Posted by: nuleadership | February 17, 2014

A Pastoral Perspective on Ethics

church

Introduction

The purpose of this dialogue involves discussing the concept of Ethics from a moderate-induced pastoral perception.  Ethics per se, as a universal model, involves or requires the decision-making acuities of any rational corporeal agent who intends to initiate or maintain a common, communal, and cultural balance among individuals.  

As such, Ethics may be simplified by considering that the concept Ethics is a universal representative model that includes all the possible values, desires, and intents of human society.  These components serve to form the ingredients that are molded and shaped to create a sort of utilitarian ideal.   

This systematic decision-making process is then drawn to provide the ideal concept for what is to be considered as responsible and acceptable behavior.  Because the ideal model is grounded in the dynamic and continual activity of harmonizing shared or ecumenical values against communal intents and desired objectives, Ethics then becomes both a suitable and most reasonable strategy for any extant structure that would be devoid of a practical methodology that assists in sustaining prolonging and strengthening the human-inhabited community.  Very succinctly stated, Ethics, then, is the monitoring, sustaining, and prolonging of values and life using an acceptable set of agreeable contexts to avoid chaos at all costs. 

Ethics from the Common Pastoral Perspective 

From the common perspective, it is apparent that many individuals inhabit this cosmological domain we call society.  We indeed, have or are sharing the commonness of possessing uniquely distinguishable attributes.  Where this is not the case, then human behavioral characteristics would not be universally recognizable as uniquely separate and the simple adjective, individual and its supplementary cognates, would have no referenced or understandable meanings.   

Despite the broad-spectrum of agreement that reflects the general idea that most individuals exhibit a tendency of being extraordinarily  intelligent and competent to communicate and placate reasonable common practices on their own, unfortunately most of their efforts only result in creating or contributing to an undesired chaos.

 Therefore, one of the most ultimate objectives of the ethereal community or spiritual structures, the church, is to assist in ensuring that the state of balance, growth, and maintenance is continued within this physical society to assure a continued existence and promulgation of the human species.   

Unique differences do exist.  External negative factors  and the disproportionate presence of human values, illuminates the church, per se, as endeavoring to moderate the corpus of divergent human values and objectives with an intended hope of extending and bettering human society.  Hence, the pastoral ministry becomes the church’s primary ordering instrument and may be considered as a useful and constructive vocation.   

The church or ecclesiastical institution is but one agency among other ethical institutions such as business and commerce, court judicial systems, financial management corporations, and even merchandisers that exist.  While each is uniquely different, all have similar aspirations and purposeful intentions aimed at maintaining, building, and cultivating, a useful and practical universal arrangement that both molds and shapes the common society of all.  Merely addressing this common perspective regarding Ethics is not enough; the cultural perspective of Ethics too, must be addressed.

 

Ethics from a Cultural Balance Perspective 

Having considered the vastness of the anthropological species, it is apparent that the present earth has a landscape that is draped and cluttered with many disagreeing ethnic groups, opposing religious beliefs and ecologically-damaging vocational occupations.  Here, the sociological investigator or those who consider the boundaries of Ethics are met with impending difficulties in prescribing and designing an ethical system that truly benefits all and agitates none.  This sort of scenario offers an opportunity to introduce the utilitarian model of Ethics in a cultural perspective.   

Harsanyi (1986) states, “The fundamental assumption of utilitarian  theory is that we ought to choose our  moral standards by rational criteria…that we ought to choose the moral standards of the highest expected social utility” (Harsanyi, 1986, p 1).  While the previous statement of Harsanyi (1986) does indeed, suggest an idealistic prescriptive remedy for what one should do in the instance of possessing an innate sense of “oughtness”, one quickly realizes that such a solution is not readily practical or socially accommodating  because of the many differing cultural variances that do exist.   

Again, in employing the “oughtness” concept, additional accumulative difficulties tend to surface; language barriers, societal customs, and religious beliefs, are often the most prevalent conflicts when considering utilitarianism.  Despite this state of disunity, communication  becomes an indispensable component regarding helping to balance the great cultural divide.  Queries like “Whose global government is the most appropriate for all people?”  “What political persuasion truly benefits everyone?” and “Whose academic description of Ethics is most readily to be believed?”   

