How should we navigate through the world? The only way is ethics

Hugh Moseley: How should we navigate through the world? The only way is ethics

We make ethical decisions each and every day. How to treat a difficult neighbour? How much (or little) to give to charity? Can I be bothered to conserve energy and help save the planet? Should I offer to do some voluntary work?

Some ethical issues are local and personal. Others are so big that we struggle to have a clear opinion. Do we need nuclear weapons? How far can we accept the advances in genetics?

Our ethics depend on what I stand for, what information I have to hand and how would I act in any given situation. Would it be right to steal if my family were hungry? If my country acted unjustly, would it be necessary to protest violently?

The Bible has much to say about the way we treat one another. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan defines our need to help the one in trouble. In it, the priest and Levite walked by on the other side keen to reach their work in the Temple in Jerusalem. It was the sworn enemy of the beaten man who came to his help. However the Bible is not a text book containing all the answers. From it we can glean general principles but chapter and verse regarding nuclear war, euthanasia or fox hunting, for instance, are missing. We find Christians and those with high moral standards on both sides of many ethical issues.

One pressing matter that has perplexed governments across Europe is the business of migrants, seeking escape from war or persecution to find a better life. Nothing new here. When King Louis 14th revoked the Edict of Nantes (inset) in 1685, French Protestants fled, many to England once they were denied religious freedom.

Many settled in Rye and integrated into the town, bringing their skills in weaving and printing to enrich the community. Today our country is multi-cultural with a tolerance among those of different races, religions and cultures. Can we absorb many more migrants? We already have an open borders policy with Europe. Are our health services, schools, welfare and housing provision sufficient to cope with greater numbers? We feel deep compassion for those risking all to improve their lot but a reluctance about accepting all who wish to settle here.

The Bible encourages care for the stranger and the oppressed. How can we truly discriminate between the most needy, whose lives are in danger and who cannot return to war zones or hostile regimes and those simply seeking the benefits of our country?

One final thought. Christians are being persecuted across the Middle East in huge numbers. The Archbishop of Canterbury among others will petition the UK government to welcome such Christian refugees from Syria and Iraq in particular. In the words of Lord Carey, they are being “butchered, tortured and enslaved”.

Ethics. Coming to decisions about the way to treat others is not easy. Practical implications, the impact on our country and the quality of society, can make us hard-hearted.

Many are knocking on our door. How wide will we open it? How many can we allow in?