Why we have the moral intuition murder of humans already born is worse than early term abortion

The strongest and most passionate Pro-Life advocates want to make me as emotionally horrified by very early term abortion as I am about the murder of a 3 year old. But this is hard to do. There feels something amiss with this emotional appeal. Our moral intuition suggests there is a difference here.

But what is the difference? And how can you talk about the difference, without therefore suggesting that early term abortion is ok?

In this article, Christopher Kazcor spells out some reasons given by Andrew Peach for this moral intuition, while arguing that abortion is still wrong, whether early term or late term:

  1. A murder by torturous means is worse than a murder by painless means. So an early term abortion, a foetus might not feel pain.
  2. To fail to meet a moral obligation when it is easy to do is worse due to its laxness. To fail to carry a child to term late in a pregnancy is an 'easier' prospect (all things being equal), since it has already advanced so far.
  3. The humanity of a fully developed human being is more evident and so intuitively obvious.
  4. Deliberate immoral action is worse than immoral action taken when in a state of panic.
  5. The length of the relationship with a person makes a crime against them more severe.

Kazcor concludes:

All intentional killing of innocent human beings violates that right, which all of them enjoy, but killing an embryonic human being and killing an adult human being are not equally wrong in other respects. Killing an innocent adult harms the communities that the person contributed to and makes other adults fear for their own lives. None of these harms is involved in taking unborn human life. Similarly, killing a private citizen and killing a prime minister are equally wrong, because the two have an equal right to live, but killing the prime minister may also harm the economy or social stability and perhaps even prompt retaliation or war. 

The common intuition”shared, in general, by advocates and opponents of abortion alike”that late abortion is worse than early abortion seems to undermine the basic equality of all human beings and to help justify early abortion. In fact, it implies no such thing. Circumstantially, no two cases of intentional killing of the innocent are exactly alike. Intrinsically, however, every case is identical, as an act that unjustly deprives the victim of life. That it is worse to kill a human adult than to kill a human being in utero, and worse to kill a child already born than to kill one at the embryonic stage, does not in any way justify the killing of the latter. 

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Move your campus ministry student executive from working group to governance board

Most campus ministries/'Christian Unions' in Australia, especially those connected with AFES are groups affiliated with their local university union or 'student guild'. These affiliated associations are governed by an 'executive committee' 

The role of the executive committee in smaller Christian Unions

In smaller campus groups (under 50 active students), the executive committee might be the majority of student leaders in the group. This group are also the small group leaders, evangelists and so on.

There are rarely big needs for a formal executive committee at all for these groups. It is a 'letter of the law' requirement. Most of the issues of governance are sorted out relationally and by consensus. As a result it's much more common to forget to tick the legal boxes at this stage.

The role of the executive committee as the Christian Union grows and builds teams

As the group grows, more 'ordinary members' get added to this committee, not as treasurer or vice president, but simply as another leader joining the leadership team. It becomes natural for this committee meeting to continue to be a place where collaborating, planning, training and relationship building take place.

But as a group grow larger than 50–70 active students, and the leadership team larger than 12–15 students some changes happen:

  • The committee becomes too large to function as one group, and so quiet voices remain unheard, or discussions drag on too long.
  • The committee becomes vulnerable to matters that require a formal vote. If all its members are constitutional committee members and a serious matter of doctrine, morality or strategy required a vote, things might get tricky.
  • Much of the committee functions are now happening in other team meetings. As you need to build teams for evangelists, or for small group leaders, more of these functions are happening there.

But until we realise this, we can carry on running the executive committee meetings the same way. But I want to suggest a better way.

The benefits of making the transition to more of a governance board model

Once the CU grows larger enough to strat running multiple ministry teams, I suggest shrinking the size, scope and meeting regularity of the executive committee. Move FROM:

  • A large group that meets for all sorts of planning and training on a regular basis TO
  • A smaller group that meets for higher level governance on a semi-regular basis

So the executive committee might just consist of its 4 or 5 office holders, and meet quarterly for 90 minutes to discuss major decisions.

What are the advantages of this approach?