Societies have yet arrived at a most adoptable solution and the continual presence and practice of effective communication skills has helped leaders to sustain an operable state despite the world’s multi-faceted assortment of values, ideas, and objectives. 

Ethics from a Communal Perspective 

Imaginatively, there is an illustrative philosophical axiom that relates to the idea that if the physical world has sufficient amenities to sustain an individual people, then it must certainly also possess the capacity to sustain a corpus that contains every person.  Revisiting the three components that are useful in maintaining an equitable balance of values against the intended objectives of all humanity, a simple and practical solution is to begin to view the world’s populace as a single immense community.   

Although varying, culturally, and ethnically different, these observed differences truly make life an ongoing enterprise.  Irrational creatures, being much more numerous and less adept in the skills of intelligence and transforming abilities, do exist in harmony.  Humans, too, can co-exist peacefully if they would exercise their skills regarding communication.  Many instances of miscommunication have ignited wars, isolated cultures, and decimated whole societies.   

Sensibly, if the balance of human society is to continue, then more effective ways of ethical communication must be employed to retain the delicate arrangement of human society.  Two inquiries to consider are; “What becomes of a society that lacks a set of Ethics to enhance its development?” and “What benefit does a set of ethical axioms do when an intelligent species has annihilated itself do to the lack of communication?”  This scenario depicts that practical Ethics is not only possible but a necessity. 

Please provide your personal or professional insight on the subject discussed.

(c) 2014 by Bruce Martin

About the Guest Blogger

bruce

Rev. Bruce Martin is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee and is a licensed and ordained minister of 35 years.  He is a now-retired mechanical designer from the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Rev. Martin attended the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia as a Civil Engineering major in 1974.  He presently holds a Bachelors Degree in Systematic Theology from the American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.  

He also completed graduate studies in Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  Presently, Rev. Martin is a 3rd year doctoral candidate in Education at the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.  Rev. Martin was formerly the Senior Pastor of the Oakland Baptist Church in Louisville.  While residing there, he taught New Testament Theology at Simmons College.

Reference

Harsanyi, J. C. (1986). Individual utilities and utilitarian ethics (pp. 1-12).  Physica-Verlag HD.

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Responses

  1. Ethics is a complicated subject when applied in a global sense. Trying to find a method that works for different cultures, religions, political stances, personal beliefs, etc is practically impossible. The only philosophy that I feel works on such a large populace is utilitarianism, combined with strong communication between all who are involved.

    It would be impossible to set ethical guidelines and laws that pleases everyone, but we can take a logical approach and put forth ways to best meet the needs of as many people and interests as possible. My own personal philosophy is that something is ok unless it infringes on the rights of someone else. There of course is some grey area in that thinking, which is beyond the scope of this post.

    Communication is vital, as Mr. Martin mentioned, as without communication and understanding we face the possibility of conflict, in all its various forms.

    A study by Arvidsson was conducted that showed in the business world, communication was essential in dealing with and preventing future ethical concerns. This communication was viewed more favorably when put forth in a utilitarian nature to satisfy as many concerned parties as possible (2010).

    Arvidsson, S. (2010). Communication of corporate social responsibility: a study of the views of management teams in large companies. Journal of Business Ethics, 96(3), 339-354. doi:10.1007/s10551-010-0469-2

    • Greg,
      Your observation is most accurate when saying that, “Communication is vital” and “without communication and understanding we face the possibility of conflict, in all its various forms”. Communication allows for subsequent and forthcoming amendments to any policy or procedure that has been adopted by a society or group of people.As such, without vision or voice, people and their ideas are subject to perish.
      Thanks BM

    • The global observations you make are interesting. Perceptions derived from a cultural perspective play a part in what varying cultures view as ethical behavior, and religious beliefs play a part in how people derive their morals (Wines & Napier). Globalization is mixing these cultures and molding the definition of what is “acceptable” in these global cultures.

