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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Right to die?

Clarity in the language of public debate would be wonderful. It is I think sadly lacking and nowhere more so than in the short hand surrounding the public debate on the legal issues related to life, death and dying.

The term "right to die" for example. Strictly speaking to talk of "a right to die" is redundant if not a nonsense. Dying is a necessary consequence of living. We do not get a choice about dying and consequently we need to make no claims about wanting to die as opposed for instance to the right to have a life which will not end. Neither are on offer and claiming aright to either is not something tht a court of law can assist us with nor will any government policy currently available.

Ah but I here the reader say that is not really what is meant by the phrase "right to die".

I agree. Let me translate the phrase or try and unpack it - what is meant be "the right to die" is something like:

-  assistance, or support to take one's own life at the point of one's own choice, without the persons assisting being subject to legal penalty. In summary people supporting such a claim are asking for active support for people to commit suicide, or relief from legal penalties for people who are implicated in what is actually the taking of a human life.

Committing suicide or assisting in taking a human life are actual acts in which volition is involved as opposed to "dying" which is something that one suffers or experiences.

The phrase "right to die" annoys me then for two reasons: it obscures the reality in human terms of what is involved and it does so by occluding the issue of agency and human responsibility.


None of this is designed to settle the issue of policy, how we are to be present with people in their dying and what the appropriate rules and policies around pain relief and withdrawal of treatment that respect the agency and humanity of all who are involved in such situations.

I am simply looking for clarity in language so that we can be as truthful as possible about the reality of the issues at stake.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Iraq after the Occupation

Christian Peacemaker Teams have issued a report on Iraq after the Occupation. Iraqis speak about the future of their country after the US military forces withdraw from combat missions.
This is an interesting report based on interviews with a variety of Iraqis that give their views on the future of their country.

As the US military seeks to wash its hands of Iraq, proclaiming victory and independence for the country it invaded in 2003, the truth is much more complex than the US narrative seeks to present. The contribution of the surge to a reduction in violence in Iraq is questionable. Opinions on the reliability of the Iraqi security forces, although not entirely negative, vary widely. Iraq faces an uncertain future, perhaps a success story of democracy, stability and reconciliation – but perhaps many more years of bloodshed, hatred and oppression.

The responsibility of the United States and its allies for this must not be ignored, as several respondents have clearly noted. However, CPT Iraq believes the United States cannot be solely held responsible for success or failure in Iraq. Many interviewees mentioned the responsibility of neighboring states, and of Iraqis themselves, ranging from top politicians to normal citizens. Much remains to be done that cannot be done by the United States, and will need to be shouldered by the Iraqi people.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Christendom and mapping religion

Attended the first day of a four day roundtable on spirituality in Australia to celebrate twenty five years of the Christian Research Association of Australia - an amazing effort by Philip Hughes at an intellectual level. (I was there to talk about spirituality and the Public service).

What struck me during the presentations on the first morning was that the basic research paradigm for the sociology of religion that had guided the work of both CRA and the NCLS reproduced the assumptions of Christendom and its decline without making those assumptions explicit. To put it another way, the ecclesiology is uncritically shaped by the Christendom paradigm. It finds what it looks for but doesn't find what it doesn't look for because its sociology and ecclesiology shapes the research program.


Let me see if I can unpack this:
  • the assumptions about church attendance are assumed to represent the norm for the pattern of the ekklesia, the gathering of the people of God for their public witness in the world.
  • the research focuses on attendance as part of an institutional structure on Sunday, that is an expression of something called religion - this is form a theological and historical point of view anachronistic
  • the research approach fails to to recognise or map the activity of christians as the scattered people of God - it fails to pick up the reality of disorganised religion, people gathering outside formally organised institutions or in movements that express Christian faith in terms of movement style characteristics nurtured by organisations such as for example TEAR.
  • The research paradigm fails to take account of the migration of the sacred into forms of civil religion