  • It frees up time. Becuase students and campus staff have more flexibility with time, it can be easy to become inefficient with time. But we still only have limited time and energy. Time freed up in unnecessary meetings can be put elsewhere.
  • It trains student leaders in a lifetime skill of doing good ministry governance. God-willing our student executive members will go on to be pastors, elders, parish councillors and board members of other Christian organisations. If we can figure out theologically informed, ethically constrained and wisely effective 'best practice' for committees, we can equip them to be a force for good in a context where often professional adults waste lots of time in sloppy meetings.
  • It dignified and empowers the highest level of student leadership. Campus ministers often assume that empowering student leadership is about collaborating with students. Or leaving them to do what they want. But this misses out that the formal, constitutional power to make high level decisions about the association is a unique power that student committees have. By treating the executive meeting 
  • It clarifies the role of ministry teams. When the student executive meeting is clarified in its role, it really enhances the importance of the other ministry teams. For here is where the collaboration, planning, training and relationship building take place. This is where the day to day 'action' takes place.
  • It forces a decisions about the bits and bobs of ministry planning that are still with the student executive. Sometimes matters like Mid Year Conference (MYC)/Summit or Semester 2 Mission might still be on the student executive's agenda for no other reason than we haven't yet thought where these projects 'belong'. By making this move, it forces us to think about the organisational chart and figure out where these projects should be managed now. Should MYC be managed by the Student Events Team? Or should we form a new temporary ministry team each year especially for it?

The danger of making this transition

If we are not careful, we could create a problem in our CUs that is already present in our churches: we could have a class of leaders who make decisions for the ministry but are not actually involved in everyday spiritual activities at all! Elders/parish councillors who don't evangelism, edifiy, serve: but simply meet to say No to proposals from eager members.

While training students in the areas of governance leadership, we must keep investing in them the more foundational skills of prayer, Bible teaching, evangelism and practical love.

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Micro-aggressions: weaponised words and weaponised sensitivity

Weaponised words

Those who follow the teacher of the Sermon On The Mount are open to seeing the deep and awful reality of small things. A lustful look and a hateful word are in the same moral realm as adultery and murder.

So the newish language of 'micro-aggression' to describe apparently small words and actions ought to ring true to us. We know how a choice of words can crush, dismiss, tempt, distort. Sticks and stones can break your bones and names can really hurt you. Words can, as I read somewhere recently, become 'weaponised'.

Words draw their meaning from social contexts and personal experiences. A word or action can become very loaded with powerful and painful social connotations. So in addition to guarding our motives, we ned to also consider the other person and how they will hear us. More than this, we need to ask and listen carefully to understand how words and acts that seem like 'no big deal' to us might actually carry enormous significance to others!

In this sense, 'political correctness' is about love. About courtesy and considering the other person, over and above ourselves and our rights to say what we jolly well like. The burden of 'getting our language right' is the burden of living well with others. It's not something to grumble about, but something to step towards.

Weaponised sensitivity

The human heart is crafty and sinfulness is universal: it corrupts the powerful and the oppressed, the hurtful and the insulted, the loud mouthed and the fragile. And so it's possible for those who advocate for courtesy and sensitivity to lose sight of the right goal of love and become fixated. The wonderful critical tools of especially the last half-century have equipped us to think well about how words can become weaponised.

But these same critical tools, when wielded recklessly, give a new form of power-play: what could be called 'weaponised sensitivity'. Although a massive burden of responsibility lies especially on the shoulders of the powerful to use their words in love, there remains a general responsibility that we all share: to be resilient in the face of hardship, to seek to understand the intent of the other person no matter how thoughtless they might be, and so on. Otherwise, 'weaponised sensitivity' can fuel hatred in our hearts.

Although hateful words are in the same category, as Jesus teaches, that doesn't mean that they are absolutely morally equivalent. Although hateful words can be deeply hurtful, to the point of leading to effect that can be profoundly harmful, this doesn't make the words in and of themselves harmful. Although it is common for the powerful to minimise their guilt, it is also possible for the oppressed to exaggerate it, in a resentful power play of their own.

Even while we hurt, we have the responsibility to seek, as much as we are able, to be generous and gracious and flexible with others. Even while we are vulnerable, we have the capacity to grow in resilience. The burden of 'having to put up with this crap' is actually the burden of living well with other people. It's not something to get fed up with, but something to patiently bear with.

Speak the Truth in Love and Seeking Justice with Grace

If we maintain the freedom to speak the truth but have not love, we are merely rude Philistines.

If we advocate for courtesy but have not love, we are merely resentful Pharisees.

