the baby and the bathwater

MP’s Expenses
May 8, 2009, 11:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church about issues of morality. In their day, in that society, the moral issue that Paul needed to speak into was that of sexuality. But the principles he spoke about are, in my mind, applicable to other morality issues. And the current debate on MP’s expenses is one such issue.

Paul says that “just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Most of what we see being revealed in the publication on MP’s expenses is technically legal. They have followed guidelines, met the requirements of the process. However, if the allegations in the press today are true, then many of them have fallen woefully short of any morality standards we should expect of the political leaders of the nation.

I have been in stressful jobs requiring long hours, lots of travel, and a constant need to be presenting a strong public face. At such times I have always had to have ‘everything in it’s right place’ in terms of my domestic circumstances. I understand the need to remove as many as possible of those practical things in life that can cause extreme frustration when you work in such environments – whether having a clean and tidy home near the place of work, of being able to get a good meal when time does not allow for cooking, of having communications working properly, of travel arrangements going to plan. And this is what is probably behind the rules – the technicalities – of MP’s expenses systems. And I am OK about that.

However, in such things, the rules will never provide the most compelling framework for a moral lifestyle. No, for that you need to have integrity. You need to operate the rules from a place of good character, good intentions, and good convictions. And it seems that this is where we are all feeling let down. In fact, I really don’t want to hear the phrase ‘I was acting within the rules’ in this debate again. What I want to here is some more people to show us how they have been operating out of integrity, not rules.

We can, and probably will have to, change the rules. But until we get evidence of greater integrity amongst our political leaders, no doubt we will be in this place again at some point in the future. Because without a strong moral framework, even such powerful people will be slaves to their whims.


2 Comments so far
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“Because without a strong moral framework, even [especially] such powerful people will be slaves to their whims.”

Great post…

Comment by Andy

Great post Neil.

I’ve heard some great excuses for this, the best of which has been “The system has created these peoples’ behaviours”.

But I find myself asking “who created the system then?”. Was is not people? And it always comes back to the same, people are the only ones who can create and influence their current behaviour and choices. We seem to live in a culture where responsibility for one’s own morals and behaviours is spurned in favour of blaming a larger “system” or “science” or “power”. Yet it is still called freedom. It seems that we would sometimes even choose to blame genetic make-up rather than take responsibilty for our own choices.

I would really love to see some of these guys step out of an “I’m just a product of a system” excuse matrix into a place where the simple admission of “I made my choices. They were wrong. I need to change my mind on this” would see examples of moral responsibility and judgement rather than weak excuses.

In a similar more personal vein, I can see where I have used my past situations and elements outside of my control to excuse my current actions. This can quickly become a behaviour for which I take no moral responsibility or charge. As I grow up (an ongoing requirement), I’ve realised that the past I cannot change, but I can be responsible for my actions and choices today. It is in this I think we find true freedom and responsibility. Isn’t this repentance?

Comment by Kev B

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