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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

TEXAS FAITH: Anthony Weiner and Internet ethics

By now, we all know more about Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner’s online habits than we probably care to know. But his distribution of a lewd photo and online sex-talk with women other than his wife does raise ethical issues that the Internet if fast forcing upon us. And that is, to what degree is a sin a sin?
Jesus certainly said that to look at a woman with lust was like committing adultery. So, to some extent, that ethic applies to today’s wired world. Applying that standard, what happens online “counts” as much as what happens physically between two people.
But here’s the question for this week from William McKenzie/ Editorial Columnist, Dallas Morning News; "In what ways does the Internet force us to rethink ethical standards?"
Here is the take from Mike Ghouse, one of the 7 seven panelists for all the response go to: http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/06/texas-faith-anthony-weiner-and.html
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

We keep going back to the basics whenever there is a flaunting violation of ethics in the public square. This is like going home where it is safe and comfortable. Ethical standards are indeed dynamic and are moving away from public domain to individual concerns in linear progression. However, they remain the anchor of a culturally stable society.
Before the emergence of earliest formal religions like Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism and the native traditions, adultery was handled like the bulls or the rams, it was not even considered an ethical issue. Whoever was mightier took the girl as though she was a prized chattel.

We have come a long way in moving the civilization to maturation. The statement, "to look at a woman with lust is like committing adultery" is not as comfortable as it was a hundred years ago. Today we are consciously accommodating, "to look at the other person with lust is like betraying the trust of the spouse or a partner."

Oddly the word "sin" is alarmingly absent in the public discourse on Weiner's issue. Indeed, the word is reduced to a personal betrayal rather than a public violation that demanded flogging once. Even the evangelicals were looking at Gingrich, Spitzer, Hart, Craig, Edwards and Clinton as violators rather than sinners, all the while Clinton made attempts to redefine sin in the Lewinsky hearings. According to a new CNN poll, "56 percent of voters in Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner's district do not think the scandal-plagued congressman should resign."

Welcome to the world of new emerging ethics. Thanks to the Internet for forcing us to factor in a variety of individual opinions to change the public discourse on sin, ethics and morality. Without the Internet, the only opinions that mattered were that of the clergy and the polls reaching out to a few.

But today, citizen journalism, blogging and social networks are dramatically altering the black and white issues into colorful ones that give an ever-widening range. The opinions are not the domain of a few any more, but of everyone who freely expresses his or her opinion on a given topic. On my facebook, I have received over 70 comments on the issue and the conversation about open marriages and accommodating the whims in a relationship has earned a space.

As a futurist, I see the word "sin" to remain on books but gradually lose its old meaning and acquire a new value in the public square. The violations would be individual in nature resulting in betrayal and cheating, rather than sinful activities. A new ethics is in the making.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer, thinker and an activist committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day – all of his work is indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/ 

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