Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ethics: WTF, Good Life?

DPC: Set 3

You may have been wondering where the usual crustiness had gone to, dear readers. You may have been worrying in the backs of your minds if Dread Pirate Crusty was the victim of a sophomore slump.

Worry no longer, friends. THE ETHICS QUESTION HAS ARRIVED.

Set 3: Christian Ethics and Moral Theology
Open Resources
Background Information
In October 2014, University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel published an article in the Atlantic Monthly headlined “Why I hope to die at 75.” In this article, he indicated what he identified as being his “views for a good life.” Emanuel argued that death is a loss, but equally, living too long is a loss -- one that “renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”
Writing at the age of 59, he projected that at 75 his life would be complete, so his preference would be to die. In the article he makes clear that he is opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide, and anticipates that his demise would come from the refusal of all medical treatment after that age.
Question
Taking into account the background information provided above and the qualifications stated below, write a 1,000-word essay based in the Christian moral tradition that:
describes from a Christian perspective what constitutes a “good life,” and
articulates how such Christian ethical reasoning addresses the perceived and experienced losses that aging entails.
Qualifications
Answer the question – which is about the “good life” and how that understanding informs our perspective on aging. You are not expected to read Emanuel’s article, or provide a summary of any of its content. Since the background information is a sufficient springboard for these issues, do not quote from, summarize or paraphrase any part of Emanuel’s article.
Do not dwell on or elaborate upon the nature of the losses that may accompany aging, or upon a pastoral response to them. Following Emanuel’s lead, this question focuses on how we respond ethically to the perceived or experienced losses that aging might entail.
You may refer to other resources, but you may only quote from the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible.


Where to begin? Where to begin? DPC has sailed many a sea, and swabbed many a deck. Never has DPC wanted to eviscerate something as thoroughly as this question.

For starters, let us give credit where credit is due. It is possible that there was, at one time, a sliver of a
Don't hold back, DPC.  It's not healthy.
germ of a decent idea buried somewhere in this question. A mitochondria of a decent thought, if you will. The ethics around end-of-life care are pressing matters, and will only become more pressing as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age and die (YES, THIS WILL ACTUALLY HAPPEN. YOU WILL ALL HAVE TO EVENTUALLY RELEASE YOUR DEATH GRIP ON THIS MORTAL COIL AND THOSE INSTITUTIONS YOU RAN INTO THE GROUND.)

But DPC digresses.

However--and this is where the wheels come off the wagon--that’s not what the question is actually about. The question is about “the good life”--based on some Atlantic article which you are neither supposed to read, nor quote from. The question specifically forbids the test taker from addressing either the pastoral concerns of aging (a real thing!) or the pros and cons of assisted suicide (also a very real thing!) or even how concerns around physical and mental aging intersect with ableism and how these concerns might come off to people with chronic illnesses and disabilities (Also a real thing! Ever complained to a person with progressive MS about how hard it is that you now have to take a daily medication for blood pressure? Yeah. That’s what this question wants you to do. It’s that tone deaf.)

Basically, GBEC would like you to ignore several abiding ethical quandaries you will face in your ministry as a priest and instead focus on one they made up, that only exists in the fevered land of
Hey, be fair.  Slate is grounded in reality.  This is more like Salon.com.
Internet hot-takes. The GBEC would like you to kindly write a Slate.com article for them.

In other words, once again, that lovely mitochondria that seemed so promising has pulled a Sporos and F*****G REFUSED TO DEEPEN, RUINING THE WHOLE DAMN MULTIVERSE INSIDE CHARLES WALLACE MURRAY. DAMMIT YOU LITTLE FURRY CREATURE. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

DPC digresses yet again.
Here’s the thing--unless you make a habit of hanging out with a klatch of very drunk and/or very nerdy grad students, you aren’t going to have a lot of conversations about what the Christian definition of “the good life” is. And if that is a habit you wish to indulge in, be forewarned that the answers will probably go something like this:
---The good life is to sip Coronas on a tropical beach while surrounded by stolen jewels, listening to
Just wait for next year's followup question.
Jimmy Buffet on repeat!
--The good life is a promising new sitcom on NBC from the creators of Parks and Rec, about the afterlife and the effects of karma, featuring a delightful performance from Kristen Bell!
--The good life is to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the lamentations of their women!

Figuring out what “the good life” consists of is a pointless, and dare DPC say it, a self-indulgent exercise. Even if you did arrive at a Christian ethical standard for what “the good life” is, how, exactly, are you going to achieve it? And are you just going to up and off yourself once you can no longer have this good life? Because this question really doesn’t seem to take into account any sort of communal ethic at all. And what’s even worse, it comes quite close to suggesting that this idea of ‘good life’ is predicated on some standard of physical and mental ability, which disqualifies the chronically ill and the disabled. This is some freaky Me-Before-You territory right here.
But we cannot answer that part of the question, according to the qualifications! You cannot even address the real issues inherent in whatever a good life is! ALL WE ARE ALLOWED TO DO IS MINDLESSLY SPECULATE WHILE THIS SPOROS-QUESTION WREAKS HAVOC.

DPC needs a moment to calm the burning rage.

There.

As you have probably discerned, DPC cares not for this question. It took a burning ethical issue and
Crowdsourcing:  Who should be cast as the Sporos in the movie version?
perverted it. It sets up a situation wherein an aging and depressed parishioner approaches you, the priest, with their sadness and loss, and you respond to their very real grief with detached philosophizing about what really is a ‘good life’. That’s insensitive and dismissive AT BEST. It’s ministerial malpractice and spiritual abuse at worst.

No. Nope. Knock it off, Sporos. Quit playing around and deepen already.



DPC awards this a WTF, with a side of Burn It With Fire.  

1 comment:

  1. This is the worst question I have ever seen. What does it have to do with being a priest? I think it needs an category of its own. What were they thinking? Oh right - not thinking - just mind-f*&%ing

    ReplyDelete