      Given that these global cultures are changing what is considered morally acceptable behavior, it is left to the greater sense of ethical behavior in a society to moderate behavior in every aspect of life.

      References:
      Wines, W. A., Napier N. K., (1994). Toward an understanding of cross-cultural ethics: A tentative model. Journal of Business Ethics, V.11(11) , pp 831-841

  2. Rev. Bruce Martin, thank you for being our guest blogger this week. I agree with both you and Greg that communication is a very important aspect of ethics. Making employees or persons in general aware of what behavior is good or bad should be done via informal or formal means of communication.
    Ho (2013) posits in his article that the use of informal communication channels together with formal sources of information were generally more highly valued by employees. Employees feel like part if the team when they know what is expected of them, from the initial stage of hiring which is the orientation process. It is also very important to remind them periodically. Keeping them informed will aid in them being more efficient and effective employees.
    Ho, C. F. (2013). Communication Makes a Corporate Code of Ethics Effective: Lessons from Hong Kong. Journal Of Construction Engineering & Management, 139(2), 128-137. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)CO.1943-7862.0000568

    • Greetings Janelle,
      Most people consider that ethical behaviors differ between particular environments representative of certain entities. For example, secular structures, or companies sometimes often appear to differ from that of certain sacred structures such as the church. However, a closer look does reveal that both entities certainly regard how each of their subjects behave and subsequently relate their conduct [communicate] to others. Fortunately, communication additionally serves as a moderator for a person’s feelings and affections. That is why your comment that “Employees feel like part if the team when they know what is expected of them, from the initial stage of hiring which is the orientation process. It is also very important to remind them periodically” highlights a most important aspect of communication; communication is a reiterative and ongoing process rather than just a one-time or punctilliar event. Thanks

  3. Rev. Martin, thank you for your blog post and time. I found your topic interesting and your post well written. Again, thank you for this information and for sharing with us.

    • Thank you for your comments Amanda,
      It is always a pleasure to assist in the learning of upcoming scholars.

      Bruce

  4. Rev. Martin Thank you for being the guest bloger as well as bringing the guest speaker Todd Kelly. Quite honored to listen to a all round Champion person on and off the field of Life and Football. I understand as a single parent getting the children to the table and teaching the proper Ethics and morals for their lifes and hoping you enstow the values that will leave a permanent tatoo on the world without the scar to wrinkle. I appreciate the time both of you took to take to visit with us in class. Ethics needs to be encouraged and reinforced more in our daily lives and sometimes, those that are in the political limelight need to realize that they are setting an example
    and step back before they make all of their actions be public. I always feel it is sad when the rich go to get a lawyer and continually seek treatment to get out of the trouble when they knew exactly what they were doing, and will continually do the same thing over and over again. This is why I refuse to buy CD’s or movies to support the movies or music industry, why not let them work like the rest of us to get an income and survive. If they want to make unethical decisions I can not support that behavior nor will I let my family fund their income when I struggle.

    Loewenberg, F. M., & Dolgoff, R. (1982). Ethical decisions for social work practice. Itasca, Ill: F.E. Peacock Publishers.

    • Patricia, I have to hone in on your stance for piracy. Musicians and actors already make money off of the movie before it hits shelves. You aren’t sticking it to the artists you seem so dis-affectionate for, instead you are hurting people in broadcasting,editing, and behind the scenes positions. Actors are paid by contract issued before filming, bands make most of their money touring. While I understand your idea of wanting to ‘stick it to the man’ maybe you should make sure just who you’re sticking it to. For movies, the profits on dvd sales is what goes to the hard working writers and studio members.Sure it goes to the stars in many cases too, but you really have to think of the greater scope. Also, if you had ever been on a set or in a studio, you would probably be surprised about just how much work actually goes into those things. Seriously, check the credits some time. Its a lot of man hours, man power, and logistical coordination done by people like you and me. “One credible study by the Institute for Policy Innovation pegs the annual harm at $12.5 billion dollars in losses to the U.S. economy as well as more than 70,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in lost wages to American workers [in the music industry].” (RIAA, 2014)

      RIAA. (2014). Who music theft hurts. Retrieved from:http://www.riaa.com/physicalpiracy.php?content_selector=piracy_details_online

    • Hi Patricia,
      I am afraid that Rhett has posted a wonderful rebuttal regarding your opinion. Remember that ethical opinions are rarely dictated by one person’s unsupported opinion as to how they things should be. Things almost never accomplish success that way; especially in the church. Remember that although even the Bible might echo God’s preference regarding our behaviors, it still is the refined- collaborative result of more than 1 writer. My advice to you would be that you realize that a subjective opinion one is only strengthened when you have a host; even an enormous societal segment that agrees with you.

