When Barack Obama first spoke publicly about same-sex marriage, he was equivocal. His views were still “evolving” he told us. Then later, after he had tested the waters and determined what cultural trends were developing, he spoke in support of it. He behaved consistent with the growing influence of a belief that all moral standards are relative and that human beings evolve morally as well as biologically.
This idea is most fully developed in secular philosophy. (There are secularists, there are humanists, and there are free thinkers who advocate substantially the same views. I try to refer to them consistently as secularists, because that term seems the most appropriate word for their core ideas.) Secularists deplore the idea that anyone would impose their morality on other people. They teach not only that each generation must find its own way, but further that each person must find their own way. In a recent conversation with a secularist, I asked how he knew that he had found the “right” answer to a moral problem, and his response was that the “right” answer would be whatever made him happy.
There are a lot of reasons that this approach to morality doesn’t work, but the international chaos developing around the anarchy in Syria is a perfect example of the complete pointlessness of trying to live by relative values.
Syria has had an immoral government for years. Immoral, that is, if an absolute standard is applied. The president of Syria is a self-serving egotist who has never demonstrated any regard for the people he leads. Under his administration, terrible persecution of Christians has been rampant, and the general population has suffered from administrative disregard for peace and good order. The rebellion against Assad’s administration has only made things worse. However, people who espouse moral relativism would have a hard time faulting Assad for his behaviors and attitudes, because they appear to make him happy.
Likewise, the rebels who have been trying for months to topple Assad’s administration are doing what appears to make them happy. They are perpetrating murder and mayhem, which is meeting with violent resistance by government forces. All parties are doing what makes them happy, if we view their actions in a relative way.
Nobody appears to be paying any attention to what might make the ordinary citizens of Syria happy. They suffer no matter who is winning the day at any moment. They want to be able to provide food, clothing and shelter for their families without risking life and limb every time they cross a street. They are the ones who suffered and died when someone, nobody knows who, attacked them with poisonous gas. Moral relativists would need to tell the world who is happy about that event in order for the rest of the world to understand why nothing should be done about what looks like an atrocity to moral absolutists.
Unfortunately, the absolute truth does not appear to be forthcoming. In fact, it would be hard to find any absolute truth or any absolute moral guidance in the news from Syria. Is there a party to that conflict who demonstrates integrity? Does “integrity” even have meaning in a world governed by moral relativism?
Barack Obama has demonstrated for five years that he makes his decisions in keeping with moral relativism. He does what makes him happy. When unrest in Syria became violence in Syria, Barack Obama spoke as if he already knew that the morality of the rebels was superior to the morality of the Assad administration. That stance seemed to make Obama happy, even though the idea that one party has a superior value to another is not really consistent with a relativist worldview. Unfortunately, in the poison soup of the violence in that country, it does not appear that the behavior and goals of either side to the conflict will produce any result that will make the people happy. President Obama cannot choose a side that actually exhibits moral superiority in this conflict, even viewed by the vaporous standards of moral relativism. As he wallows publicly, it is becoming quite clear that somebody needs to help him find an absolute standard by which to make a decision.
The real problem is that moral relativism actually makes nobody happy. Relativists, which is to say secularists, want everyone to believe that the world will be a better place if people stop being so absolute about everything. Secularists want Christians to shut up about what the Bible teaches, because it is so absolute. Secularists do not want to hear words such as, “Thou shalt not ….” However, there is a reason for God’s absolutism as exhibited in the Bible. The reason is that there actually is a difference between right and wrong.
What’s more, people are born with a fundamental understanding of the difference between right and wrong. People do not need to be told that it is absolutely wrong for two young men to assault an elderly man in a parking lot and bludgeon him to death because they are bored. There need not be a law against such behavior in order for people to feel revulsion at the very thought of such a thing. Human history makes it plain that people have always known that such things were wrong.
Likewise, nobody needs to be told that adultery is wrong. Moral relativists will try to tell the world that the idea of being completely faithful to one person for life is a selfish and unnecessary restriction on the sexual fulfillment of each partner. Yet these very relativists will feel the pain of betrayal just as much as a moral absolutist when a loved partner sleeps with someone else. Read the books written by people who allege that they live by the standard of what feels good at the moment, and you will quickly see the pain of broken relationships even if they are whitewashed verbally.
The president of the United States needs an absolute moral standard in order to justify intervention in Syria, because nothing he does, intervene or stand aside, will make everyone happy. Both the man and the woman in a marriage (that is what a marriage is –the union of one man and one woman, an absolute and biblical standard) need to commit to each other according to an absolute moral standard, because if they don’t, there will be pain. People must communicate in accordance with an absolute standard of truth in order for any communication to have any meaning. The absolute truth is that without absolute standards, such as the revealed standard of the Bible, nobody can be happy. It is not possible to build a relationship without some absolute standards, because without something absolute, there can be no trust.
The Bible, God’s revealed guide for faith and life, provides absolute moral standards. God breathed into the writers of the Bible his own absolute truth, the same truth he writes on every human heart before birth. What are those truths?
- Put God first, above everything.
- Worship God alone. Don’t be deceived into idolizing anyone or anything.
- Speak of God with reverence and respect.
- Spend some time in God’s presence and take a break from your feeling that everything is about you.
- Respect and honor your parents. Do it simply because they are your parents, if you can’t think of any other reason.
- Protect life. It is God’s most precious gift to every person. Jesus died in order to make this life and the next better.
- Be faithful in the marriage relationship. It, too, is about life. Treat marriage and the gift of life with gratefulness and respect.
- Leave other people’s property alone. Trust God enough to be grateful for his provision for you. It is enough – really.
- Speak only truth. How can anything get done if people lie to each other?
- Stop thinking you have the right to the things other people have worked to earn. Be content with what you have. Work for what you want.
These are absolute truths, absolute values. Every moral relativist will talk the relative talk until his own house is invaded and his own treasures are stolen. Then he will not talk about how happy the thief is; he will talk about retrieving his belongings. Moral relativists want enforcement of an absolute standard when someone else’s relative happiness hurts them.