Beware the Technological Solution for a Moral Problem
A hero of mine has said, “Beware the technological solution for a moral problem.” I have come to understand that this is one of the deepest problems in Africa—and America.
What does this mean? Technology is a way of exercising power over the natural world. So is shamanism (witchcraft). This is front and center in Africa. For example, I was just informed this morning—in earnest—that if you wear a necktie to church, you will receive more blessing. Stethoscopes and white coats impart the same magical power: your doctor is most powerful when he uses these charms. The necktie, the stethoscope, the white coat: talismans?
How should morality be understood? If technology and spells and amulets are about power, what is the relationship between morality and power? I’m honestly trying to make sense out of this.
Intuitively, I know that morality is not about exercising power. With technology, you discover power in something, appropriate it, and manipulate it for your own ends.
Is morality actually about resigning the right (read, demand of the flesh) to exert natural power?
I have taken a week to think about this.
Consider the motivation and actions of Judas Iscariot, the Jewish leaders, and the Roman rulers. These are all about exerting power in the natural world. As their machinations begin to unfold, Christ preempts their power play with a resignation of natural power. Assuming the position and posture of the lowest slave, He washes His disciples feet at the Passover. This is anti-power. Which is why it so shocks Peter and the others. They expect Him to exert power, and they can’t help assuming it will be natural. Peter reverts to this reflex when he amputates the servant’s ear in the garden. But Jesus works in exactly the opposite way. Instead of grasping at power, he surrenders it.
The cross—perhaps the ultimate moral act in all history—is anti-power. Jesus refuses worldly power. Instead He submits to supernatural power. On the cross, He imparts His righteousness—His moral rectitude—to all His children. True moral rectitude is not natural. It is not natural to man and it is not attained through natural means. It is supernatural. Man striving to be good and right by his own natural power is a failure called legalism. True morality is resignation of my own natural power, and the submissive acceptance of the Father’s supernatural power to do and be good. Jesus is a picture of this during his passion: the Passover, Gethsemane, His trial, and the cross.