    • Trish,

      I understand where you are coming from. When something unlawful happens it is really easy for the actor and musician to get a lawyer and settle out what was happening. Does it make it right? No. I think that that is a tough topic to talk on because when you are known for making movies or music unlawfully things happen all the time and I know that if I was in that same position I would be going to get my lawyer as well.

  5. Rev. Martin thank you for taking the time to give us your nteresting and intelligent insights on the different aspects of ethics.
    More effective methods of ethical communication is something that I think is key in the efforts of maintaining a society that is comprised of individuals from a variety of different cultures and background. This is especially true in modern times where it seems that the world is becoming more racially and culturally mixed meaning the circumstance of individuals that come from different regions of the world and cultural backgrounds interact closely on a more regular basis. The problem with the concept of good ethical values is that they can be defined and interpreted differently among individuals from different cultural backgrounds. In situations where individuals with different sets of ethical values, how they communicate their individual unique values to each other becomes crucial in determining how successful or unchaotic their relationship with each other will be. Knowing this its is significant that there should be a common standard among the two for communicating their different ethical beliefs. The National Communication Association (NCA) states: “ethical communication enhances human worth and dignity by fostering truthfulness, fairness, responsibility, personal integrity, and respect for self and other.”(NCA, 2000)

    National Communication Association (2000). Credo on Ethical Communication. Retrieved from: http://www.natcom.org/policies/External/EthnicalComm.htm

    • LaQuonda,

      I have to agree with you. You said, “The problem with the concept of good ethical values is that they can be defined and interpreted differently among individuals from different cultural backgrounds.” I really couldn’t agree more. Everyone grows up thinking different things may be the right way to do those different things. I just think that people need to balance their values and beliefs if that makes any bit of sense. Just because I believe something is right doesn’t mean you should but I think we should morally agree on what is acceptable.

  6. Reverend Martin, first of all thank you for lending your time and knowledge to our course via this blog. It is greatly appreciated and you certainly are well versed in the subject. In particular, I notice part of the article where you address faith and the church with their role serving as an orientation for peoples’ ethical standings. Religious doctrines certainly have always influenced people’s moral standings, or rather, their perceptions of morality. In relation to your post, I found an article from Santa Clara University, a Jesuit University wherein Paul Fitzgerald speaks to the orientation of ethics from our religions.”To orient oneself means, literally, to turn to the East, where the sun rises, to get one’s bearings. Faith serves the same purpose as the sun, in a figurative sense, in the practice of ethical judgment. Faith allows individuals and groups to search out the present good against a (relatively) stable backdrop.” (Fitzsgerald, n.d.) While we may look toward the figurative sun on the horizon, what lies on that horizon is not clear and leaves room for interpretation.

    Faith is an important part of the discussion of ethics Coincidentally, I spent the other evening watching a documentary about the Children of God cult. Among the many fascinating things this documentary brought to light about the cult’s corruption and wickedness, it also brought about a new thought for me; that ethics, in faith, holds another level between God and man, and that is interpretation. Really this interpretation, I think, is another important factor to all faiths and no doubt in your own sermons. While religions or doctrinal interpretations will be debated for ages, as they always have been; these intelligent and mutual conversations give us a better idea of where to orient ourselves among the many complexities of our society. In the case of the Children of God, interpretation was unethically motivated around one man’s egotistical beliefs; whereas with Protestantism, Luther was interpreting religion for the utilitarian benefit for all people. By challenging our orientations and challenging interpretation, we may better understand the ethical basis that we hold ourselves and others to.

