Friday, April 15, 2005

Morality? Who cares, as long as you're healthy

At spiked, Frank Furedi examines why our culture devotes increasing attention and resources to sickness (HT: notes from the front lines). What Prof. Furedi finds, I think, is highly relevant for Christians in proclaiming and maintaining a Christian worldview.

One possible cause of the increasing emphasis on sickness, Prof. Furedi believes, is the rise of "medicalization," whereby every human condition, from shyness to falling in love, becomes a medical one. Another is the "presupposition that illness is as normal as health." Most significant for the church: that our culture increasingly "uses health to make sense of the human experience." Here's Prof. Furedi:

The more uncertainty we face, the more difficult we find it to make statements of moral purpose, the more ambiguous we feel about what is right and wrong, then the more comfortable we feel using the language of health to make sense of our lives. At a time of moral and existential uncertainty, health has become an important idiom through which to provide guidance to individuals.

This is now so prevalent that we no longer even notice when we are doing it. For example, we no longer tell teenagers that pre-marital sex is good or bad or sinful. Instead we say that pre-marital sex is a health risk. . . ,

There are few clear moral guidelines that can direct our behaviour today; but we have become very good at using health to regulate people's lives in an intrusive and systematic fashion. . . .

As we become morally illiterate, we turn to health to save us from circumstances where we face a degree of moral or spiritual disorientation.

I think Prof. Furedi is correct in his assesment that our culture is replacing a moral outlook with a health orientation. The question for the church is, How are we responding?


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