In regard to the Senate report on CIA interrogation practices, and the (non?) efficacy of the Grand Jury system, and action or inaction in Syria or Ukraine or the Ebola zone, and Central American poverty and violence, and border security, and mass surveillance, and inter-religious conflict, and… well, the list could easily continue… a few incomplete thoughts:
The inevitable hypocrisy, which is associated with all the collective activities of the human race, springs chiefly from this source: that individuals have a moral code which makes the actions of collective man an outrage to their conscience. They therefore invent romantic and moral interpretations of the real facts, preferring to obscure rather than reveal the true character of their collective behavior. Sometimes they are as anxious to offer moral justifications for the brutalities from which they suffer as for those which they commit. The fact that the hypocrisy of man’s group behavior… expresses itself not only in terms of self-justification but in terms of moral justification of human behavior in general, symbolizes one of the tragedies of the human spirit: its inability to conform its collective life to its individual ideals. As individuals, men believe they ought to love and serve each other and establish justice between each other. As racial, economic and national groups they take for themselves, whatever their power can command.
Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society
There are at bottom only three alternative routes or approaches to follow in making moral decisions. They are (1) the legalistic; (2) the antinomian, the opposite extreme — i.e., a lawless or unprincipled approach; and (3) the situational. All three have played their part in the history of Western morals, legalism being by far the most common and persistent.
Joseph F. Fletcher, Situation Ethics
The law of love is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law, it is absolute because it concerns everything concrete…. The absolutism of love is its power to go into the concrete situation, to discover what is demanded by the predicament of the concrete to which it turns. Therefore, love can never become fanatical in a fight for the absolute, or cynical under the impact of the relative.
Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology
If you perceive something simple and/or obvious in any of the foregoing, please read again. Then as the calendar continues into our hemisphere’s darkest of dark nights, consider please how we might more constructively engage together over treacherous issues of ethics and morality. What do we ask? How do we ask it? What do we say (or write) and when do we remain quiet?