Friday, October 07, 2016

What kind of society do we want to live in?

It's hard not to be deeply affected by Sally Phillips documentary A World Without Downs. This is an investigation into two of the biggest human questions. She opens, winsome, engaging, self-deprecating, to camera:
What kind of society do we want to live in? 
And who do we think should be allowed to live in it?
We all have to answer those questions.
We all do answer them.
The question is what answers we give and why.

For decades/centuries we've lived in 'the story of progress' or 'the myth of evolution' as CS Lewis dubbed it. Not a scientific comment so much as a narrative that says, change is better, we're advances, and survival of the fittest, and our happiness must drive us forward. I recognise this story - I grew up in it, I grew up believing it and many of its implications, it's hard to let go of it.

For the church this grates in part because it's parasitic on Christian hope - as John Gray notes, how on earth does the secularist justify a moral statement about change being good, it's stolen hope. It also grates because built into the DNA of the church is the ethos of Old Israel from the Pentateuch that calls for sacrificial care of the widow, the orphan and the foreigner, that is to say for the vulnerable who cannot provide for themselves.

This is not rooted just in a law given to a community, but in the heart of the Triune God whose salvation for humanity is precisely helping those who cannot help themselves - a category which in ultimate terms includes all of us.

It's an ever present concern for the church - what kind of society are we... who is welcome here? As it should be for a parkrun community, a school gate community, an office culture and so on.
Cat Caird muses on the disturbing parallels to the film Gattaca. The brilliance of scientific endeavour appears to have pretty much made Gattaca possible, the question is whether we're prepared to go there or not. Just because we can, doesn't mean we should?

We need to ask what kind of world we want to live in? We need to ask why our answer is compelling? We need to ask how our answer can be justified? And we probably need to get beyond asking what kind of world we want to live in to ask what kind of world is this...?

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