    Fitzgerald, Paul S.J., (n.d.) Religion provides a point of reference for ethical decision making. Santa Clara University. Santa Clara, CA. Retreived from: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v9n1/horizon.html

  7. Rev. Bruce Martin,

    First, I want to say thank you for being our guest blogger this week. This is a very interesting topic. The paragraph right above the video really stood out and caught my attention. I agree with you referencing the church, business and commerce, judicial systems, financial management, and merchandisers all having similar aspirations. In most areas, the church is where my aspirations come in but I get them from many other places that were mentioned above in other areas of my life. I think that these other areas are what help us as people build and understand how everything around us works or is supposed to work. I think that it is important for people to have a balance of different aspirations. I believe that this could help our society come together and understand each other more. Diversity, of course, has had different meanings for different people. So has ethics, for that matter (2014). Everyone is different and unique in his or her own way which is why we need this type of balance in our society.

    Brown, M. T. (2014). Working ethics. Retrieved from Diversity, of course, has had different meanings for different people. So has ethics, for that matter.

    • Rev. Bruce Martin,

      First, I want to say thank you for being our guest blogger this week. This is a very interesting topic. The paragraph right above the video really stood out and caught my attention. I agree with you referencing the church, business and commerce, judicial systems, financial management, and merchandisers all having similar aspirations. In most areas, the church is where my aspirations come in but I get them from many other places that were mentioned above in other areas of my life. I think that these other areas are what help us as people build and understand how everything around us works or is supposed to work. I think that it is important for people to have a balance of different aspirations. I believe that this could help our society come together and understand each other more. Diversity, of course, has had different meanings for different people. So has ethics, for that matter (2014). Everyone is different and unique in his or her own way which is why we need this type of balance in our society.

      Brown, M. T. (2014). Working ethics. Retrieved from http://workingethics.com/valuesanddiversity.html

    • Shane, I agree with your points. I do, however, feel that our own individual behavior is our greatest communication tool. The way we conduct ourselves on a day to day basis is what defines our value system. In my post I listed the four princilples of ethical behavior…honesty, integrity, fairness, and concern for others (Howe, 2005). By exhibiting these principles daily, we are essentially saying “this is what I stand for and how I do business.” These are universal and are appreciated by all cultures. It is true everyone is different. However, we all want to be treated with honesty and respect.

      Howe, M. (2005). Five guidelines for ethical business communication. retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?Five-Guidelines-For-Ethical-Business-Communications&id=1814611.

    • Shane,

      I agree with your points, by observing the world around us we can gain a better understanding on how things work. To me there is no way someone can look at a sunrise, sunset, mountain range, ocean, and many other aspects of this world and say that there is not a God. He created it all and then created us in his image. its so wonderful when a business decides to operate under a code of ethics. to me it establishes trust and will provide the company many years of profitability to come. I think it was awesome having a pastor’s take on this view and really appreciate his time!

  8. Thank you Rev. Martin for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. As the world is getting smaller and smaller, there is definitely increased interaction with other cultures, ethnicities, and faiths. Communication within these groups can be complex. One value system may differ from another. I think our own personal actions are our greatest form of communication…the “golden rule” if you will. There are four principles of ethical behavior…honesty, integrity, fairness, and concern for others (Howe, 2005). I feel these are universal principles that transcend culture. By utilizing these principals in our business dealings, and everyday lives, aren’t we effectively communicating these as our values? Five guidelines to ensuring ethical communication are as follows: Be honest, make sure opinions are noted to be opinions and not more, be unbiased when presenting information, be sure information is easily understandable, and give credit to where your sources came from (Howe, 2005). By following these guidelines, communication across cultural lines be much more ethical and effective.

    Howe, Michelle. (2005). Five guidelines for ethical business communication. retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?Five-Guidelines-For-Ethical-Business-Communications&id=1814611.

