Christian Ethics Today

Not Waiting for the ‘Bye and Bye’

By Patrick Anderson, editor

       Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder, how it could be thus all the day long,

       While there are others living around us, never molested, tho’ in the wrong.

       Farther along we’ll know all about it; farther along we’ll understand why.

       Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine.

       We’ll understand it all bye and bye.

When Foy Valentine created this journal in 1995, he stated the mission of Christian Ethics Today as an effort to provide laypersons, educators, and ministers (That’s all of us, I think!) with a resource that would help us understand and respond in a faithful Christian manner to moral and ethical issues that are of concern to contemporary Christians, to the church, and to society. Foy did not deem it necessary to enumerate the moral and ethical issues he thought to be important, wisely placing no limitation to the editorial imagination of subsequent editors, first Joe Trull and now me.

The moral and ethical issues have remained painfully persistent: hunger, race, poverty, injustice and economic disparity, to name just a few. The addition of issues related to global climate change and human sexuality have given added relevance and mutability of the old issues. Both Foy and Joe had to first describe the evidence of injustice, overcome denials and justifications for it, and then explain it to often unbelieving readers.

The lie has been put to official reports of heretofore deniable injustices thanks to cellphone-camera-holding witnesses, scientific evidence, and skilled journalists. We have actually seen the killing of Ahmoud Arbery by a white father and son who felt so entitled in their whiteness to take their shotgun and pickup truck and chase down a black man jogging through their neighborhood, a scene that echos slave patrols and lynch mob violence often denied in official history. We have seen the insufferable pleading (“Please, I can’t breathe!”) while a Minneapolis policeman pressed his full weight on the neck of George Floyd, killing him while fellow officers stood idly by and civilian bystanders begged for release of the captive. We cannot escape the scope of COVID-19’s carnage and the ignored suffering of nursing home residents, dark-skinned people chronically bereft of medical care, and the happy talk of feckless political nincompoops.

Like Sisyphus, we keep pushing those stones up the hill. And while never quite getting over the top of the steep hill, we do not flinch away from those intractable matters. Foy added the word “today” to the title and the word “contemporary” to the concerns he sought to address. Those two words imply our attention to immediate issues then and now; but the issues in 1995 have proven to be unrelenting while the specifics of the particular issues unfold day-by-day.

So it is that in this journal in 2020, we address a new issue—the COVID-19 pandemic—and an old issue—racial bigotry—now correctly understood as white supremacy. The essays herein are strong statements penned by black and white writers regarding the moral and ethical issues of race and deadly human-transmitted disease.

May we all understand better and respond appropriately, not waiting for the clarity promised to us in the bye and bye.

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