Dear reader, it is time to say goodbye. Family adventures call, as does the feeling that this season of life is done. I’ll get to my final words soon, but first, let me thank you for the interest, the letters of support, the Facebook messages and personal emails (how did you find me?!).
I also want to thank the team at the Waikato Times for supporting me these last five years, especially Deborah Sloan, who defended me with fervor from the letter writers whether she agreed with me or not. Editor Jonathan MacKenzie needs a rather large nod for agreeing to take me on in the first place.
Now for those final words: the deeper I dig into different issues, the more I find they all run, like rivers to the ocean, into the very same subject.
You see, every issue that we as New Zealanders debate is done on the basis of certain assumptions. Whether we argue about euthanasia, same-sex marriage, sexism, the New Zealand flag or anything else, we are arguing about values.
We assume that those values, like individual freedom or the social good, actually exist.
But the more you stare at these issues, week in and week out, the more you find yourself asking one simple question; “says who?” (I’m not the only one asking. The faithless philosopher Jurgen Habermas is now earnestly asking the same question, and he is joined by a host of other secular thinkers).
It is a simple question, but it really, really matters.
After all, if we can’t point to some solid reason why all human beings have inherent rights, for example, then we are in rather a vulnerable position when someone comes along and disagrees.
It’s no good trying to say the most popular values of the day should win. Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and a host of other big names from history are enough evidence to show that what is popular is not always the same thing as what is good or right for a society. Sometimes what is unpopular is the very thing worth fighting for.
Those who think what’s best for a society can be determined through survival of the fittest must first explain why the survival of our species even matters.
Surely, I hear you say, the best values for a society can be determined by research and evidence? Unfortunately we come unstuck there too. After all, finding a “solution” to a social problem depends on the solution that we think good, fair and right… so we end up back at values before we have even started.
The very simple fact of the matter is that our arguments all boil down to yelling “I’m right” very loudly at each other and hoping we will win, without ever being able to say exactly why we deserve to win.
Unless, as Habermas points out, we turn our minds to seeking whether those values are based in something or someone more permanent, more powerful, more persuasive than puny old us. Something or someone ultimately true, at the bottom of everything, or beginning of everything, depending on your viewpoint. Someone worthy of answering the question “says who?” with the words “I do”.
Someone like God.
So it is that week after week I have found myself with surprise at the feet of a familiar and beloved Heavenly Father, encountering not some ultimate truth or final argument, but rather a person. A person too big to fit into any one side of an argument, and quite determined not to most of the time.
Because, in the end, it’s not about which side of the argument we start on. It’s about whether we dig deep enough to find Him.
This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz