Lately civic and religious discourse in America has taken on a certain road-rage quality according to Katherine Marshall. Recently she was able to observe an ethics consult at the Chicago Medical School. She came away believing that perhaps there is a more excellent way for us to engage one another:
“What struck me most forcibly was that this discourse was serious, engaged and respectful. People listened to each other. They were asking for help and listening to a wide range of suggestions, not shyly or cagily advanced, but put forth in clear and opinionated terms. People asked questions to understand the cases better. These were tough issues that can be seen in different ways, but these doctors had to make a choice. They had no way to duck the matter; the responsibility lay on their shoulders. They listened to others’ advice but made their decisions alone after they left the room.[…]I came away with two thoughts.
The first is that the ethics consult formula could and should have much wider application. I can readily imagine it at the World Bank or the United Nations Security Council or Judge Goldstone’s commission on Gaza. People who are grappling with complex ethical choices need a safe, demanding, and respectful space to thrash out the issues and options.
And second, the kind of discourse I was privileged to witness among deeply engaged and committed doctors is what we need in the public policy sphere. It’s about facts first, about curiosity and a readiness to listen. It’s about hearing different views. It’s about a willingness to change opinion and then take responsibility. It’s an idealistic pragmatism that is surely as much part of the American tradition as mud-slinging invective.
And it’s about realizing that ethics, whether inspired by the theological principles of love, or by a physician’s determination to help people, is about real choices nuanced by daily realities, more than absolutes and unbending principles.”
Read the full essay here.
Seems to me that all theological discourse must ultimately be grounded in the reality of its practical application. But do you think the suggestions above would be sufficient to change our national and ecclesiological discourse? Or are people too addicted to the fight?