  9. Pilot Flying J’s elephant in the room continues to be the FBI raid of its headquarters in April of 2013. I have been able to witness first-hand the destructive nature of compromised business ethics. So often it is the misdeeds and greed of a few that can compromise the viability of even the largest organizations. The raid was the culmination of an undercover operation into perceived fraudulent activities taking place within PFJ. While the investigation is ongoing, PFJ has settled with customers affidavits claim PFJ to have cheated out of money. This has resulted in PFJ executives adjusting a number of long-term strategies.

  10. Thank you to Rev. Martin for being our guest blogger this week. You have provided great insight and knowledge, and new perspectives about ethics in different places. I highly agree that ethical communication is becoming more and more important as the world (Collins, 2012) and the important places therein, such as the church and the workplace, are becoming more culturally and socially diverse. As diversity grows, so does ideas on how ethics are related. It is crucial to educate employees and congregations on how ethics are meant to be communicated and fulfilled. Although different people have different concepts and ideas of what ethics are, there should be clear communication of how they are to be represented in the work place or place of business such as church or even home.

    Source:
    Collins, D. (2012). Business ethics: How to Design and manage ethical organizations. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

  11. I am not sure that I would readily agree with the comment that “Many organizations do not have an explicit or even implicit corporate ethical model for managers to follow, thereby leaving individuals to their own personal, highly varied ethical beliefs” (Knouse & Giacalone ,1992). Using the term “many” without a fair description as to the size and length of the companies referred to, in my assessment appears to be a far one-sided appraisal. Again, the date of your posted source is 1992 which again, does not reflect the corporate idealized ethics of today. Certainly things have changed in 22 years regarding corporate
    ethical thinking.

    Bruce

  12. Speaking along religious lines, since this is a “pastoral perspective on ethics,” we all know there are many religions and many belief systems that millions of people base their lifestyles and decisions upon. With these different beliefs, some decisions would be considered ethical within one religious sect, where making the same choice would be highly unethical within another religion. I think it is important for people, not only religious groups, to have a basic understanding of the differences in opinions within different groups. And, like another blogger stated, I, too, think there should be clear communication of how ethical ideas are to be represented in the workplace, church, etc.

  13. Thanks for the post Rev. Martin. Good stuff. Ethics is a topic that HAS to be examined from all different perspectives. There isn’t a “one size fits all” mold to the world. Something that I deem totally unethical based on my culture and religious beliefs may be par for the course for someone else. I think religion is the main driving force behind ethics in most situations. So much so that people are willing to fight and die to protect their ethical beliefs. While it has been echoed many times by my classmates, communication is the most important aspect mixed with a willingness to be tolerant.

    You said “Humans, too, can co-exist peacefully if they would exercise their skills regarding communication..” I find this interesting because it’s such a simple statement, but it’s an impossible task for some.

  14. I have an entirely different view about ethics as it relates to the “church”. I do not like to consider myself religious as the world abuses the term. I’m a bible believing Christian and try to apply the Lord’s Word to my ethical standards and choices. Whether I like it or not, my choices are based and backed by the living Word of God and not my own set of ethics. I also do not agree that humans can ever co-exist peacefully. There will never be peace on earth until there is a king on the throne. That king is Jesus Christ. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, King James Version, 1611)

  15. This morning I had an enthusiastic conversation with a family member regarding ethical behavior. We disagreed on an action taken by another person and whether a business decision he made was ethical or not. We “agreed to disagree” and changed the conversation! I am confident that there were no malicious unethical decisions made, but our spirited conversation demonstrated how differently behaviors can be interpreted. “Many organizations do not have an explicit or even implicit corporate ethical model for managers to follow, thereby leaving individuals to their own personal, highly varied ethical beliefs” (Knouse & Giacalone ,1992). In citing this article, it allows us to compare the business ethics culture of 1992 to today, as today’s workplace is focused on ethics. While one would assume that when faced with an ethical dilemma, an employee would make the right decision, often formal guidance and training is required. In our company, all employees are educated yearly in ethics and integrity compliance, which has become increasingly commonplace in the business community.

    Knouse, S. B., & Giacalone, R.A. (1992). Ethical Decision-Making in Business: Behavioral Issues and Concerns. Journal Of Business Ethics, 11(5/6), 369-377.


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