Tuesday, May 9, 2023

When Your Moral Compass Just Spins Around. . .

While some are arguing about racial justice, police violence, school shootings, and a host of other stories in the news, I look less at institutions than individuals and what is going on.  When I was in college, situation ethics was all the rage.  At that time, it was not simply up to the person to decide what was moral and what was not but hidden within the context of the choice.  Situations differed and so the same action could be considered moral in one circumstance and not in an other.  Now we have long ago dropped the context and left it completely up to the individual to decide what is right and what is wrong.  At the same time, we have deprived the individual of much beyond themselves to guide them in their decision.  

Since the Fall into sin, the moral compass has pretty much just spun around without any solid direction of good or evil.  What mitigated against that chaos was the fact the culture and religion provided objective values to inform what was missing in the individual.  Now we live in an age in which the cultural and religious values that set boundaries are themselves in conflict.  Even Christians and Jews cannot agree on what constitutes the moral imperatives within their own traditions -- much less a solid direction for those on the fringes or exterior of these traditions.  Judea-Christian is largely an historic term without practical application or common understanding for the present day.

The realm of good and evil barely exist.  Like the truth of old, these values have become captive to the individual and are hardly transferable across communities or even neighborhoods.  Worse, we are conflicted by the pursuit of these and left divided as a nation, community, and family over rights and wrongs that would have been simple for our ancestors to determine.  Instead of responsible freedom, we have been left with the anarchy of preference and individual truth and therefore individual judgment -- one that cannot be assailed or questioned because there are no boundaries or principles with which to judge them.  How can you argue with individual perceptions or feelings or fears?

The end result is that people are left without the ordinary constraints to their words or their actions.  The anti-social social media has become a forum for malcontents, crazies, and screwballs and it is impossible to engage these folks.  They have their truth and their followers and that is all that matters.  The contempt people hold other people who have the nerve to disagree with them has only sharpened the edge of our divided society and family circumstances.  Fear has become the primary motivator and fear is always irrational to a certain degree.  From our fears comes the great leap to action.  So people who feel underappreciated or disrespected jump to violence.  This happens when the mob takes to the streets and violence mars the day for society and it happens when anger and fear boil over and the victim uses violence to create other victims.

Values and morality are never inherent but always learned.  The prime source of this learning is revelation, divine revelation.  For the Christian and the Jew, this revelation forms the law or commands of God.  God gives them precisely because He cannot assume that we will come to them on our own without His revelation.  I am pretty sure that the rise in violence, conflict, contempt, and disrespect for life is the poisoned fruit of a moral compass that simply spins in the wind of the person, the moment, and the situation.  It is precisely life which suffers most because of this confused or corrupted moral compass.  Abortion is but one side of the example of how a person finds it not simply allowable but the right thing to do to kill the child in the womb.   The other side is someone who opens fire on the stranger at the door.  In between are countless examples of not simply flawed judgment but judgment absent any moral principles larger than the person or deeper than the moment.  The decline in religion in America is not without its corresponding rise in contempt, conflict, dispute, and violence in society.  Sure, it is simplistic to suggest that God on the outside of our lives is responsible for at least some of this moral confusion but that does not mean it is wrong.   We cannot even agree on what a woman or a man are much less how to treat one another.  The decline in civility and in polite society is reflected in the parallel decline of common truth, common values, and common responsibility.  The truth is we need Jesus more than ever.

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