Using people is wrong. It seems absurd this needs to be said, but after reading Jay Therrell’s “Throwing Rocks” and Rob Renfroe’s “Colonialism in Glass Houses” this week, I feel I must say it. Reading how easily they dismiss folks concerned about the WCA’s desire to vaccinate delegates to General Conference, they are missing the gist of what makes this proposal ethically and morally compromised.
It is not wrong to be concerned about the health of others. Wanting to assist people to get vaccines, if they cannot get them on their own, is also not wrong. What makes this program morally comprised, and open to criticisms, are the reasons behind it. If your driving motivation is that General Conference needs to happen in 2022 (as stated by Renfore) and you need delegates to be vaccinated so you can have the General Conference in 2022 (and not have it canceled again)-you are using people and that is wrong.
Again, it seems absurd this needs to be said, but the ends do not justify the means. It is wrong to treat people as a means to an end. When you offer to vaccinate people only because you need them to achieve your own end of having General Conference-that is wrong. Jesus said, “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NRSV). Most of us do not want to be used by others for their own ends.
Yes, we want resolution in United Methodist church. Living in a liminal space is challenging. Let’s be honest though, General Conference does not need to happen in 2022. The world will still spin. Tides will rise and fall. The church will still proclaim the good news of Jesus and the reign of God.
It is so easy to get fixated on our own goal, and the potential upsides of it, we cannot see why it is morally and ethically problematic. Good people, with good intentions, can still do things that are morally problematic. We fall into danger when we justify the means by the perceived good of the goal. Let’s be candid though. Most of us are not really that good and we cannot divorce our motivations from our self-interest. Using people to achieve your own ends is wrong, even if you mean well.