We need to cultivate love in our hearts and an ethics of love in our civic life.

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Helping people understand the necessity and diversity of administrative costs in ministry

The Australian Charities and Not For Profits Commission has published an article on the necessity of administratie costs and the diversity of ratios between admin and direct action cossts in various charities.

The article reads a bit like an email rant that slowly evolved into an article. But it's pretty good.

In summary, their advice is:

Low administration costs alone do not necessarily indicate an effective or well-run charity. Similarly, higher administration costs do not necessarily indicate that a charity is ineffective or poorly-run. There are inefficient charities with poor outcomes that report low administration costs, and there are charities that spend more on administration and have efficient programs and successful outcomes. In deciding which charities to support, you should look at the work that charities do and the impact that they have.

It helpfully points out that the simple, obvious fact different charities might report what things count as 'admin' different. Do you call someone an 'administrator' or 'project overseer'? Are the related costs to travel (like insurance) an 'admin overhead' or part of 'travel to the site of the project'?

In fact they even say :

All charities incur administration costs. Even small volunteer-led charities that employ no staff and have no property will incur costs, for example simple things such as stationery or travel expenses.

Charities that promise “every dollar will go to X” are not helping the sector or the public to understand these matters.

Later on they explain how there are all sorts of factors that affect how large the overheads are:

  • Charity size: some charities are big with extensive programs and operations, and the related economies of scale while others are smaller with narrower focuses;
  • Charity location: some charities operate in low-cost areas, while others are located in more expensive cities; some charities operate nationally or internationally, while others operate in a single location;
  • Charitable purposes: some charities work with high profile or popular causes and can attract funds easily, whereas others are focussed on causes with lower profiles and need to work harder on fundraising and awareness;
  • Charity life-cycle: some charities are new and have a lot of start-up costs, and others have been around for a long time with established processes and a strong base of supporters and donors;
  • Charity activities: some charities engage in direct charitable work and incur a range of costs, while others act as grant-making or fundraising bodies which distribute funds and do not engage in direct work.

Using ratios or percentages of administration costs as a point of comparison is unreliable as they don’t indicate the extent to which a charity is achieving results and making a difference in the community.

A very helpful article to think through the issues involved, and help explain them to others!

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Depression may manifest itself differently in men than women

I've found Arch Hart's books helpful in understanding myself as well as others. His one on Adrenaline and Stress was especially helpful to me a few years ago. But also Unmasking Male Depression had some really illuninating sections.

One point, kind of obvious when you think about it, is that men often experience and manifest depression in different ways than women. And somes this means that men don't recognise it for what it is. Some generalisations he observes:

  • Men tend to blame others for their depression where women tend to blame themselves.
  • Men tend to act out their inner turmoil, through anger for example, where women tend to turn inwards.
  • Men sturggle to maintain control at all costs, where women might have difficulty maintaining control.
  • Men can become overly irritable and hostile to others where women tend to be nice.
  • Men tend to attack when hurt where women tend to withdraw.
  • Men try to fix depression by problem solving where women try to fix depression by trying harder.
  • Men turn to sport, TV, sex and alcohol where women tend to turn to food, friends and emotional needs.
  • Men feel shamed by depression where women tend to feel guilty.
  • Men can become compulsive time keepers where women can procrastinate.
  • Men can be terrified to confront their weakness, where women might exaggerate and obsess over their weaknesses.

It doesn't matter if you are a woman who relates to lots of the more generally male traits or vice versa. The point is that recognising that depression can express itself in less typical ways might help you notice it quicker.

I notice I'm becoming angry and overly concerned with time, performance and control. Maybe I'm actually depressed? You see what I mean?

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Preaching advice: must a sermon be polished?

There's a stream of oratory that's polished and measure and crafted and delivered to the second. This is the kind of thing I guess TV hosts and national leaders have to speak to, to make sure they say the right thing, in the time allotted.

We can learn a lot from those who craft speeches in this way. And some preaches are naturally inclined to a style that could be prepared the same way.

But there's also a stream of oratory that's raw. The speaker works off notes, ad libs, expands on thoughts in a freeform manner. Some standup comics and public lectures fit into this category.

And you know what? There are strengths to this approach too. And some preachers wll be more comfortable in this style.

A minor point, really. But worth putting into the same category as the endless debates about how long a sermon should go for, as if there is a 'right answer' out there. 

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