Tension

There is a tension inherent in holding the belief that morals are absolute but in recognizing that one cannot force once’s value system on everyone else. Specifically, I hold to the notion that moral standards are absolute — they do not change over time. The same moral standards that were right and good yesterday are still right and good today. At the same time, I also believe that there is room, within reason, for personal freedom for one to choose what morals they believe are right and good and to live by them. That is part of what America and democracy are about, allowing people to live as they will. I live by the ideal that people should live by what is right and good and be held accountible to that standard. Yet, I am stuck with the reality that not everyone agrees on what is right and good, and so the definitions of such are going to vary from person to person. It is also not within my right to make anyone accept or embrace my own beliefs. I can possibly persuade others that I am right, and then teach them to live by the system that I embrace, but I can only do so after they are convinced that it is the right way to live.

I would say that morals are both subjective and objective — subjective insofar as nearly everyone will have, at the least, subtly different notions of what is right and good and just, objective insofar as I believe that there is one, and only one, code of morals that is actually right and true. Some people believe that the standard for morality can only be found within oneself, that one can only discover their personal value system by working it out for themselves, since there is no other true and stable source for such truth. Other people believe in God (or a god or gods) as the source for the standard of morality, looking beyond the fluid system of their own mind and heart to something they consider to be stable and much more permanent and unchanging. For the religious this is not so difficult to believe, but for the non-religious and the atheist, this is a difficult pill to swallow. One must first be convinced of the existence of a God before one can believe that He could serve as the standard for morality.

Morality only becomes out-of-date because men themselves change, and when men, who serve as their own moral standards, change so then must their moral systems. We have seen many such changes over the past couple of hundred years since this nation’s founding, a greater acceptance of a wider range of behavior. This has, in many cases, been a good thing, but in others it has been a very bad thing. Where such changes have been good, in my observation, are in those places where the conservative (read, ‘legalistic’) right has relinquished their militant hold on beliefs that are actually very judgmental and hateful and, for the religious, have no basis in Scripture. Where such changes have been bad are in those areas where the liberal left has been more ‘tolerant’ of traditionally deviant behaviors that have, in so many cases, caused so much heartache. But such behavior has been allowed to exist, within legal limits, in the name of freedom and permitting people to build, or destroy, their lives as they see fit.

Of course for me, this creates a tension. I hold to this standard of morality that has been defined by the God I serve, a standard that, when lived by as described in Scripture, provides nothing but joy and peace and healthy living. I want others to know this standard, to live by it, and experience the joy of a lifestyle that shuns self-destructive behaviors, that gives respect to all men, and that embraces only those things that are good and right. Some Christians wish the same, but in such a way as to become forceful and offensive in trying to make other people believe as they do. When they are rebuffed again and again, frustration naturally crops up, leading to anger and bitterness and hatred. These Christians forget, in their anger, that they are called to reject these feelings; instead, they allow themselves to be controlled by them. Much damage is done in the name of Christ, as a result, further adding to my own tension (and I am not alone in this, I am sure), as I work to persuade others of my own viewpoint while working both against destructive Christians and antagonistic unbelievers. (There are also still a great many of the aforementioned legalistic Christians who, while I share some of their beliefs, carry many hateful rules and regulations that I believe are very unbiblical. More tension.)

Tension is part of life, part of the nature of the human condition, part of what it means to be a community of people who live together in relative peace but who sometimes hold very different beliefs. It is only for me to share my beliefs with others in a way that is bold and confident, yet respectful and peaceful. If I can convince others that God exists and that His way of doing things really is best, then glory be given to Him. If I cannot then I can do nothing more than continue to boldly proclaim the tried-and-true beliefs that serve as the guiding light in my life.

Have anything to add to the conversation?