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The promise and peril of personal relationships

Panel of experts explore 'relationship ethics' in new MSNBC-TV special

On-Line dating
March 13: MSNBC-TV tackles the perils and promise of on-line dating

Chris Jansing
MSNBC Correspondent

"A priest, a rabbi and a professor...."  I know.  It sounds like the start of a (potentially bad) joke.  It is, in fact, my panel of experts for the Ethical Edge.  This weekend, they take on the very thorny issue of "relationship ethics".   Can spending a lot of time on the internet constitute "cheating?"  What are the ethics of online dating?  When people of different faiths marry, how should you raise the kids?  Can men and women be just friends? 

Relationships have always been tricky; modern life and technology have arguably made them even trickier.  This isn't the kind of topic we necessarily thought to tackle when the "Ethical Edge" was first imagined.  This series is an outgrowth of a huge response to MSNBC's coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II.  So many people of so many religious backgrounds were moved by the outpouring of love and grief - the millions who descended on Rome and tens of millions more who watched that moment in history unfold on television - their letters and e-mails told us they were looking for more programming about how to better handle the ethical challenges that face us every day.  Was it possible that a television program could help them live life in a more ethical way?

We don't claim anything transformative with the "Ethical Edge," but we do hope to provide a forum for interesting conversation and maybe even a little self-examination.  The series started by examining the ethical dilemmas presented in the news of the day,  from the war in Iraq to Enron to modern medicine.  Then we branched out to more common themes, which is where we are with this show.

And while the members of the panel have impeccable professional credentials, their life experience brings a uniquely rich diversity to the topic of relationships.  Not only did Rabbi Edward Cohn help his New Orleans congregation navigate the incredible challenges in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but he helped his own daughter re-plan her wedding, which could no longer be held in her hometown.  Father Williams isn't just a Dean of Theology, he's a spiritual counselor who has helped countless singles and couples navigate through relationship difficulties.  And Professor Anita Allen not only counsels students, she married into an ethical dilemma:  an inter-religious, inter-cultural union.    All three really have great insights and experiences to share.

If you have questions/ideas for futures one-hour specials, drop us an e-mail.  And if you have a chance, you can also see a priest a rabbi and a professor - and me - in some combination, every Tuesday and Friday in the 10 am EST hour on MSNBC. [Watch MSNBC-TV listings for the next airing of Ethical Edge]

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