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Reflection Based on the Book Scandalous Obligation by Erick Severson (Essay Sample)


The paper was a reflection based on the book Scandalous Obligation by Erick Severson.The Paper required me to identify a major theme in the book and write on it from my own perspective.


Responsibility Redefined
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Responsibility Redefined
Scandalous Obligation: Rethinking Christian Responsibility is a Christian centered book written by Erick Severson.One of the main themes in the book is responsibility. Responsibility touches on ethics and is defined as the act of looking out for the interests of others. Erick intelligently delves into the issue and examines what Christian responsibility is all about. According to him, responsibility entails more than the perceived definition given to it by religious doctrines, legal systems or human communities. He looks at the issues which prevent Christians from practicing true responsibility in their daily lives (Severson, 2011). They include the dilemma of competing calls, the temptation to avoid responsibility and the slippery nature of the obligation.Severson brilliantly uses scripture, Insights and illustrations from classical literature to drive his point home. This paper will examine one of the issues raised by Severson in his work, which is the question of “I” and how it ultimately summarizes the whole argument about responsibility.
From the first chapter of his book, “Responsibility Reconsidered,” Severson highlights the meaning of responsibility in different contexts. On the religious context, the Jewish and Christian factions advocate for a certain responsibility whose main goal is to secure divine approval. Thus, whenever individuals are acting responsibly, it is because they want to please the higher being. The person they might be caring for through their acts is only secondary.Severson refers to the bible, (Mark 10:17) where a young rich ruler approached Jesus enquiring what he must do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus told the man that he must sell all his property and help the poor. On doing that, he could now come and follow him hence gain eternal life (Severson, 2011). The young ruler was after his own eternal bliss. He was discouraged because Jesus asked him to be more responsible than he could have expected. Very many Christians find themselves in a similar predicament today. They ask the question of responsibility for the sake of themselves but not for the sake of others. Jesus challenges this kind of thinking and wants his followers to ask responsibility not based on “I” but “Others”.
On the Human context, communities declare responsibility where fault is found. People take responsibility for acts they have caused. Sadly, there is a lot of suffering out there for which no one takes responsibility. This leaves the aggrieved at the mercies of fate and destiny. Even in cases where people take responsibility, they are blatantly ignorant of the damages and harm they have caused to others. The current problems of racism and sexism being experienced today are as a result of this. In the legal context, courts find themselves at crossroads when administering justice (Severson, 2011). They simply reduce responsibility to a formula. From the above arguments by Severson, it is evident that the main problem as pertains the question of responsibility revolves around the “I” mentality. I am going to provide a reflection of the paper based on this argument.
The “I” mentality has faced criticism from time immemorial. Kant, an early philosopher, urges us to act in a manner that we treat humanity as an end in itself and not a means to an end. This thinking is important in instilling the sense of responsibility amongst people. This thinking is also emphasized in the Golden rule of philosophy which states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. “By those words, this simply calls for unconditional love that demands us to see the needs and feelings of others above our very own. We must put ourselves into the shoes of others (Harbin, 2016). The two philosophies above are in line with Severson’s thinking of responsibility.
The society has gradually shifted from the “We” mentality to the “I” mentality. The burden the society is placing on each and every person is now greater. The “I “mentality is slowly consuming the American people. The recent racial profiling and violence that has been experienced in the U.S.A is directly attributed to the “I”’ mentality where people think only of themselves and therefore do not feel a sense of responsibility for others (Harbin, 2016). A good example of such a case is the Charleston shooting where Dylan Roof, an agitated white supremacist opened fire indiscriminately on a group of worshippers at the Emanuel African Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The culprit targeted black worshippers in the church. Nine people lost their lives during the incident making it one of the worst church shootings in the U.S.A.According to a childhood friend, Roof planned to kill blacks claiming that they intended to take over the world. In addition, he expressed support for racial segregation in the U.S.A (Harbin, 2016).The recent cases of police profiling and racial killings so rampant in the U.S.A are attributable to a lack of responsibility towards others. About 1,092 people were killed by police officers in 2016. A good example is the murder of Jordan Edwards, a fifteen-year-old teenager who was shot dead by police indiscriminately. The murder points out to sheer recklessness amongst the police officers.
The mentality is also seen in sexism in the U.S.A and the rest of the world. Every day, we wake up to the sad news of atrocities such as rape and female genital mutilation against women. In the U.S.A, the predominant form of sexism occurs through discrimination. Recent data has revealed that there is predominant gender pay discrimination in the country. The gap currently stands at a staggering 64%.Sexism is also seen through increased domestic violence against women (Harbin, 2016). In the last twelve years, 6,410 women have been murdered in the U.S.A 55% of whom were killed by their partners. This grim statistics is a manifestation of how the ethics of responsibility is missing even in the basic family unit. Further, the high number of suicide cases in the U.S.A is partly attrib...
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