Everyone Drifts image

Everyone Drifts

Visiting the States last month, I rented a car. Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car takes a little getting used to – especially on the frankly terrifying six-lane highways that ring LA. At one point a friend who was getting a lift with me exclaimed with some panic, “You’re drifting!” as we went rather too close to another vehicle on his side of the car. Of course, everyone drifts.

As a cyclist I am very aware of the tendency of motorists to drift. It is natural for the driver of a car to allow more space on his/her side of the road. We are more aware of the need for a gap closest to where we are sat. This means that when cycling I am used to motorists drifting into cycle lanes on their offside while overcompensating on their nearside. For the cyclist this is frustrating, and often dangerous, but most motorists don’t even realise they are doing it. When we’re driving we think we are holding the centre of the road, but in reality everyone drifts.

Of course, it is not only while driving that we are prone to drift. Lord Carey’s volte face in now supporting ‘assisted dying’ being a case in point. The reasons previously articulated by Carey in opposing assisted dying still stand. His caution about assisted dying becoming something treated as casually as abortion currently is remains valid. The principle that hard cases make bad law will never change, even in a case as hard as that of Tony Nicklinson (who would anyway not have been ‘helped’ by the proposed Bill as he was not terminally ill). And all the wider societal, ethical and legal reasons for opposing assisted dying/suicide/euthanasia are as they were. (A helpful summary of which can be found here.)

I’m sure the former archbishop is acting with good intentions, but to me it looks like drift.

Last week I was asked, for the first time, if I would officiate at a same-sex wedding. Regular readers of THINK will know that I have stated my clear opposition to SSM on a number of occasions, for a number of reasons, societal, ethical and legal. I was flattered to be asked though, and the funny thing is I would really like to have said ‘Yes’ rather than ‘No’. Why? Because I was flattered to be asked, and because I like to be liked, and in many ways it would be so much easier (so much easier with so many of my friends) were I to say yes.

We all drift.

I suspect there are a number of things I do and enjoy which my spiritual forbears would have forbidden and disdained. I put this down to my living in grace whereas they were hidebound and legalistic – but I wonder if actually it is simply that I have drifted with my culture, as surely as they drifted with theirs.

We all drift. As things stand in the contemporary west it is very easy to loudly condemn slavery and racism – decrying the sins of our fathers is so straightforward and makes us all feel better about ourselves. We can be moral heroes when it comes to slavery and racism – after all, we would never have kept slaves or entertained racial prejudice if we had been born 300 years ago; of course not, we are far too sophisticated, and would have been the lone voice crying out for justice. It is becoming increasingly possible to want restrictions upon abortion without being shouted down – there seems to be a drift – a positive one – there. But it is becoming much more difficult to stand firm on euthanasia and extremely difficult to resist the floodtide of homosexuality.

The thing about drifting is that most of the time we don’t even realise we are doing it. And then a cyclist gets knocked off his bike.

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