Radio 4 has a programme called ‘The Moral Maze’ which is (according to its website) a ‘combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week’s news stories.’ I was reminded of the programme as we discussed various modern-day moral issues at the Bible study on Thursday night. Applying Biblical principles to everyday life scenarios is surely what we are called to do in our everyday lives as our thinking is renewed.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German pastor and theologian who was killed towards the end of the Second World War) raised the first voice for church resistance to Hitler’s persecution of Jews, declaring that the church must not simply “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.” It is not easy to stand up for truth in an age where truth is deemed to be relative and determined by one’s own personal opinions. We discussed the moral issues raised by the production of cheap technology: at the Foxconn factory in China (manufacturers of gadgets for the likes of Apple, Sony, Nintendo and HP, among many others) has a grim history of suicides amongst its workers because of their desperate working conditions. At Foxconn’s flagship plant in Longhua, five per cent of its workers (24,000 people!) quit every month, yet the company sees no need to change its policies because there are so many others to take their place. Steve Jobs (former CEO of Apple) once remarked that the suicide rate at this factor ‘was lower than the overall suicide rate of the United States’, implying that this problem was of no significance or consequence. Why do Western companies invest in such factories? Why do we as consumers with an insatiable thirst for cheap gadgets not consider the true cost in human terms of their production?
Another example of such moral dilemmas has recently been in the news with the collapse of a building in Bangladesh housing factories supplying clothes to various budget clothing brands. 194 people died and up to 1,000 people were injured in the collapse. Mostafizur Rahman, the director of the Industrial Police, blamed the Rana Plaza factory owners for ignoring the instruction to evacuate after the first faults were discovered. “We had asked them to operate the factories only after a structural inspection by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. But the factories’ owners ignored our directives and decided to reopen their units on Wednesday,” he said. The £13 billion clothing industry in Bangladesh clearly valued profit over human safety. But we in the West are the ones who demand cheap clothing and who fail to consider how this is achieved.
It is much easier to raise the questions than to answer them! But asking the questions is the first step, perhaps, to realising that there is a problem and to asking God for ways that we can be involved in solutions rather than compounding the problems. We can feel helpless when we look at global injustice and wonder what our lone voice or lone stand can achieve. We shrug our shoulders and feel we cannot make any difference at all. But history is littered with individuals who have stood up for something, jammed that spoke in the wheel and effected great changes. Sam Childers, the author of ‘Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan’ has said “there is nothing anyone could ever say to convince me that one person cannot change a nation. One person can do unbelievable things. All it takes is that one person who’s willing to risk everything to make it happen.” When we think of one person with God, we are reminded that we have a majority! “One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised.” (Joshua 23:10 TNIV)
Our culture is ultimately dominated by the ‘ruler of the kingdom of the air’ (Eph 2:2 TNIV). We forget this at our peril, for, as John Stonestreet has said, ‘Anyone who wants to join in the kingdom-building work of God will face satanic opposition.’ The moral maze in which we live is not mere philosophy or an hour’s debate for a Radio 4 programme. It is life-threatening and life-changing. As we allow God to renew our thinking, He will help us to find alternative ways out of the maze to see the kingdom of God established on earth.