What I Hate About Ethics Bowl
By: an Enthusiast
It’s that time of year again. There’s a chill outside, trees are turning orange, the smell of wood smoke permeates the air at night, and an invigorating sense of excitement accompanies these two words: “Ethics Bowl.”
So call me a geek for loving this, but Ethics Bowl is one of the best parts of the fall semester. Devoted preparation, eager debate participants, and that feeling of pride and utter superiority that no one quite vocalizes but everybody feels: “I am an ethical human being.”
Just kidding—I hope we’re not that vain. In fact, the one thing I hate about ethics bowl is that I’m afraid it gives us a less-than-complete perspective of what it means to be “ethical.” The content of our cases might indicate that “ethics” only involves end-of-life issues, discrimination, human rights, etc. Please—don’t be so fooled.
How do you talk about people when they’re not around? Does pride or your concern for what others think of you alter your behavior? How does respect (or lack thereof) for others affect your speech and actions? You may never make the decisions about whether to kick homeless Kenyans out of the national parks, but you will without a doubt face the day-to-day ethical responsibilities we have as Christians.
I want to challenge you, fellow ethics bowlers. I want to challenge you as those who will one day be held to a higher standard: the issues of an ethics competition are nothing compared to the issues of an ethical life. Ethics are not simple standards, they are how we must live. To quote Dallas Willard, we are faced with “the desperate human problem of knowing how to live, and…the law revealed by Jehovah, Israel’s covenant-making God, [is] the only real solution to this problem.” Love one another. The first shall indeed be last. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
And I wholeheartedly believe that by engaging in this competition, you set yourselves up to potentially become Pharisees of the worst kind. “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19) Ethics bowl is not for the faint of heart; the ethical life to which Christ calls us is even less so.
This year, my prayer for you all, my teammates, is that the ethics you debate so well and so eloquently will pale in comparison to the ethical life you live.
“To what end, O Lord? To what purpose? For what reason? None, but Your Glory.”