If teaching in higher education for the past thirteen years has taught me anything, it is that moral relativism (the idea that what is right and wrong is simply a cultural construct) is the accepted ethical framework of the current American culture. What is more startling is that it is not just the secularist or atheist who believes that objective moral right and wrong do not exist; self-proclaimed Christians also believe in moral relativism.
It is common place in many of my courses for students to claim that actions such as rape, murder, and torturing babies for fun is not absolutely wrong for everyone. Just recently, a female student, as shocking as it may seem, told me that rape is only evil because that is what our society has decided. If it had decided that it was morally right, then it would be o.k. to rape.
This is not just anecdotal evidence. More dramatically, it wasn’t but two years ago that a colleague of mine lectured my ethics class during my absence in which about forty students could not discern whether rape is morally wrong for all people at all times. When my colleague recounted the incident, he said that he asked the class twice whether rape is absolutely wrong morally, and he received nothing but blank stares and “I-don’t-knows.” He finally called out the females in the class, asking them what they thought. The response was chilling: only a handful commented, “Yeah, I guess. Maybe.” When I returned to my class the following week, I put them on the spot again: “Is rape morally wrong for everyone at all times?” I received the same response: blank stares.
It is frightening to think that in just a few short years these students will be our government leaders, nurses, engineers, and counselors. With moral relativism in hand, what kind of culture will they be shaping? If they live out their moral view logically and consistently, one’s imagination does not need to come into play here. A moral relativist with a scalpel in his hand does not exactly inculcate a sense of trust. Nor does a moral relativist who tells you, “Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be o.k.” What exactly do you mean by “o.k.?”
Perhaps you think my colleagues and I are misunderstanding our students. Maybe what students mean is that different cultures and people merely perceive morality differently although certain actions are absolutely wrong no matter what they think about them. Thus, maybe students are trying to make a distinction between what one thinks is right and wrong and what is actually right and wrong. I consistently respond to my students in this manner, asking them if this is what they mean. Much to my chagrin, they maintain that there is no “actual” right and wrong. The really mean that what is right and wrong is entirely subjective or based upon one’s culture. If your culture accepts child molestation, then it is morally right. Have at it.
Maybe you think I am over-reacting. “These are young college students,” you say. “Give them some time and they will come around. We all have thought crazy things when we were young.” Really? I don’t recall being indifferent to rape. I don’t recall ever thinking Hitler was in his right to exterminate the Jews. I don’t recall ever being taught that some actions are morally right for some but morally wrong for others. When my parents told me that racism is wrong, they didn’t mean it was wrong just for me. It was wrong for everyone. We judged the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot as objectively and absolutely evil. If you disagreed, you were part of the problem of evil.
It’s not shocking that moral relativism reigns in our present society. It has been taught by the public schools and universities for several decades. When one thinks about it, this is ironic and just downright irrational. “Find your own moral values,” these educational institutions tell students. “Do not judge others and what they believe.” Then they tell their students that bullying is wrong and hating certain groups of people is wrong, and they do not mean this subjectively. They mean everyone ought not do these things. Now, certainly, I believe such actions are wrong—absolutely and objectively wrong. They, however, have no foundation whatsoever to claim such actions are wrong, precisely because they are moral relativists! How can bullying and hating certain groups be wrong for everyone if morality is relative? This is the epitome of cognitive dissonance. Moral relativists do not (and often cannot) comprehend the intrinsic irrationality of their viewpoint.
As egregious as this irrational error may be, the most distressing aspect is that moral relativists do not recognize that their position is in fact evil. Anyone who supports the idea that rape, murder, and other heinous acts are not actually evil (that it just depends upon your cultural view point) is evil itself. It aids and abets the criminal, rapist, murderer, and others who commit atrocities, giving them a “pass” for such pernicious and depraved deeds. Moral relativists may think they are somehow being “sensitive” and “tolerant” of different cultural views, but they are in fact co-conspirators of those who wish to harm others. Let’s not miss this point: moral relativism is from the pit of hell, and anyone who supports this ideology has had his moral sensibilities entirely corrupted by sin.
Who is to blame for this noxious doctrine to arise in the first place? Who started this fire? Certainly secularists and unbelievers have added plenty of fuel, but I place partial blame upon churches and parents as well. When was the last time your church discussed the moral evils of the culture being thrust upon our children and church members in public institutions and media? Do churches ever teach on the morality of human sexuality, the ethics of euthanasia, or reproductive technologies? As a parent, have you ever discussed or taught these or other ethical issues with your children? You can count on your child’s school and peers doing so.
Why is there such a deafening silence in the pulpit and in the home when it comes to ethics? This putrid lack of moral teaching has led us directly to moral relativism. While the cultural Marxists and secularists have been busy indoctrinating our children and church members with moral relativism, I’m afraid many churches and parents have been more interested in binge watching Netflix and pep talk sermons that resemble therapy sessions.
What’s one to do? As this evil crashes upon our culture like a tsunami, threatening our very souls and civil society, it is imperative for Christians to be prepared in ways which they have not been historically in the US. Parents need to teach their children what is morally right and wrong and equip them to handle the moral relativism they will face, whether their children are in a public school, private school, or home school. Churches need to begin teaching ethics to their members, whether from the pulpit or Sunday school. If my experience with my students is any indicator, the odds are that many church members and Christian children have already accepted moral relativism. It’s time to quite ignoring the elephant in the room. We have a lot of catching up to do. The moral relativists have a big head start.