Sunday Sermon

“It’s my right to go wherever I want, whenever I want.”

“It’s my responsibility not to go wherever I want, whenever I want.

The Trolley Problem can be subjected to countless mutations by tinkering with the parameters. Here’s a version I cooked up as a flash fan fiction during an earlier iteration of this website. In every variant of Trolley World you’re the driver confronting a moral dilemma:

Should I run over this person in order to save someone else, someone perhaps more worthy of living? Does killing someone with intent incur the same level of responsibility as allowing someone to die?

These are dilemmas of responsibility. It’s possible to imagine an alternative set of Trolley scenarios:

You’re driving the trolley and you see a group of Nazis gathered on the track ahead. Is it your responsibility to run them over, even if you could warn them or switch the trolley to a sidetrack? Is it your right to do so?

When I was back there in seminary school, I wrote a master’s thesis titled Rights versus Duties: Reciprocity Orientation in Moral Judgment. In the research I found that people who tend to resolve conflict by “moving toward” others in a cooperative gesture were significantly more likely to frame moral decisions in terms of conflicting responsibilities. In contrast, “moving away” people, who resolve conflict via confrontation, tended to regard moral dilemmas as a matter of conflicting rights.

Are rights-oriented people more aggressive and assertive, whereas duty-oriented people are more passive and reactive? Not necessarily. Soldiers do their duty; so do ICU medics.

After the service y’all are invited to join us for food fun and fellowship via Zoom. Before we close in prayer, let’s all join in on the corona hymn:


3 thoughts on “Sunday Sermon

  1. Speaking of sermons….How is a minister supposed to compete with cell phones and short attention spans? I’ve been out of the church loop for a while, but I imagine that it would be hell (so to speak) to try to communicate anything of substance these days….We aren’t living in the era of Father Mapple….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anne’s church (Episcopal) has been discussing the theology of the Eucharist. Can the priest consecrate the elements across the Internet, transforming the bread and wine each person holds up to the camera on Zoom virtual church, so the congregants can commune with God and one another sacramentally? I’m guessing that the evangelicals would be fine with it. For the Catholics it’s mostly a matter of the priest re-enacting Jesus’s sacrifice via ritual; whether the parishioners partake isn’t as big a concern. Kind of a cool bit of esoteric theory, sort of a virtual medievalism.

    Let’s see if Father Mapple has any uplifting words for us in our ordeal of storm and stress…

    Delight is to him — a far, far upward, and inward delight — who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth this his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of Senators and Judges.

    Liked by 1 person

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