In 1941, a Northeastern newspaper editor characterized Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln as “lighthouses in a foggy world.” It’s more than symbolism. Should we be shocked when our “moral light” has been extinguished in most of our institutions, from schools of social sciences and education in universities, to secondary school teachers, and generations of vulnerable students? It spread like fire in a tinder box. But more pernicious. Without wading too deeply into the existential or philosophical weeds, it’s safe to say that our country is, and has been for decades, under siege by this plague, permeating every facet of our lives. From the classroom to the media to matrimony, from politics to the pulpit, and beyond.
This “fog” isn’t from London. It’s a “European import,” penetrating every corner of this orb on which we tread. One may recall, the lighthouse was to steer mariners, while in the dark of night, or dense fog, away from cliffs, land, shorelines, coral reefs, shallow shoals, or other potential hazards. Not only at night, it had to be visible in the day, performing a similar function of warning of unseen reefs, and other underwater dangers such as rocks. It also assisted in aerial navigation, and safe entry into harbor.
Catholic journalist of yesteryear, Dorothy Day, defined a good society, “as one that makes it easy for you to be good.” Evangelicals agree as co-belligerents there’s a contemporary moral landscape that’s inimical to practicing morality. It has been radically altered by moral relativism. We’re reminded, only a moment-by-moment walk with the Lord enables us to “swim against the prevailing moral tide.” Many church pulpits are secularized and decadently worldly.
Today, the “lighthouse of moral principles” is obscured by the “fog of moral relativism.” That’s why G.K. Chesterton observed, “Morality is always dreadfully complicated to a man who has lost all his principles.” Naysayer and scoffer quickly dismiss such a notion as “over simplified.” That’s because the unvarnished truth of absolutes escape their conniving, convoluted thinking. Sadly, the 24/7 media drumbeat is the same. Secular elitist reject such erstwhile notions of monogamy, connubial bliss, chaste living, integrity, or the hint of eternity beyond this world. Hollywood and TV sitcoms set the plumb line for modern comportment. Their only absolute, “There are absolutely no absolutes.” Mr. Webster said, “any theory of ethics or knowledge based upon the idea that all values or judgments are relative, differing according to circumstances, persons or culture.” We are there.
We’ve heard the polemics of those who reject the idea of absolutes. It causes psychological guilt-they protest-and one shouldn’t have to live with such burdens. Self-esteem is the thing. If liars, tyrants, terrorists, adulterers, or pedophiles “feel better,” logically, they’ll be better persons than if they felt guilty. Was Hitler’s problem a paucity of self-esteem? Some argue it’s just a cultural difference. Eskimo culture approves of killing old people. We have Oregon. Those who’re “hip” claim that fornication’s a form “social networking.” Some disagree. Who’s to say? Isn’t it subjective? The relativist proclaim, “That’s your opinion!” They deny one can know anything for sure. One may deny the existence of Hell; it doesn’t prove there is no such place, and that none will go there. Nazis forced genocide. Unless there’s an objective basis for good or evil, the majority rules. We have a hint of what that world looks like when justice, honesty, courage, and self-control are denigrated as reprehensible.
The hue and cry today is, “We’re free to do what we want!” C.S. Lewis, in The Poison of Subjectivism, stated relativism, “will certainly end our species and damn our souls.” As a Christian, he knew that moral relativism obscures the clear teachings of Jesus Christ about salvation, eliminates His law, and trivializes repentance, and undermines biblical authority. Women who trivialize the life of the unborn, maintaining their freedom to do so, is based on a cavalier attitude, “It’s my own body,” fomented by the 1973, Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade decision, that created a “constitutional right” where none existed. If freedom is indeed free, it must be free to all. Who’s free to create socially accepted rules of conduct, speech, clothing, social contracts, driving, laws, or charity? Must we jettison eons of tradition and long standing edifices that forbade murder, rape, theft, treason, or genocide? No boundaries or rules? Is everyone free to do what seems right in their own eyes? What chaos would ensue? We’ve had a sneak preview of those consequences for nearly four decades. It’s a malison to our existence.
Recent “legal intrusions” from the courts, mandate same sex marriage, disguised as “tolerance.” What does that mean? Tolerance of ideas? Tolerance of behavior? Unbridled tolerance? Taken to its logical conclusion, what about unhindered tolerance in constructing a building? Excessive deviation from building codes would spell imminent disaster. Tolerating the brutal dismemberment of the unborn? What about the tolerance to remove “homophobes” today? Perhaps homosexuals tomorrow? The same absolutism that most homosexuals scorn, because it’s not tolerant of their behavior, is their only protection against intolerance of their persons. It’s apparent the progressive’s tolerance is a narrow, one way street. Such latitudinarianism is a toxic elixir.
Moral relativism keeps the unregenerate shackled. It preys on us daily. So, truth is momentary? Many politicians make “promises” they never intended to keep. It engages students to cheat who never intended to study. It entices spouses to break marriage vows with its siren call. Peter, Paul and Mary sang, Blowing in the Wind, composed by Bob Dylan, in 1962. Its refrain, “The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Absent absolutes, the answer’s always in flux, fleeting, and elusive. Awaiting the next trend or philosophy to blow across the plains of our existence. Moral relativism makes grandiose claims, but delivers only a vacuous existence, and inevitable mortal wound. Worst of all, it has no soul. It’s too incongruous to contemplate. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org