Friday, November 18, 2011

Morality & reason: what is Noushin Framke really saying?

Morality and reason, the two are linked in incalculable ways. But too often in the name of reason morality is flung out the door. And although I believe, as a Christian, that it is both the word of God and the Holy Spirit that draws the individual up out of the morass and shows them the reasonableness of righteous behavior, warning when evil is being called good and good evil, still reason and morality do work together. And this problem of morality and reason is also mixed with the issues that surround the Middle East conflict. A recent article written by Noushin Framke of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, for Ecclesio-com started me thinking about the connections. Her article is “Switching Costs.”

Framke is writing about those people some have called “PEPs,” that is, “Progressives Except on Palestine.” The conclusion by Framke and others is that if you are for all of what is called progressive issues such as fair labor laws, immigration reform and abortion you must be totally on the Palestinian side in the Middle East conflict. Framke’s contention is that those who are not totally for the Palestinians are afraid to take a stand. According to Framke they would be called anti-Semitic. Framke’s article is divorced from reason in several ways.

One of Framke’s unreasonable thoughts is that what a person believes about an issue is or should be determined by a label. That particular view lends itself to dictatorial rulings since it takes away individual freedom of conscience. Labels can be very misleading. I am both orthodox and Evangelical, and I am also a Democrat, who does not vote the party line, but who does agree with the need for both immigration and prison reform. Few progressives such as Framke realize that in the early twentieth century many progressive pastors and churches were heavily invested in the eugenics movement. Labels often mean one thing in one era and other things in a different era.

Making decisions about ethical issues cannot, must not, be determined by following any list that can be neatly tucked under a label. I think conservatives need to learn that also. Instead each issue must be looked at from its own particular set of circumstances. And for a Christians that means finding out what God’s word says about the issue. It may not have a direct imperative but there are biblical values that cover most issues.

Making it even worse, Framke fills in all of the qualifications for progressive with what she believes about issues, making her self the epitome of what a progressive is. Because she does this, Framke can find no other reason for disagreement with her views than fear. If the other progressives weren’t afraid of ridicule they would believe like her. Not only is this kind of argument not based on clear logical thinking it is tainted by arrogance.

There is a third issue here that totally wipes out any reasonableness. That is that the issue Framke writes about, the Israeli and the Palestinian conflict, has both a history and many complex sides. But by insisting that all progressives take one side, Framke is avoiding even looking at the other side’s needs and she is refusing to look back at the history that explains why there is so much contention on all sides.

As communications chairperson for IPMN, Framke links to internet sites that supposedly give information about the issues. But because she is not a PEP and certainly not a PFI (Progressive For Israel-I made that up-but I like it) she is one-sided to the extreme. If she finds a Jewish rabbi in the United States who has been indicted for a crime, she links to the article. If she sees an article on crime in Israel she links to it, but not to any crime article in Gaza. If she finds an article where the IDF have bombed militants in Gaza because they have fired rockets at Israel she links to that but not to an article about the original rocket attack.

Reason and morality; they have always been important in Christian ethics. Disagreement over complex issues is not a sign of fear. Rather, suggesting that other people’s disagreement with your views happens only because of fear is itself a sign that you have not looked into why the person disagrees. You may find after you do that that you still disagree with the person’s views, but at least reason and respect have become a part of your argument. Perhaps Framke should take the time to ask fellow progressive Presbyterians why they disagree with her views.


Greg Scandlen said...

More than all that, Ms. Framke is delusional if she believes most Palestinians share her "progressive" views on abortion, gay rights, women's rights, and so on. Those views are much more likely to be well-received in Israel than in any Islamic culture. I can only conclude that the Palestinians may share Ms. Framke's anti-capitalist viewpoint and for her that trumps any other consideration.

I can't fathom what any of this has to do with Jesus. But I can no longer fathom what the PCUSA has to do with Jesus either.

Greg Scandlen
Waynesboro, PA

Viola Larson said...

Greg, that is a very good point, and one I had not thought of.