Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Challenge of Choice

I think it is perhaps fair to say that a great deal of what we choose is done so for selfish reasons. There is no judgement placed in that. That it is so is why acts of specific altruism are so memorable, that good deeds are (for the most part) the choice of exception not the matter of the norm. I include myself in this, of course.

We live in what many term a 'Choice Society'. We can design our lives from the beginning to the end. We can almost design our babies and purge those that don't reach the desired standard. We can choose how many we want, their names and how they live while in our care. We can even choose to make babies to fix existing siblings. We can choose work, or not. We can choose relationships, or not. We can choose faith, or not. We can choose to defy the effects of the passage of time with mechanical and chemical intervention. We can choose to sue those flawed humans that don't get that right for us. We can choose to eat ourselves spherical or to starve ourselves stick-thin. We can choose to abide by promises we make, or not. We can choose to deprive others of their possessions or health. We can choose to consume toxins beyond safe levels. We can choose to live and we can even choose to die. We believe too, that it is our right to make these choices. 

Speaking only for myself, but as a litmus test for many normal humans (quieten down before you even say what has just popped into your mind), I fail to make universally good choices. If I am fortunate, I can live through the effects of a bad choice or decision, and if I am even more fortunate than that, will hope that no-one else was damaged by my flawed choice. It is part of being human, so nothing too surprising in any of that. The fact remains, though, that I cannot guarantee that every choice I make is a good one.

We are now past Christmas as we rest here in the Feast of Candlemas. The story of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is an anecdote for choice. Mary and Joseph had a choice to take, or not take, their firstborn to an old geezer in a Temple. Imagine expecting new mums to go through a Rite of Purification these days and you will have a mighty cohort from the NCT on your door-step! And then we will reach Lent, a period of de-choosing in many ways. Lent is a time of self-emptying, self-sacrifice, rejecting pleasures, adopting the burden of more prayer and fast. Lent rides against everything that our modern society stands for. 

I should say, too, that I am a believer in human choice. Many is the time when you will hear people of faith saying that 'God told them to N...'. Even Howard Camping, the false-Prophet of the non-starter Rapture blamed God for not stopping him from his foolishness. This line of thinking to me is faith based abdication of our rights under free-will. We choose, not God. God will guide, but rarely will God do the big Lottery Finger in our decisions. I have sat in some Christian circles and felt, quite sincerely, that I am surrounded by God's Own Puppets. I don't believe in a God like that, but rather God who walks alongside us in all our choices, good or bad. In the same way I cannot blame my mother for my poor choices in my younger years, but can be glad she was there to help me mend the damage. 

So, we choose. It is us who choose, not God. We have rights yes, but we are human, mortal, flawed and foolish in our own ways. During the Lent that fast approaches, and on a day when two fearful parents took this strange child to a man they probably didn't know, we have to put down our rights to some extent and remember to replace it with a little humility and know that the choice we make could easily be wrong - and not use God as a celestial crutch or a Omnipotent Scapegoat. 

1 comment:

  1. David, I so agree. My God is with me, not manipulating me, and he allows me to choose.



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