Here are shocking bits from an article in The Atlantic:
“What are the shades of moral difference between terminating a fetus that could not survive outside the womb vs. one that can, even if, as in this case, it would suffer from significant disabilities? What’s the difference between those decisions and the decision to kill such a child after it has been born, or let it die? That last question, about infanticide, is particularly charged, not least because of the common-sense “disgust” factor. As Jeff McMahan, a former Rutgers professor who’s now at Oxford, wrote in 2007:
‘Although philosophers have conducted a wide-ranging debate about the morality of abortion for more than thirty years, generating in the process an extensive literature on the topic, they have, with very few exceptions, shrunk from extending the debate to include a discussion of infanticide. I know from discussions with prominent writers on ethics that some have been deterred from writing on the subject by fear of possible consequences for their reputations, careers and even physical security … My own experience is much more limited, but tends to confirm that discussing infanticide is not the best way to win friends or secure admiring book reviews.'”
What does this mean? It means that the logic of abortion should lead pro-choice people to accept and advocate infanticide. But hardly any will take that step. Why? Not from some high moral principal, but because to do so would be bad for one’s work and social life. I suppose this is one time to be thankful for cowardice.
Is it rude to point out a growth that might be cancer?
Is it judgmental to diagnose a malignant tumor?
Is it mean spirited to suggest that unchecked, the cancer will grow, and grow, and grow?
Is it uncaring to point out that growing cancer will spread and destroy vital organs and ultimately lead to death?
Is it condemning to explain that radical and unpleasant treatment is needed to save someone’s life?
Is it too negative to say that treatment should begin while the problem is still small and manageable?
Of course, to suggest any of this is ridiculous. But in the realm of moral cancer, few of us want a physician to deliver bad news. No one wants to hear that a certain relationship is toxic, that our habits are self destructive, or that our innocent pleasures are growing into addictions, or that our compromises are numbing our conscience.
And yet when pastors and leaders fail to be clear and direct about sin they are engaging in spiritual malpractice.
This happened in the book of Lamentations. After destruction had fallen on the nation of Israel, the prophet Jeremiah offers a post-mortem assessment of one of the factors that led to the death of the patient: “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.” (Emphasis added) (Lam 2:14)
It is never fun to find out you have cancer. But if you have cancer, finding out about it may be the most merciful thing that can happen. It opens the door to hope before it is too late. When God’s law points out the cancer of sin, it is actually a mercy because it points us to the Christ the great physician.
Chris Walsh has written a book on cowardice. He admits that he had to face his own fears to finish the book. This brief article about the book and journey was a fun read. It was also full of irony. He was driven to finish the book out of fear of being a coward
“What a bitter note to find in my obituary – couldn’t finish his book on cowardice! The thought had a way of concentrating the mind and fortifying the will.”
He talks about the fact that there hasn’t been a scholarly academic work on the topic, which caused him some fear. “Am I wasting my time?”
Something helpful (and searching!) for me was the idea that cowardice and fear can manifest itself in many ways:
Failing to stand up and take a side or express an opinion when we should.
Failing to finish a book or project out of concern about what others will think.
Being driven by fear to a neutral life that does neither good nor evil.
Fear of being found out that you are a fraud. This is especially true in higher education. So many wannabe academics are impressed by academic accomplishments and the intellect of their heroes. They pretend that they are brilliant, but writing a book tells the truth. Nothing will humble you like putting your mind on paper for all to read! Our hearts may whisper words of fear to us, “If I write a book then everyone will know who I am! I won’t be able to keep up the rouse!”
Too much revising before you ship or print. This can be fear-driven.
Too much qualifying of your claims and acknowledging the opinions of others.
“At a certain point, then, proper understanding of cowardice became not only the goal of the book but also its motive force. Cowardice and cowards have something to teach us, I kept telling myself. Let us speak of them!”
Perhaps most useful to me was his discussion of the place of cowardice in the realm of the writer/thinker.
“Timidity may be especially characteristic of the scholar. As Peter Elbow notes in his essay “Being a writer vs. being an academic: a conflict in goals”, the writer comes to the reader exclaiming, “Listen to me, I have something to tell you!”, while the academic asks meekly, “Is this okay?”. The bespectacled professor citing great thinkers, hedging with “perhapses” and “I would suggests”, and lining the bottom of the page with footnotes to pad against a hard fall: he makes a fine figure of a coward.”