why be good?

If I take this action ___________, what harm will it do? (drink, take drugs, live with my boyfriend, cheat on a test, watch a porno movie, lie, shoplift, etc. etc.)

  1. Is this the most LOVING thing to do?
  2. Does it come from God? Where is the impulse coming from?
  3. Will it hurt anyone in the long-run? in the short term?
  4. What’s my motive? for pleasure? self-gratification? to hurt myself? to hurt someone else?
  5. Would I want to perpetuate this value to my own children?
  6. Are there consequences for doing this? Internal? external? Are they worth it?
  7. Can we agree there is a standard to measure our actions by> (Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments, according to Principle, God’s Law?_
  8. What if someone did to me what I’m getting ready to do? Would I like it, or want to put up with it?
  9. What if the majority of the world did this thing? Would the world be better off?
  10. Is this a selfish or unselfish act?

First and foremost I find it interesting that the examples given: drink, take drugs, live with my boyfriend, etc. are all ones that would be frowned upon (or are outlawed) by the Principia administration. They also jump to the immediate conclusion the action is likely to be harmful. This begs the question why not look for the good? In the long run would excessive consumption of alcohol benefit anyone? Nope.

Then there are the sorts of situations that falls into an artificially constructed grey zone that seems to exist only at Principia:

  • If I go to the ER to take care of what I feel is an urgent-care need instead of relying solely on prayer, what harm would it do?
  • If I tell my RC that my roommate has gone to the ER for an urgent-care need instead of relying solely on prayer, what harm would it do?
  • If I choose to drive across the country with a member of the opposite sex and share hotel rooms to keep the cost down, what harm would it do?

None of these are given as examples so we’ll run one of the examples they offer through the reasoning matrix:

  • If I (a mature adult of legal drinking age) drink (a single glass of wine with dinner) what harm will it do?
  1. I don’t really see what loving has to do with it. I can love/appreciate the taste of fine wine. I don’t see my choice of beverage with dinner as a moral issue. If I’m somewhere where the water is dangerous to drink then yes, it is VERY loving that I’m partaking in something safe to consume (I love myself and don’t want to die from little microbes – although Ms. Eddy denies their reality, I’m not going to tempt stupid).
  2. God created the grapes that made the wine, and I am appreciating God’s creation. The “impulse” to have something to drink with dinner is a physical one, most people drink something with dinner (but I’m a Spiritual Being, I don’t need dinner…). See above comment about safe water, I’m feeling compelled to live.
  3. In the long-run if I drink too much it may hurt my liver, I also shouldn’t drive anywhere. But the liver-issues aren’t real in Christian Science, nor is alcohol’s influence over me (I’m a Spiritual being after all, and Spiritual Beings don’t need livers and they’re not material, so alcohol has no influence on them). If the water is questionable then both short and long-term a little wine will help me live a lot longer.
  4. I’m having a glass of wine with dinner, it’s what countless people do every evening. Do we really need to read into it? Also, to not get deadly water microbes.
  5. Yes. If they’re going to drink they need to do so responsibly so I need to set a good example and not drink to excess. And be careful about what I drink!
  6. See #3.
  7. Jesus drank, Jesus turned water into wine. Jesus didn’t have a problem with drinking.
  8. If someone else wants a drink with dinner, that’s fine with me. If someone wants to have a 12-pack in an evening and then drive home, that’s a different issue (and NOT WHAT I’M DOING).
  9. They already do.
  10. Its a beverage with dinner. Is eating dinner a selfish act? Jesus says “take no thought for your life, what you shall eat.” See above snarky Spiritual Being comments.

Now lets run the same example through again only with someone who is attending Principia and has signed the Principa Code of Conduct which DIRECTLY FORBIDS the consumption of ANY ALCOHOL (“living completely free from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs“).

The only thing that has changed is the person has broken their contract with Principia. The person in question agreed to Principia’s terms (no consumption of alcohol), with full knowledge that if/when broken they would be asked to leave.

I don’t see this as a “moral” issue, but as a stupid issue. Principia is very upfront about their restrictions on drinking. To knowingly break the code and not expect some consequences is stupid, but I digress.

The stupidity of breaking the code also applies to cheating. Living with one’s boyfriend is a grey zone, the appearance of evil is strong, but as long as you’re NOT HAVING SEX you’re not technically breaking the code. Lying is another grey zone – what are you lying about and why? Lying about breaking the Prin code falls into the “stupid” category again. Shoplifting is illegal (and stupid), and I’m not even going to touch the topic of porn (beyond pointing out it isn’t breaking the code of conduct).

So for a mature adult who does NOT attend Principia the occasional glass of wine with dinner is fine. For the mature adult who DOES attend Prin (and plans to continue to do so), they should abstain.

I’m still unclear as to how drinking is a “moral” issue, the Bible frowns on the sin of drunkenness, but also acknowledges wine as a bringer of joy, and as an important part of feasts, sacrifices and festivities. Ms. Eddy sees us all as Spiritual Beings anyway, so I’m confused as to why she thinks the occasional glass might hold sway over us – isn’t that just giving more power to the unreal and material?

One of the stated goals of the moral reasoning seminar is “to explore the usefulness and limits of moral reasoning as one tool to serve decision-making as a Christian Scientist.” My final assessment of the 10-question “why be good” matrix as a “moral-reasoning tool” to “serve in decision making”? It is useless, both as a Christian Scientist and a non-CS.

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