No Best Option?

One of the challenges of real life decision making is that the options before us might not include any ideal/right options. Some who are faced with cancer are given the option of (a) treatment that is incredibly painful and uncomfortable, and (b) a faster death. They’d like a third and better option.

I suspect the proposed “Iran deal” may be like that. It looks like we have two options: Do the deal or don’t do the deal. The deal looks bad, given our rational distrust for the current Iranian regime, so it’s easy to assume that not doing the deal is the better choice. But what if neither is a truly good choice?

What about the Rohingya women in this story? The introduction:

The young woman had been penned in a camp in the sweltering jungle of southern Thailand for two months when she was offered a deal.

She fled Myanmar this year hoping to reach safety in Malaysia, after anti-Muslim rioters burned her village. But her family could not afford the $1,260 the smugglers demanded to complete the journey.

A stranger was willing to pay for her freedom, the smugglers said, if she agreed to marry him.

“I was allowed to call my parents, and they said that if I was willing, it would be better for all the family,” said the woman, Shahidah Yunus, 22. “I understood what I must do.”

She joined the hundreds of young Rohingya women from Myanmar sold into marriage to Rohingya men already in Malaysia as the price of escaping violence and poverty in their homeland.

They appear to have two choices: (a) Stay in Myanmar and face death, or (b) escape to Malaysia and be sold into marriage? If I were in their place I wouldn’t count either option as good.

One of the advantages of being rich Americans is that we imagine that every option is always available to us. One of the disadvantages of being rich Americans is that we imagine that every option is always available to us – and it’s just not so. Our own prior decisions and actions, and those of others, have foreclosed many if not most options.

When it comes to understanding the Christian ethical stance in the world, I’ve been really attracted to Stanley Hauerwas’s work over the years. It strikes me as uncompromisingly Christian, and I like the idea of being uncompromising. But I’m not fully convinced we can pull it off. Am I compromising when I like John Stackhouse’s approach in Making the Best of It? If I am compromising, is it a bad thing?

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