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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How do you make your choices?

As the brother of two adopted siblings, one of whom has Downs Syndrome, this piece in the Times interested me.

I'm pro-choice, and I'm a great believer in Science. What I find odd about living as a Progressive in the United States, now, is that the people I find most carefully moral, who believe firmly in being good to others, who donate their time and speak eloquently about a society that takes care of the needs of its citizens...are often people who proclaim themselves atheists or at least agnostics.

I believe there is something essentially faithful and spiritual about the belief that human beings have a responsibility to take care of one another. One could argue, of course, that if a species is to survive, it does so best by sharing and caring for all its members, i.e. altruism has an evolutionary foundation.

One could also say that we see and feel something greater than ourselves, even if we are unconvinced by the specifics of any particular organized religion.

I am less outraged by the current cultural climate than confused by it. There were days when the union organizers, folk singers and inspirational leaders freely used Jesus as their model. It was Woody Guthrie who wrote "Jesus Christ for President," after all. Now, the people who follow in his footsteps...those who believe firmly in collective bargaining and the power of music and words to transform the world, have had his religion stolen from them by fascists and racists and union busters.

This isn't to say that I believe one needs to be a Christian, or any a member of any particular established faith, to have a moral code or a set of values. It just seems to me that the lineage of these moral codes have come from a religious tradition.

The woman noted in the article above believes in the right of women to have abortions, but felt morally opposed to making a genetically selective abortion. She had the right, and she exercised her right. That's as it should be, I believe. One shouldn't be guided by what they are allowed to do...one should be guided by what they feel is correct and good and right for himself or herself.

As we move into an era where science can create both powerful dangers and amazing breakthroughs, where science can both cure us and kill us with increasing efficiency, the question becomes less what we are capable of, and more what what we choose and why.

I know that I have found myself, out of a desire to reject the Religious Right's clear disdain for science, speaking with approval about things that actually give me pause. I also know that those who are deeply faithful occasional take stands against things like Stem Cell Research (healing the sick seems to be a fundamentally religious impulse) because of some legal wrangling with the Left.

There are fewer and fewer limits on what we can do and how many people we can cure and how many people we can kill. With most Progressives rejecting religion as a moral guideline as we move into that future...the question becomes...from where do we get our moral compass?

Thoughts on this?


Zack Calhoon said...

Wow. I love this post.

My fears come from the weaponization of belief in God. The "you're with us or against us mentality", and the intolerance that is being preached acrossed this country.

I don't believe that faithfilled people are bad. They're not bad. I'm a faithfilled person. But what scares me is faithfilled people who let faith get in the way of their reason. There is this misconception that rational thought is the enemy of religion.

The fact that some of your opinions on certain issues gives you pause is a wonderful thing, Matt. I pray that more people deeply consider their positions on abortion, euthanasia, gay rights and gay marriage etc. They are complex issues that don't have easy answers. They shouldn't have easy answers. It's astounding how much the tendency is to look to someone else to tell you how to feel, how to think.

John Patrick Shanley really hit on something with his play when he addressed the concept of doubt in our beliefs and in our spiritual lives. How many times have people in the Bible expressed doubts, fears, desires to give up? And God was there for them. In a way, that questioning and soul searching, that doubt, is a step towards grace.

Joshua James said...

This post rocks . . . I'll try and explain more later, but I'm at a loss, I liked it so much.